After leaving the monastery and the big Buddha, I was already kind of tired. Too bad—day’s only half over. Our next plan was to return and then take a tram to the top of Victoria Peak, which has a gorgeous view of Central, Victoria Harbor, and many of the nearby islands.
We hear that we’re in for a treat because there is a nightly light show in the city that is best viewed from the crazy tower on top of the mountain. There a historic restaurant called The Peak Lookout from the 1800s, plenty of observation areas, and a galleria that rises many floors up to an observation deck with one of the most complete views I’ve ever seen. The problem is—you have to wait forever to even get to any of that stuff. The trams move very slowly, and while you’re waiting in line reading the historical information about the trams, you get the weird notion that every single tourist in all of Hong Kong must be in line ahead of you. The cars are slow, the people are slow, and as became the norm for a lot of the trip, we spent a lot of time waiting. Once we got in and took a semi-scenic ride up, it was less overwhelming.
The peak was buzzing with activity and people from all over the world were there. The obvious move was to go check out the observation deck at the top of the galeria, but what they don’t tell you is that there’s another fee for just about every level you ascend. You end up spending enough to where it’s not a lot per se but you almost feel gipped as soon as you lose interest in the sights. What I really found interesting is that the views contrasted so starkly. Looking where you are clearly intended to look, you have this amazing view of the bay and you get a feeling for how people have triumphed over terrain in Hong Kong. Where there were mountains and unforgiving landscapes, people built homes, and when the population boomed, they built upward. The skyline is jagged with huge, reaching apartment buildings.
But then if you turn around and walk to the clearing in the hordes of tourists, way at the back of the observation deck and lean up and over a barrier, you get this amazing view down the opposite face of the mountain, and instead of a scant smattering of trees, there’s a whole green valley that opens up to the water and the slow barges and the sun is setting perfectly orange like you only gets residual rays from (like in the above picture). I was take aback by how beautiful it was, and how natural it feels even with a row of buildings by the water front. Even with the buildings, probably some of the most natural land in Hong Kong. I only have two wishes from that moment: that I’d have gotten a better view of the trees, and that the clouds wouldn’t have been affecting my camera so greatly—you’d look and even with clouds pretty even with you, things seemed clear until you took a picture and it comes out dull and hazy.
Once we have our fill of the view, we all meet up for a great meal together down a few levels at the Cafe Deco. It’s a pretty swanky place with a great western menu which offered the first taste of home for everyone. I had some nice pasta and went to the bar to get a beer that Jack had been recommending. Kept telling me, “When you get a chance, get yourself an Erdinger, if you like Hoegaarden even a little, just get yourself an Erdinger. Guaranteed.” So I did, and was sort of surprised when she the barmaid brought me the tallest draft I’ve ever seen. It was cool and very refreshing after such a long day. A strong and active thunderstorm rolled through Hong Kong that night, and we stood on the balcony watching as lightning bolts lit up the sky all while the light show was going on below. Two light shows at Victoria Peak, not bad. It was a cozy night at the Cafe Deco and I went back to my table and talked to people about the usual things in the early days of the trips, how were you acclimating and what did you miss and all that.
I wanted to have a nice glass of porto for dessert and there was a beautiful 20 year aged porto on the menu and I ended up passing it up because I was too cheap. I had a coffee instead and it was burnt. By Beijing, I stopped being cheap, but I felt it was necessary to be cheap in the early days especially with something as superfluous as alcohol. But I would come to realize that while many things tend to be more expensive in China in different cities, many things were substantially cheaper, and luxurious aged ports and scotch whiskys were that way. More than I wanted the alcohol, I wanted the luxury of finer things I couldn’t afford at home, that I never had occasion for. At every turn in China I was more exuberant than the last, and I was glad to be alive, let alone to be there. But as my good friend Adam would sometimes say, “You know, sometimes I just realize where we are, all the way on the other side of the Earth, and say to myself, ‘I’m in fucking China right now.’ ” Indeed.
For a day that was probably 85% waiting and 15% doing, it was quite enjoyable, and one of my most memorable.