Monday, 11 March 2019

Hong Kong Queuey

Following our adventures in the US, Australia, Vietnam and so on, we're off on another trip, this time to New Zealand. The flight was via Hong Kong, so obviously we were going to take advantage and spend a few days there (a luxury, compared to a few of our "24 hours in..." tours).

Our trip started with a post-panto-party dash to Timperley. We went to bed at 2am, got up again at 8am and headed to the airport. On our arrival (8am HK time, midnight UK time), we checked in to the hotel, and went straight out Speedtouring™. We had a map and set off to explore. However, large parts of Hong Kong were being dug up and we kept finding ourselves unable to get to things. Add to that, the fact that the roads are busy and it's often not obvious how to get to the other side, and we were not making great progress, though to be fair we did manage to see 3 or 4 of the city's top building sites!

We had Octopus Cards (the equivalent of Oyster Cards) which were excellent and so we hopped on one of the vintage-style trams which allowed us to get a better look at our home for the next few days, and as we started to get our bearings it became easier to get around and we spent the day ticking off some of the sights.

One of the main attractions is the skyline - the lack of building land means everyone has to build upwards and one of the "must do" items for visitors is to go up "The Peak" (HK is surprisingly hilly) on The Peak Tram, a funicular railway. Unfortunately, the fact it is a "must do" means that everyone "must do" it and therefore the queues can be long. When we arrived at around 5:45pm, it looked like everyone "was doing" it. The queue (snaking back and forth under the bypass) looked horrific, but having made so much effort to get there we joined the back... and waited... and waited. Every now and again, a small batch of people were allowed across the road to join the other queue in the tram station. It became clear that priority was given to anyone from an organised bus tour, or who had purchased tickets for Madame Tussaud's (at the top of the hill?!?).

The queue moved very slowly and on at least 4 occasions we discussed giving up and leaving. But the longer we stayed, the more reluctant we became to throw away the time we'd already invested, so we stuck it out. After over 90 minutes we were near the front of the first part of the queue and almost ready to cross the road to get into the next queue. At this point, it became clear that there was another way to jump the queue, which was to suddenly appear in it as if you'd been there all along. I looked at the guy in front of me and thought, "hang on, he wasn't there a minute ago". Then he called his wife over, so she could push in too. Well, the politics of the last couple of years has, at times, left me feeling ashamed to be English, but, if there's one thing I do still believe in it's a properly observed, dignified, traditional English queue. I made it my sole objective for the rest of the evening to ensure that this couple did not, under any circumstances get on that tram before us.

We managed to get back in front of the queuebusters as we crossed the road, and joined the next queue (we could almost see the front of it now), but as we got closer to the platform, things spread out a little and I was struggling to hold off my competitors. I tried to make myself as wide as possible, but it was no use - these guys were clearly experienced queue-cheats and I just wasn't in their league. One of them sold me a dummy and that was it, they were past us, I'd lost!

We finally got on the tram after 2 hours in the queue and started to crawl up the side of The Peak at what felt like a 45 degree angle - the high-rise buildings on the side of the hill seemed to be toppling over as we looked out of the window. After 10 minutes or so we arrived at the top and (ignoring Madame Tussauds and the various tacky gift shops) we walked out to look at the view below. It was dark by now and it became clear why this is a "must do". We were high above even the highest skyscrapers in the city below and the view was spectacular.

Eventually we'd enjoyed the view enough and decided to make our way back down. Then we saw the queue for the return tram - it looked like we could be waiting another 2 hours! Forget that, we'll walk down, how hard could it be? So we set off along a footpath where a few other people were walking, but after 10 minutes, we realised that we were starting to go upwards - that can't be right. A bit of Google Map checking confirmed that we'd misunderstood the signs (a common problem for us in Hong Kong) and were actually doing a circular nature walk around the top of The Peak, in the dark. We could hear "the nature" but couldn't see much of it, so turned around and went back to find the actual road down the hill. To be honest, even with our detour and the walk back down the steep hill, it was probably quicker than queuing for the funicular, and eventually we arrived back at our hotel at 11pm.

We'd been going for 30 hours without sleep, sustained on a diet of seaweed and crab chilli crisps - hopefully after a good night's sleep we could resume our Speedtour.

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