So, all times come. This is officially my final full day in China. Tomorrow I will begin my long journey back to the UK.
The main item on my itinerary today: Victoria Peak. One of the most infamous spots Hong Kong has to offer for obvious reasons – it’s the highest point of Hong Kong island. In actual fact, I wasn’t intending to go the Peak today simply for the views. I also hoped to meet with someone who had a great influence on me whilst I was a Sixth Form student, Nigel Campbell. A Deputy Headteacher that taught me not only the art of public speaking, but the importance of charity and generosity, just so happened to be travelling in Hong Kong at the same time as me. This was a rather unexpected but fortunate coincidence. We had hoped to meet previously in the UK but since we discovered that our itineraries overlapped in Hong Kong, we decided to meet on the other side of the world instead.
Starting the day with a quiet morning attempting to finish these blog posts in my room at CUHK, I set off at around 10:00. As I walked down the hill to catch the free University shuttle (or to you and I, a luxury coach), I was quite taken back by how beautiful, scenic and tranquil the University campus was. The accommodation block I stayed in was perched at what seemed to be the peak of the ‘mountain’, overlooking skyscrapers in the valley foreground and fellow forest-covered mountains further into the distance. The mountains dwarfed the already impressive collection of skyscrapers; the adjacent construction sites, although testament to the rapid development rate of the University, paled in significance as the vista caught the majority of my attention. The aesthetics did come at a cost: the location. It was quite a distance from the city centre (Victoria Harbour), but granted, not every University can boast that it’s campus is embedded into the side of a mountain! As I travelled in the shuttle, I realised the true extent of this awe-inspiring ability to cling to the mountainside. It certainly seemed like one of the most idyllic locations to study in China, if not the world.
At the shuttle’s terminus I proceeded onto the University’s own MTR (subway) station. From here I headed to Kowloon Tong station and exited the subway prematurely. The reason for this was to see the location of my mum’s primary school, which was just a short walk around the corner. A great deal has changed since she lived here, including the name of the school itself, so I discovered. Now called the Australian International School, it was built very much in-keeping with the style of surrounding buildings – tall, neutral coloured exteriors and very little, if any, outside space. In fact, many schools in the area seemed to have rooftop playgrounds. Despite being made almost entirely of astroturf, this was one of the few in the vicinity to have a playground at a normal altitude.
I then jumped back on the subway and continued to the terminus. I had arranged to meet with Nigel on Victoria Peak, the highest point in Hong Kong, at 14:00. I glanced at the time and realised that I was going to be late, as I still wanted 15 minutes or so to search for souvenirs in the Harbour City mall. So despite the heat, I made a short run down to the promenade and sought souvenirs in a bloodhound-like fashion, before catching the horrendously cheap Star Ferry to Hong Kong island (around 30 pence for a single journey!). I was then left with no choice but to ask locals for the quickest way to the top, and of course it would be to catch a taxi to the tram station and then get the tram to the Peak. How hard could that be? I hadn’t anticipated the queue for the tram…
Having eaten all the food in my rucksack through impatience and becoming acquainted with an Australian man, Norm, I finally reached the tram approximately 1.5 hours later. The view was worth every ounce of sweat and every painstaking minute in the queue. It certainly didn’t disappoint. I thought of how different this view must’ve been in the time my family lived here. Now a renowned urban centre of the world, Hong Kong is a city reaching into the sky. Vertical buildings dominate the landscape and no land appears to have been wasted.. Thankfully the mountainous terrain that surrounds Kowloon and Hong Kong’s islands is still largely natural, at least, that’s how it appeared. How long this natural beauty will last, is anyone’s guess… But this was without doubt the best view I had witnessed since my journey here in China began three weeks ago. The contrast of both urban and rural, of human and nature, was perhaps even symbolic of the British and Chinese influences – the clash/culmination of two geographically opposite cultures. Both aspects of Hong Kong seemed to highlight the impressiveness of the other. The mountains, normally the most dominant aspect of a landscape, were being challenged by the man-made architectural masterpieces that extend to unnerving (and ever-increasing) heights.
But these are merely assumptions… What I am certain of is that Hong Kong was nothing short of a fantastic experience. Lively enough to rival the city that never sleeps; yet docile enough to rival a rural retreat. And I loved it.