This week is a “Golden Week” holiday in Mainland China and Hong Kong is full of eager cross-border tourists. Many will take the historic Peak Tram up Victoria Peak. The tram ride is breathtaking. The building it dumps you into (the Peak Tower) is a horrid tourist trap. Use this handy guide to circumvent the pitfalls and successfully emerge from the Peak Tower into the fresh(-ish) air where the views are free.
Travel Guide: Escape from Peak Tower
Beware of these traps:
Avoid the overpriced trinkets. Rounding the corner at the end of the ramp leading down from the tram, you will walk into the “Peak Market,” a long hall filled with the following representative tchotchkes: (1) bright cheongsams; (2) “silk” table runners and cosmetic cases (can be selected to match cheongsam); (3) I “heart” HK t-shirts and magnets; (4) “oriental” fans; (5) jade jewelry; (6) year of the “x” stuffed toys; (7) postcards; (8) Hong Kong themed coffee mugs/miniature spoons/mobile phone dongles/key fobs; and (9) copies of “The World of Suzie Wong.” All perfectly acceptable souvenirs, but which can be purchased for less in other places.
For cooler (but not necessarily cheaper) Hong Kong-related merchandise, visit the G.O.D. (“Goods of Desire”) store in the nearby Peak Galleria (but first you’ll have to escape Peak Tower!).
Say “no” to wax Hu Jintao and remain vigilant against the temptation to visit Madame Tussaud’s Museum. Do not let the lure of “over 100 local and international celebrity wax figures” pull you in. The British Royal family in wax form isn’t worth it. Nor are Brad Pitt, Jackie Chan, Johnny Depp or Marilyn Monroe. If you are a Mainland tourist, resist the targeted bait of wax replicas of Yao Ming, Chairman Mao and Deng Xiao Ping. You did not come to The Peak to be trapped in an over-priced basement stocked with slightly-off looking dummies!
I thought there was a green mountain peak around here? How the hell do I get out of this building? As you begin to ascend the escalator system, you will wonder on which level the exit is located. The signage will not make this clear. You will become increasingly disoriented. This feeling is all part of “The Peak Tower Experience.” Many of you (not being able to see the carefully concealed exit) will continue up the escalators.
If you encounter these places, you will know that you have gone too far up:
Who is Bubba Gump and why is there an American shrimp restaurant here? The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co Restaurant is self-described as “the first and only casual restaurant chain based on a motion picture[!]” It is based on the sugary-sweet, Tom Hanks movie “Forrest Gump.” Not only can you eat “Dixie Style Baby Back Ribs” here, you can also buy Bubba Gump themed t-shirts in the “Bubba Gump Market” (fancy “My mamma says I’m special” written across your chest?). Run Forrest, run away from any restaurant themed on a movie.
Don’t open your wallet for a view that is free. Keep going up and you will eventually arrive at the pinnacle of the Peak Tower suck-cash-from-your-wallet experience. For 40 Hong Kong dollars (a touch over US 5) you can stand on top of the Peak Tower at “Sky Terrace 428” (the “428” is for the 428 meters it stands above sea level). Not a bad price for a lovely view, but you can enjoy an almost identical view for free from the top of the nearby Peak Galleria.
The secret to escaping the Peak Tower: find the juice bar and you will find the exit.
Once you exit, head to the top of the Peak Galleria, which is located just across the plaza (an express elevator up to the roof is right behind Häagen-Dazs).
An even better option is to turn right after exiting the Peak Tower and walk a few steps until you encounter Lugard Road. The nicest view is down this road, peacefully away from the shopping mall vibe. Walk the pedestrian-dominated road 500 meters or so; you will be surrounded by trees and a lovely view of Hong Kong will open up before you.
The tram is a nice way to come up, but for a different experience going down, I recommend the number 1 green mini-bus, which can be boarded in the bus terminal at the bottom of the Peak Galleria. It will take you on a fast, curvy ride all the way down the mountain and back to Central. The last stop is in the basement of the IFC, Hong Kong’s second tallest building (which stands above yet another shopping mall).
Superficially related posts:
Ugly Americans, ugly Chinese: the tourist trap. Are you a Hongkonger who likes to complain about Mainland tourists? Get over yourself, and click here to learn more about the original “ugly” tourists: the Americans! Features a 1950s photograph of the first documented “Ugly American.”
Mini-bus language angst. “Ok, now I’m on the mini-bus, how the hell do I tell the driver to stop?”