Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Not before time: Hong Kong Part I

Ah, I’ve been such a lazy arse about updating my blog these past few months. I thought I’d do better finding the time while staying at my parents’ place in Yorkshire over the Christmas hols, but I’ve been too busy catching up with friends, drinking mulled wine and eating mince pies to bother. I had such good intentions too. I was going to update my blogroll and finally post all about my trip to Hong Kong, Macao and Shanghai with Melissa way back in October which is long overdue. It’s highly unlikely I’ll finish posting about the trip before 2009 arrives, but here’s a snippet with photos.

I slept fitfully the first night in Hong Kong waking up every couple of hours or so and then nodding off again. Melissa and I finally woke up for real around 5am, so we were able to get an early start to the day and set to get the tram up to the top of Victoria Peak, an 1,800+ ft mountain on the western side of Hong Kong Island.

I have to admit I was a bit nervous about the trip up to the peak as Fodors had listed the funicular railway that was to transport us to the top as “the world's steepest.” Urgle!! I’m not the biggest fan of heights and the stomach churning experience of riding the funicular tram up to the peak of Cerro San Cristóbal in Santiago
last November flashed before my eyes when ashen faced I’d clutched the sides of open carriage in a death grip, hid behind much braver small children to shield myself of the view below and tried to assure myself that the tram wasn’t about to fall off the mountain and send me plummeting to my death.

The Fodors guide cheerfully continued “at times they seem to travel at an impossibly vertical angle, but don't fret; it's all perfectly safe.”

Perfectly safe my arse; didn’t they say that about the Titanic?


I can’t say I liked the sound of those ‘impossibly vertical angles’ however The Peak – as those of us in the know call it ;-) - is listed by the guidebooks as a sight not to be missed, so I ignored the butterflies in my stomach, my sense of impending doom, gritted my teeth and bought a ticket.

You cannot imagine the blessed relief when the funicular arrived at the station and instead of an elderly looking open tram as in Chile, it was a relatively shiny and brand spanking new train fully enclosed with forward facing seats up the mountain – to ascend Cerro San Cristóbal you stand up on the open tram looking back on the steep drop below and quietly lose your mind as the safety and security of terra firma rapidly slip away, at least that’s what I did. Travelling up Victoria Peak was a breeze by comparison, because as everyone knows you cannot possibly die if you fall off an 1800foot mountain in an enclosed tram!! Ahem.

I don’t know what it is, it defies rational explanation, but for some reason I feel so much happier about heights when the vehicle carrying me to my destination is enclosed. Clearly I’m no claustrophobe. I have no big qualms about flying for example. Well, no fears beyond the usual ones of extreme turbulence and dying an agonizing death in a fiery crash of course, but that goes without saying doesn’t it. Yup, I’m fine as long as I am firmly enclosed some type of transportation with windows – or even bars – to protect me from accidentally tripping, falling out of an opening and plummeting to my death. That is, as long as the method of transportation isn’t a pigging cable car* swaying ominously over a precipitous drop to rocks or open water below as it does on the trip out to see the big bloody Buddha on Lantau Island, but more on that later.

Anyway, enough of the death chat, check out some lovely, if hazy photos. H
ere's the funicular arriving at the station. Marvel at how enclosed and safe it looks.

A lovely, if hazy view of the harbour from the top of the peak. It's a long way down!! As with many places in Hong Kong you have to walk through a shopping center to get to the viewing platform. They seem to be shopping mad!!

Another lovely and hazy view looking to the East of Hong Kong Island. Spot the funicular making its way up the mountain. It doesn't look so steep does it? My memory may be failing me, but this seems to be about as steep as it got.

Compare and contrast the incline with that of the funicular in Santiago - the non-enclosed funicular - which travels to the top of the Cerro San Cristobel shown below. Doesn't it look steeper to you? It certainly felt steeper.

I loved the coquettish charms of this little fellow. So cute!!

Phew, I'm worn out from posting now. That's what happens when you sit on the sofa and eat chocolates for 2weeks, even the smallest exertions exhaust you. Time for another cup of tea and a Thornton's Continental I think ;-)

*I blame my fear of cable cars entirely on that scene from the Bond movie, Moonraker.


Kitty said...

oh, I rode up that funicular and was extremely steep.

I've blocked out all over memories of that part.

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hi Kitty, apparently it is the world's steepest, but the one in Santiago seemed so much worse.

Amel's Realm said...

My friend just came back from a HK business trip he he he...She also said the same thing: that many places are linked to the malls he he he...

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hi Amel, yes it's crazy, there are malls everywhere in Hong Kong ;-)