Darkness had fallen over Hong Kong and a chilly wind had brought temperatures down to less than 10 degrees as I looked out over the city. The tramline that ran up Victoria Peak continued to ferry passengers, crushed in the two carriages to the viewing station – one of the more popular journeys to be undertaken by visitors to the city. As I watched the city chew through the power, the tram lumbered up the hill once again bringing with it another 150 or so people to further crowd my vantage point.
I’d queued a couple of hours earlier with a 500 or so others at the tram station and forked out for my square inch of standing space on what would have been an excellent experience were it not for the 100 or so others who were packed into the carriage with me. The idea of a repeat of this ordeal was more than I could bare, particularly when the queue for the descent was closer to 2000 people now the temperature had plummeted and the masses had sated their hunger. Rather than wait for hours in the cold, we decided to find our own way back to the harbour level.
At first we (foolishly) thought that a bus might be a quicker option, but we were far from the first to have that idea. Faced with the (to me quite awful) prospect of standing in the wind for at least two hours, I decided (much to Linh’s initial distaste) that we could walk back down to the ferry below. We’d heard that the Mid-Level Escalator network was well worth a look and I calculated that if we got our directions right, we could make it down quite easily. We began to walk, and before long found ourselves at the all too familiar crossroads. This time we stopped at one of the tram stations and were faced with a choice of following the tracks back down to the station, or walking under the rails and heading through the trees. As we were deciding, a man appeared from under the rail bridge and, in a charmingly peculiar conversation, we decided that we should follow the tramway.
After about 50 metres we decided – thanks to the dark mostly – that we should head the other way. We passed the bridge and headed down towards the city through the trees. The path was actually a winding, sealed road, but we met no traffic other than a few joggers and walkers making their way up the steep incline. The trail was straight forward at first with restrooms part way down and no intersections, so we decided we’d made a solid call as we descended through the skyscrapers. As we looked out through the trees, we could mark our progress by the high rise apartment floors we were passing.
Eventually we reached the higher levels of the city and the way became far less clear. Every few hundred metres we spied signs pointing to the escalators which ferry a large proportion of the city’s population down to the waterfront business district. The first sing we came across was a great surprise as we supposed that our decision to take the forest path would take us away from the escalators. A few more kilometres of walking and we reached the start (or end) of the escalator system. As we arrived at night when the escalators run up the hill (they only run downhill for a few hours in the morning from 6am -10am), we had to walk along the road beside. I can imagine that commuters praise this ingenious transit system every day because we certainly wished we’d arrived at a time when we could have taken advantage of the free lift.
Walking did, however, have its advantages. Alongside the elevators are a number of bars, restaurants and other attractions the entice commuters from their route. This evening, the bars were particularly popular and a number of Christmas functions were in full swing. The shop that caught our attention on this particular day was an awesome little millinery called NOP where we both picked up some excellent beanies (I lost mine less than a week later while snowboarding at a hall in the Netherlands).
Overall, the walk right back to the ferry and across the harbour to our mansion hotel took a little over two hours – far less than it would have taken to queue for the tram – plus we saw a part of Hong Kong that most who wait for the rail service back down from Victoria Peak miss. The walk was strenuous considering the steep descent, but it was certainly a new and rewarding experience.