Cruisers usually arrive a day or two early before embarking on a cruise. This is especially true when you are traveling from North America to faraway ports such as Hong Kong. Not only does this pre-cruise stay minimize the possibility of missing the ship’s sailing but it also provides time to acclimate to a new time zone while simultaneously having the opportunity to explore additional sites. No one can ever predict inclement weather or miscellaneous airplane delays.
Even with the luxury of arriving a day or two before embarkation, travelers need to be cautious about planning an aggressive tour schedule. Jet lag may limit the actual ability to take a lengthy or organized tour. Moreover, it is not advisable to prepay for any excursion since too many factors may prevent one from enjoying the tour. Prepaying also involves a leap of faith since there is no guarantee that one will actually receive the promised tour.
On my first trip to Hong Kong, I opted to stay in a central location on Hong Kong Island. This choice opened the door to exploring the nearby neighborhood without having to take any transportation. Walking gives you a first-hand taste of the local culture and environment. If I had hopped into a taxi, I certainly would not have fully appreciated the hilly contour of the area.
It was an easy walk to Hong Kong Park. Like many well planned city parks, it provided an opportunity to appreciate nature within an urban setting. We observed picturesque water gardens along the way to the well-marked lush botanic gardens. The small public zoo was an added bonus. While the selection of animals and birds was limited, we felt young at heart as we listened to the birds chirp away and watched the primates scamper around their cages. It did seem odd to see American Flamingoes in Hong Kong.
After meandering through the park, we found the entrance for the tram that would take us to Victoria’s Peak (The Peak). The Peak is the highest point on the island (1,811 feet above sea level). Originally this high point was used as a signaling post for cargo ships. In the latter half of the 19th century, Hong Kong’s elite would set up residences in this temperament retreat. Until the first tram went up the steep incline, people were carried. The Peak Tram was the first cable railway in Asia and remains one of the steepest in the world.
As the tram chugged up the sharp incline, we gained a better appreciation for the geography. Like most tourist attractions, the summit was inundated with shops and restaurants. Unfortunately we were not graced with clear skies. Low lying clouds obstructed our view. Our pictures show a muted skyline.
Instead of taking the tram back to the terminal, we chose a path less traveled by tourists. The visitor information clerk tried to dissuade me from walking down. She claimed that the walk would take close to an hour and that it might be too steep.
I agree that one had to be in good shape to walk down, but it only took about 20-30 minutes. It was a road less traveled. We only encountered a handful of locals walking up.
At the end of our Asian adventure, we took a Jewish tour of Shanghai. Our tour guide mentioned that Hong Kong’s Peak Tram was connected to Shanghai’s Jewish history. Sir Elly Kadoorie (1867-1944) started out working for the Sasoon Family in Shanghai. He later used his assets to start his own business ventures in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Along with being a notable business leader, philanthropist, and founding the largest electrical company in Hong Kong, Elly took a leading role in the development of the Peak Tram. Today, Elly’s great grandson, Michael Kadoori, is listed by Forbes as one of the wealthiest people in Hong Kong.
The hotel concierge recommended visiting Soho and the Mid Level Elevators. Soho is filled with many interesting shops and restaurants.He probably assumed that we would get hungry along the way and did not realize that our food options were severely limited due to the observance of Passover. Hong Kong Central-Mid-Levels Escalator transports thousands of people between the residential community of Mid Levels and Central Hong Kong. We did enjoy taking the consecutive elevators up and then walking down.
In just a few hours, we used our pre-cruise exploration of Hong Kong to get a glimpse of Asian culture and still had time to take a short nap before dinner time. Unfortunately, we were unable to taste most of what Hong Kong offers- rice and noodle dishes. Our next trip to Hong Kong will not be during Passover.
With rain drops falling the next morning, we were less inclined to explore anymore of Hong Kong before heading to the ship. However, the overcast skies did not dampen our spirits as we eagerly embarked on our Asian adventure.
As we sailed out of the port, I added Hong Kong to a growing list of places that I would like to revisit.
Sandra Bornstein is the author of MAY THIS BE THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE. It is available on Amazon. Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She is a licensed Colorado teacher who has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses. Sandra is married and has four adult sons. The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, the 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and received an Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.