The tram to the statue of Christ the Redeemer. The elevators to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The Santorini cable car. Any ski lift, anywhere.
They’re memorable travel experiences, sure. But they’re also experiences that strike anxiety into the hearts of heights-fearing travelers, like myself.
So when faced with the prospect of a thrill-inducing funicular railway ride to the top of Hong Kong’s famous Victoria Peak, I decided to take a pass. Though the Hong Kong Peak Tram hasn’t suffered any fatal accidents in its 124 years of operation, I wasn’t ready to take any chances if I didn’t have to. Plus, the bus was cheaper.The Hong Kong Peak Tram connects the city center with the famous Victoria Peak overlook, which offers stunning views of Victoria Harbour, Central, Lamma Island and the surrounding islands, as well as an over-commercialized shopping and dining complex. The historic railway has been in operation since 1888, making it one of the oldest of its kind. The original tram was made from varnished timber and operated by coal-fired steam boilers, but in the 1920s, the boilers were replaced with an electrically powered system. The current microprocessor-controlled electric drive system was installed in 1989.
While the Peak Tram’s history is impressive indeed, it couldn’t make up for the thought of riding up a mountain in a rickety old cable car. Instead, I opted for the slightly more boring but much cheaper bus.
The double-decker CityBus 15 departs every 15 minutes from Exchange Square in Hong Kong’s Central District, right by the Central Ferry Piers. The fare is HK$9.80 (US$1.25) each way – about a third the price of the HK$28 one-way tram ticket – and the ride takes about a hour, depending on traffic. It also offers a unique look at residential life on the Peak, which is home to some of the world’s most expensive real estate.
After a winding ride up the mountain, I was deposited at the Victoria Peak complex and met with a thick bed of fog that blanketed the entire city in white. Turns out, there was no need to be so afraid of heights.
[Photo Credit: Jessica Marati]
“Budget Hong Kong” chronicles one writer’s efforts to authentically experience one of the world’s most expensive cities, while traveling on a shoestring. Read the whole series here.