10 November 2008

Travel: Hong Kong, The Peak and The Races

I have now been to Hong Kong several times during my year and a half in Asia. What I love about touring the city with first-time visitors (such as Claire or my brother Alex) is the mix of familiar and new. I never get tired of doing some of the same old things (like the Mid-Levels Escalators or the Star Ferry across Hong Kong Harbour), but I can always find new things to do, as well.

Claire was to finish her visit in Hong Kong and would fly from there back to the US. We were scheduled to fly up on Friday night, but a typhoon hit Hong Kong, and all flights were cancelled. We ended up going up on Saturday, which gave me only 24 hours to show her some of the sights. One think I hadn't done was visit the Peak. The views are spectacular, but the ride up is half of the fun. We squeezed in with dozens of other tourists and took the five minute ride at what seemed a 45-degree angle to the top. Once there, we were treated to fantastic views of Hong Kong Harbour. And to add to the atmosphere, we got caught in a flash downpour that had everyone scurrying for shelter. It was great!

Alex and I visited the Peak, as well, but we took a taxi to the top (the queue for the tram was seemingly endless when we visited). The views again were spectacular, although Hong Kong's famous haze cut visibility a bit. Still, it is worth the trip up there.

Alex and I visited over National Day, 1 October. We stayed on the Kowloon side of the city, which gave us great access to the night markets and a perfect vista to watch the fireworks show at the Peninsula Hotel (featured in two James Bond movies and right next to our hotel). The fireworks were a fitting end to a day that began at Sha Tin, the horse racing track in the northern part of the city.

When you say "horse racing" and "Hong Kong" together, most immediately think of Happy Valley, the racing facility in Wan Chai on Hong Kong Island. It has great views of the city, and races are held there on Wednesday nights. We timed our trip to be there on Wednesday, but since that was National Day, the races were held during the day at the newer facility up north, Sha Tin. So, that's where we went. It was a warm and hazy day for the first of October, but it didn't seem to bother the horses (and it didn't really bother us, either!). We won some early, and then I proceeded to give most of it back. But, the action was fun, and it was interesting to see the horses run backwards (well, not backwards, but in a clockwise direction).

The rest of the time during my visits with Claire and Alex were spent seeing the sights that have become familiar to me from my previous journeys to Hong Kong. Every time I go, I am reminded how it is my favorite city in Asia.

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