Sitting in Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, the restaurant themed around Tom Hanks’ famous film character Forrest Gump, being served by Chinese staff whilst watching the Darts Championship on the TV, is a reminder of the multicultural nature of this great city. I may be wrong, but I’m not sure that the staff really appreciated the significance of each diner’s table top sign instructing them to ‘Run Forrest, Run’ or ‘Stop Forrest, Stop’ when service was required, even with the film constantly repeating itself on a monitor on the wall. Highly attentive service is a feature, we had discovered, of this part of the world and the signs almost seemed to get in the way of that.
To recap, we’re in the Sky Terrace 428, a shopping mall near the top of Victoria Peak, 428 metres above sea level in Hong Kong. Above us is the viewing platform that any tourist worthy of the name has to visit, including us. Below, shimmering in the darkness like a massive fairground, are the skyscrapers of Hong Kong, Kowloon and beyond, a superb accompaniment to our chosen dish of multiple types of shrimp in batter.
Getting up here is either a demanding climb up the hillside in the clinging humidity, or the easy option of the famous Peak Tram. This ancient funicular railway, the first ever built in Asia during the reign of Queen Victoria after whom the area draws its name, charges up the hillside at an oblique angle, rising over 1,300 feet in less than a mile and around 8 minutes. We choose the easy option. The orientation of the seats makes it seem that the adjacent towers are leaning heavily to one side as you ascend, a weird feeling. It’s a popular trip, and the carriages are packed with people both ways.
The views from the Sky Terrace are well worth it, though. From Happy Valley, just out of sight to the east, to the islands lying to the west, it’s a fabulous panorama of high rise towers, boats, sea and mountains. It’s one of those views you have to experience to appreciate.
We’d travelled up in daytime, but night falls quickly here and before you know it, it’s dark. The city transforms below you as the lights flicker on, and I reckon the guidebook is right when it says that this is a view you never tire of, because it’s constantly changing.
We were thinking of walking back down through the forest, but we change our minds in the dark and ride the tram back to Central. From there it’s a short walk to the financial centre, with it’s massive buildings and harbour-facing illuminations jockeying to show how rich, powerful and important are the owning institutions. Pride of place has to go to HSBC’s massive block, looking like a giant elongated toaster. Apparently having an unrestricted view of the water the building has great ‘feng shui’, an important consideration in HK, which guarantees it future prosperity. So if you want to bring down the bank, you just need to build something else in front of it. You might have trouble with planning permission, though.
We’re soon back to sea level on the famous Star Ferry for it’s short but dramatic trip across the Harbour to our hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui after a great introduction to the city.