Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Hong Kong VI: The Peak

The highlight of the night -- see the lights of Hong Kong behind me?

Our destination for the first part of the evening was Victoria Peak, known locally simply as The Peak. Victoria Peak is the highest mountain on Hong Kong Island, and houses a huge complex of shopping malls and fine dining at its summit, as well as The Peak Tower, the top of which affords, according to local sources, some of the most stunning views in the area. A bit of research beforehand had revealed which buses and shuttles were available to take us to the top. After the usual confusion, we found the proper station and were soon boarding another double-decker bus.

The view from the bus as we climbed up the mountain.

We had beautiful views of the cityscape as we wound our way up the mountain. Kevin and I had prime seating in the front row of the upper deck of the bus. We rode up and up and up a narrow, winding road, past houses and condominiums which grew more and more luxurious as our altitude rose. Victoria Peak was settled in early days by the city's most affluent residents, who found the stunning views and cooler breezes a welcome retreat from the city heat, especially in the days before air-conditioning. The same holds true today, and it was remarkable to note the predominance of British or otherwise Western-style architecture at higher elevations. We passed an English school, and several other indications of the demographic typically to be found on the mountain.

A bit higher.

Still, we were there to see the scenery, not the local history -- and what scenery it was! During the drive, some of the lights began to come out in the city below us, making the vistas which stretched before us at every turn sparkle and shine. As we rose higher, the haze began to obscure far-off buildings, and the colors grew cooler as the sun set.

Higher still!

Finally, we reached the top and got off the bus. The Peak Tower was a massive structure of glass and metal, with escalators gliding smoothly all the way to the top floor. We made our way up to the top and began taking pictures like crazy.

The city lights.

The top platform was packed, but we could still see the buildings beneath us as more and more lights came out and the sun slowly set.

Kevin at the top.

Isn't he cute? He was my date for a very fancy dinner....

Here I am at our window table...

For dinner, Kevin and I decided to splurge on a meal at Tien Yi, whose name means "the pinnacle of the world" in Cantonese. The restaurant purports to provide "a local flavour in upscale surroundings [with] both traditional and modern spins on Cantonese cuisine." I'm no expert on Cantonese cuisine, but the "upscale surroundings" bit was right on. The restaurant featured red, black, white, and gold furnishings in a minimalistic yet luxurious style, including a grand staircase past a two-story waterfall meant to bring prosperity to all who dine there (as per feng shui interior decorating philosophy).

...but instead of gazing adoringly at my date, you can see what I was really doing the whole time -- watching the lights below!

The light show began promptly at 8pm, and we watched as the buildings below us blinked in all different colors. It was so neat seeing it from an alternate perspective. Kevin ordered a whole baby pigeon and some pork dumplings, which was a good thing, since the pigeon (as you can see below) was big on style but short on substance.

The baby pigeon.

My dinner, on the other hand, was all I could have dreamed of. Although you can't really make it out from the photo below, the generous helping of stir-fried vegetables, tofu, and cashews I ordered were housed in an elegant little "nest" composed entirely of delicate strips of deep-fried taro. Taro is one of my favorite foods in any form, but I think that deep-fried taro might be my favorite. After polishing off the entire portion of tofu and vegetables, I ate the nest as well. So good!

The best dinner I've had this whole trip!!

After dinner, we headed back down to the base of the Peak Tower to meet up with the rest of the crew. We split up again into two teams for taxis, with plans to reconvene in on Kowloon for some night market fun.