15 February 2007

Sausage croissants are the new black

Reuben, Alex and the boys (Zach, Hugo and Angus) live on the 13th floor of a 36-storey tower in Hong Kong's Midlevels.  Their apartment is spacious and airy, with views north and south of soaring apartment buildings forming a chequerboard pattern of windows all around.  Old Peak Road is a precipitous and narrow thoroughfare, buzzing with taxis and minivans straining to cart Hong Kongers up the slope to their homes.  Zach and Hugo attend school nearby, and Reuben only has to walk five or ten minutes downhill to work.

Keen to take in the views, I stocked up on drinking water to combat the mid-20s winter temperature and pressed onwards up Old Peak Road, which became even steeper before turning into a pedestrian path to the summit.  I followed Alex's good advice and didn't rush it!  Here and there locals passed by exercising their dogs or taking the airs, but soon the path grew quiet and I continued the long haul to the top, step by step.  At the summit the Peak Tram centre has a swish shopping mall, including a Delifrance cafe selling 'sausage croissants', otherwise known as sausage rolls.  But the main reason to visit is the spectacular vista from the roof, with views of the entire downtown area of Hong Kong.  Broad-winged birds of prey soar below, riding thermals and keeping an eye out for tasty rodents in the hillside foliage. 

The air is cooler up at the peak, and several nature trails wend their way around the summit's parklands.  I took a clockwise route with excellent, if vertiginous, views down leafy slopes and onto the clustered roofs of high-rise buildings far below.  Every 50 metres the fenceline was plastered with posters reminding walkers of the severe punishments faced by owners of defecating dogs – something about being stretched on a rack while being forced to listen to Wing CDs, presumably.

After a break back at the apartment, I wandered down into the city proper, through the little zoological gardens with its lone jaguar in solitary confinement because its mate died a few years ago and a replacement has yet to be found.  I wandered around the clinical precision of the downtown malls and arcades for a while, and then headed west along Queen's Road Central to the more rambunctious and chaotic Cat Street markets, full of disposable tourist tat and 'interesting' smells.  The return to Midlevels was via the world's longest covered escalator, which takes about 20 minutes to ascend the steep slope.

After dinner I headed back down to Reuben's office building; he buzzed down in the lift from the 42nd floor and we hopped on a train to go one stop under the harbour to Kowloon, where we watched the spectacular nightly light and laser show flickering across the buildings of Hong Kong, which was set to cheesy synth music.  Then we legged it up hectic Nathan Road, full of garish lights and pushy street vendors, but with scarcely any space for tactical deployment of Asian phlegm-hoicking, and took a brief look at the Temple Street night markets before taking one of the famous lozenge-shaped double-decker Star Ferries back to Hong Kong and a well-earned rest.

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