Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hong Kong: Classic Tourist Day

My trip to Hong Kong ended near where my family's story began.  Ages ago, after The Great War, a young man from Guangdong province in southern China began working in a department store on Des Voeux Road in Hong Kong's Central District. There, he met the store owner's daughter who would grow up, move to the Philippines, and one day become his wife. I wonder if back then, that young man ever dreamed that his granddaughter would be born in America and that she'd one day journey back to Des Voeux Road with her family.

No visit to Hong Kong is supposedly complete without a trip across Victoria Harbour on the Star Ferry. So, that's how we began our last day of sightseeing. Just boarding the boat was exciting. It was bobbing up and down so much from a passing ship's wake that they had to momentarily pull up the gangplank so passengers wouldn't fall into the water. Crossing the harbor, a bigger boat came close to us — probably too close.

Hubby remarked that the interior was just as he remembered from his childhood vacation here. He was the same age that our oldest boy is now, so I'm hoping that our kids will look back fondly on this time and want to bring their own children back to explore.

Heading from Kowloon to Hong Kong on the Star Ferry

On the other side, we boarded an open-air, double decker Rickshaw Sightseeing Bus to whisk us to Victoria Peak Station. I amused myself by yelling, "Duck down!" at the boys whenever we went under a bridge. I'm not sure they saw the humor in it.

I giggled at the sight of the giant canopy on the back of this "rickshaw."

Next up was the Peak Tram, a funicular that had its start in 1888. It didn't take us long to climb the 0.89 mile railway up the highest mountain (1,656 feet) on Hong Kong Island. At some points, the angle of incline was 27 degrees, and my eyes played tricks on me as I watched the passing scenery. The buildings are upright of course, but to me, they seemed to be leaning over like a scene out of the movie Inception.

Pretend "Funiculi, Funicula" (aka "Larry's High Silk Hat") is playing in the background. 

Even though it was a hazy day, the view from Victoria Peak was amazing. Imagine looking down at 88-story office buildings far below you.  We ate lunch at one of the touristy restaurants at the top (Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., if you really must know) before heading back down on the tram.

At the bottom, we embarked on an excursion that I've been plotting for decades. I think every kids' fantasy of futuristic cities involves moving sidewalks. With the Central-Midlevels Escalators, the future has arrived! This covered system of 20 escalators and 3 moving sidewalks traverses 2,600 feet with a vertical climb of 443 feet, enabling pedestrians to quickly travel from the residential Mid-levels area to the commercial Central District.I think I read about it as a teen and always thought it'd be great to try out.

View of the SoHo district from one of the escalator landings

Before we left the hotel that morning, I told the concierge my plan and had her scribble the destination in Chinese on a business card to hand to the taxi driver. After the taxi left, I realized that the escalators were running in the opposite direction than I wanted to go. Nooooo!!!! It turns out that they're one-way. They run downhill from 6 - 10 a.m. and uphill from 10:30 a.m. to midnight. Is this how the Griswolds felt at Walley World? So, we took an unplanned hike down LOTS of stairs. When we reached the bottom, we went up a couple escalators to somewhat appease the child in me, then walked back down again. Oh well.

The escalator's downhill terminus is on Des Voeux Road, the street where my great-grandfather had his department store in pre-World War II Hong Kong. Even back then, I think it was a hustling, bustling kind of place. Today, numerous double decker streetcars run on tracks up and down the street, connected to the powerlines overhead — like a San Francisco streetcar on steroids and not as quaint.

Des Voeux Road and its streetcars
Could this be where great-grandpa's store was?

After our long hike downhill, we were ready to head home. Since we'd already rode on a boat, bus, taxi, and funicular tram that day, we rounded out the transportation experience by riding the subway back under the harbor.

It was a wonderful day made even better by the opportunity to connect with my heritage coupled with the (somewhat) realization of a childhood dream.

1 comment:

  1. The Rickshaw sightseeing bus seems attractive.


I read each and every comment. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Comment moderation is on, so your comment may not appear immediately.

Web Analytics