A Dazzling Sea of Lights in Hong Kong
Only with a bird’s eye view can one truly appreciate the sparkling cityscape
When the sun sinks low in the sky over Hong Kong, marking the end to yet another packed day of true cosmopolitan bustle, the real scene has just begun. Neon lights replace sunlight, and the city hums, blinks, and flickers to life, to the point of complete and utter transformation; think Vegas. Areas like Mongkok, Tsim Sha Tsui, and Causeway Bay are unrecognizable to the casual passer-by of mid-afternoon, as first-timers wander the streets looking up and all around them in an attempt to soak it all in.
Only with a bird’s eye view can one truly appreciate the sparkling cityscape; fortunately, there are many places that let you get away from it all, and look down upon the twinkling sea of lights from above.
A visit to the Peak is one of the essential things to do in Hong Kong, especially if it’s your first visit. First things first: good, clear weather is a must for anyone wanting a glimpse of the gorgeous view. The Peak is almost 400 metres high, and can be completely fogged in, even if it’s clear in the city. Make sure to go on a clear day, otherwise you may not even be able to see your hand in front of your face!
Climb aboard the historic Peak Tram, which is an adventure in itself, for a dizzying 45-degree angle climb up to the Peak and an aerial tour of Hong Kong. Tickets include the Peak Tram Sky Pass - which includes entrance to the advertised Sky Terrace 428 viewing platform (HKD 65) - as well as the regular Adult Return (HKD 40). I recommend skipping the Sky Pass, as it is only a few feet taller than other viewing points, and like many other tourist traps, packed with people. Instead, go with the Adult return, use the extra cash to grab a drink (alcoholic or not) and then check out a well kept secret that has the best views. A paved, lit, cliff-clinging nature trail leads away from all the gawking tourists, and actually leads you in a big loop, but you can just walk until you’ve taken in the view, then turn back.
How to get there:
Once you get off the Peak Tram, you have to walk through a series of souvenir shops (you are in the basement of the building called the Peak Tower which has the arc-shaped Sky Terrace 428 platform on top). Make your way out of the building, and you will come to a plaza. Turn hard right, hugging the Peak Tower until you see a sign for Lugard Road. If you think you’re walking down someone’s driveway, then you’ve found it. You’ll see the first big lookout point; keep going, the second one’s even better. If you want to make the loop, turn onto Harlech Road, which will lead you back to the Peak Tram terminal.
For the Peak Tram, be sure to sit on the right-hand going up (left hand side going down) for a view of the city below (the other side is just the hill). If it is too full, just wait for the next one as they come very frequently. Warning: standing is hard work because of the angle, even though the floor has ridges to prevent you from sliding downhill!
The Peak itself has shops, restaurants, and an abundance of nature. Going in the late afternoon is best; check out Victoria Peak Garden and walk the Lugard Road – Harlech Road loop, before watching the sunset from the outdoor terrace of the Peak Galleria Shopping Centre (the building that has the 7-ELEVEN in it). Make your way up the escalators, and then follow the sun to the non-Hong Kong side for a different perspective of the outlying islands.
Alternatively, if all the Hong Kong sightseeing is tiring you out, try sitting on the cushy sofas and chairs al fresco at a casual, yet chic restaurant like Pho Yummee (at the Peak Galleria). This is a great place to relax and watch the sunset. They have great pho, as advertised, along with a delicious Pomelo with Roast Duck salad, and exciting soft shell crab, mango, ginger and avocado summer rolls. Yummee, indeed!
After dinner, make your way to the Lion Pavilion to soak in the view of the shining cityscape at night. Be prepared to share the panoramic view with the throngs of admirers that will almost certainly be there, day or night. Then wander back to the Peak Tower to do some shopping, grab dessert, visit Madame Tussaud’s, stroll along the Lugard Road path, and queue up to catch the Peak Tram back down to the sea of lights. Last tram down is at midnight.
The Harbour, as it’s called, is the lifeblood of the city, with the most bustling hotspots and touristy areas on either side, containing all the best things to see and do in Hong Kong. As such, as darkness falls, the harbour comes alive with the dazzling lights of the daily Symphony of Lights show, which is a synchronized light, multimedia, and sound show. Green lasers pierce the sky, dancing across skyscrapers in sync with the lights of the buildings themselves, which come together to form a masterpiece.
Though visible from many points around the city, my favorite spot to view the spectacle is on the Kowloon side, between the Star Ferry terminal and Avenue of the Stars. Grab a couple of drinks, then sit by the water, relax, and watch the show over a cold beverage. This is something you have to do once in a while in Hong Kong, if for nothing other than being able to say you’ve seen the Guinness Book of World Records’ ‘World’s Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show.’ Afterwards, you’re already conveniently located in Tsim Sha Tsui, the hotspot on the Kowloon side for just about everything.
If you’re looking for a more classy way to view the lightshow, fear not, as there are many options to choose from; from chic and exclusive bars to some of the best restaurants in Hong Kong, each one has a gorgeous view of the action. Try Felix, atop the Peninsula Hotel, Sevva, or Ozone Ritz-Carlton, the world’s highest bar.
Star Ferry or Chinese Junk Boat
Not your cup of tea? No worries. For the most up close and personal viewing of the Harbour show, and a chance to take some outstanding pictures of the Hong Kong skyline, try being in it! Board the historic (and very cheap) Star Ferry (HKD 3 maximum for an adult on the weekend) which shuttles between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon from piers in Tsim Sha Tsui and Hung Hom in Kowloon and Central and Wan Chai on the HK side. People ride this ferry, as they have since 1880, for all type of reasons, for business, to take photographs of one of the most famous harbours on earth, or as an alternative to the MTR.
Another option is a traditional Chinese junk boat, the iconic Aqua Luna, one of the most recognizable attractions in Hong Kong. Looking somewhat like a red pirate ship, the treasure that awaits you here is a 45-minute cruise around the Fragrant Harbour. The boat runs between Tsim Sha Tsui and Central daily. The cruise is HK$150 during the day or HK$190 in the evening, with the Symphony of Lights cruise (including 1 free drink) being HK$240. For reservations call +852 21168821 or book online between 7 and 3 days in advance.