The weather, while overcast was extremely humid and warm. We were quite glad to climb on to the second floor of the double-decker tour bus and catch a breeze on our way.
Equipped with headsets that plug into the seats and offer tour commentary in eight different languages, we headed off in the direction of the large downtown. We passed countless soaring skyscrapers and remarkable buildings. And our favorite:
Downtown Hong Kong is an interesting area in the sense that it is comprised of gorgeous, modern buildings and fancy upscale shopping areas which are juxtaposed with decrepit tenement buildings with laundry lines and clothes flapping in the wind on every floor. These run-down and, frankly, ugly buildings can be right next door to a stunning glass masterpiece of a building and it gives the city an interesting look.
The city definitely has more people than space, and the streets are filled with double-decker buses, taxis, the cityís distinct narrow, two-story trams and more people, noise, smells and action than anywhere I have seen.
After passing by a few interesting sights, we arrived at Victoria Peak and the tram terminal where we disembarked.
Victoria Peak has to be seen to be believed. Apparently, in the 1800ís wealthy British locals used to have summer homes and vacation places at the top of this mountain soaring 2,000 feet above Hong Kong harbor. In those days, they were carried up this steep, almost vertical mountain in little boxes by locals. However, in the late 1800ís a bright Scotsman decided there had to be a better way and he came up with the idea of running a tram up the side of the mountain. This tram now carries visitors up to a viewing platform that gives one a panoramic view of the entire downtown and Hong Kong harbor.
We boarded the tram which runs for about five minute ride literally almost straight up the side of this mountain. One passes apartment buildings on the way up which are basically perpendicular to the tram car.
After arriving at the top, you can then go five more stories up to the rooftop viewing platform where you can have unparalleled views of the city. [Note: Donít pay extra to go to the rooftop if you ride the hop-on, hop-off bus Ė itís included in the price of the ticket. We found out JUST in time.]
Even in the fog, the view was breathtaking (not to mention the sheer height which you are at). Click here for a large panoramic from atop the peak.
Heading back down, we jumped on another passing tour bus and proceeded into the part of downtown called Central, filled with more shopping centers, banks, skyscrapers and street vendors. We decided to take a chance and jump off the bus at this point to see if we could find the famous mid-Level escalators that run up the one of the steep inclines of the city. The mid-level escalators start on one street of the city and basically provide locals and visitors a way to avoid the steep hike up to the streets above. We got on these escalators, and passed numerous restaurants and businesses on each side of the open air escalator.
At the end of the mid-levels we realized that we could make it to the JCC for lunch but only if we ran there in the ten minutes before it closed. Unfortunately for us, Hong Kong Island is basically a city built on the side of a sheer cliff and so our ten minute run was pretty much a ten minute hike up steep streets that deposited us outside the JCC sweating, breathless and hot. We were questioned in detail by the security guard outside who did not seem sympathetic to our obvious recent athleticism and the fact that our restaurant was closing in minutes. After determining that we were in fact Jewish and not terrorists who looked extremely Jewish, we were let in and we raced to the third floor Sabra restaurant.
They let us in even though the place seemed pretty much closed and we quickly ordered Cantonese beef and some Sweet & Sour chicken.
The beef was delicious, while the chicken was good but quite sour. [Fries were awesome!]
We marveled at the ability of being in a foreign, exotic place like Hong Kong while still being able to eat delicious, hot kosher food in a proper restaurant. We made our way down the steep streets at a much slower pace than our previous dash. Our timing proved perfect as another tour bus was passing the pick-up spot at that exact moment. We finished our journey on the Red line of the tour and arrived back at the ferry terminal where we were able to pick up a Green line of the Big Bus tours.