Saturday, September 14, 2013

To the Top of Victoria Peak

Pipkin and Domo walked through Kowloon to the Star Ferry Terminal, took the ferry across Victoria Harbour, and then took the Peak Tram up to Victoria Peak.

It's rather dark waiting for the tram, but labbits feel cozy in dark, underground places. Here comes the tram!

The Peak tram is an electric funicular railway. It travels 1364 m (4475 ft) and gains 368 m (1207 ft) with varying grades of steepness. At its most steep, it travels at 48% grade! The Peak Tram provides beautiful views of Hong Kong and Kowloon. There are only a few stops midlevel, and the trip takes under 5 minutes to reach the peak terminus.

Off the tram, you arrive at the Peak Tower, a shopping, entertainment and food complex with a 360° view at its observation deck. Through the windows you can just make out all the escalators that take you up to the top.

Pipkin tries to find his giant ducky friend across the harbour.

The view from the peak: Central, Victoria Harbour, Kowloon, and the New Territories beyond.

City side view.
Ocean view.

The viewing deck at the Peak Tower is heavily advertised because the Peak Tower obviously wants you to spend your money inside the complex, but if you're willing to sweat in Hong Kong's humid, subtropical climate, you can walk up Mount Austin Road, where you will find residences, Victoria Peak Garden, Mount Austin Road playground, and more views from the top.

The sweat equity is worth it, if you want to get away from all the tourists at The Peak Tower. Here at the top, it is quiet and you can get lost in the views of ships in the ocean.

In the distance, it's difficult to tell where sea ends and sky begins. The islands look like mountain peaks in the clouds, and Pipkin imagines those giant ships sailing dream like through the sky.

It's hard to go up any further. There's nothing but communications towers, and although Pipkin and Domo tried to hike higher, a construction crew turned the two back, since the area is fenced off. Since they took the tram up, they decided to walk down Old Peak Road. It is a steep, winding, pedestrian road that will take you right down to the Zoological and Botanical Gardens. Just a few steps to the east on Kennedy Road is Hong Kong Park.

Zig zaggy Old Peak Rd.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Star Ferry to Central

Last night, Domo and Pipkin spent time in Tsim Sha Tsui (locals call it TST) the neighborhood in Kowloon right on Victoria Harbour. They saw Florentijn Hofman's giant inflatable duck floating in the harbour, and they got to take their photo with the smaller ducks on the pier. By day, the crowds are held back by metal gates, to allow visitors to see the trompe l'oeil waterfall painted under the ducks.

Domo practically had to tear Pipkin away from the ducks so they could board the Star Ferry to Central. Today they're going to take the tram up to Victoria Peak, and then hike up a little further to the peak peak. (The tram doesn't take you to the peak peak.) In the photo below, you can see Central and Victoria Peak behind all the buildings.

As close as Pipkin wanted to get to the giant duck, it's best viewed a little farther away so you can appreciate just how big he is. Look, he's got a smaller entourage of ducks around him!

Still, Pipkin was a little wistful saying goodbye to the duck. There's something so friendly and familiar about the eyes, no? Ah, Pipkin must be thinking about his dear friend Dr. Duck, who moved from New England to Nebraska, where he now works at Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory.

Pipkin and Domo swiped their Octopus Cards and got tickets for the ferry. Taking the ferry across the harbour between Kowloon and Hong Kong is very cheap and convenient, and the two really liked the Octopus Card. It's a prepaid, reloadable card that you can use for all mass transportation in Hong Kong: ferries, subways, buses, trams. Convenience stores, some fast food chains, parking meters, photo booths, parking lots, everything accepts payment from this convenient swipe and go card. Everything, that is, except for taxis.

No matter. Hong Kong is very fun and walkable, so walking from their hotel in Jordan to the Star Ferry terminal provided them with a day time perspective of TST. On the Star Ferry, they flipped the backrest so they could face the direction they were going, and took a seat on the star punched chairs of the lower deck.
On a beautiful clear morning such as this, you can stand out in the breeze and take in views of the harbour as you cross. Pip and Domo watched the ducky get smaller and smaller as they sailed across to Central.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Mall Rabbits at the Miramar

It was getting pretty late into the night after Domo and Pipkin walked along the Avenue of the Stars, but there was still so much going on. They walked north on Nathan Rd, past the crowds of 20-somethings still queuing up outside Louis Vuitton and Chanel to go shopping, and made their way through Tsim Sha Tsui (locals call this neighborhood TST) towards their hotel in Jordan. On their way, Pipkin ran into this acrobatic troupe of pink rabbits outside the Miramar Shopping Centre.

They called themselves MiRabbits. The Miramar had closed for the night, which doesn't make mall rabbits all too happy, so they took their shenanigans outside.

They tagged the columns outside the mall with their signature Easter eggs.

Most mall rabbits tend to be cliquish but these guys welcomed Pipkin into the fold. Stay out of trouble, Pip!

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Walk Amongst the Stars

A short walk along the Victoria Harbourfront took Domo and Pipkin to the Avenue of the Stars - Hong Kong's version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The walk is lined with plaques and pillars honouring Hong Kong's cinema royalty. Some of the plaques have handprints and signatures set in the concrete, like this one from Jet Li.

Domo could feel POWER emanating from Jet Li's handprint!

A statue of Hong Kong film star and martial artist Bruce Lee stands prominently on the Avenue of Stars. Bruce Lee was born in San Francisco but raised on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong until his late teen years. Domo's a big fan of the late legend's movies so he couldn't resist visiting Lee's star on the Avenue, and posing with the Jeet Kune Do master!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Night Arrival in Hong Kong

A short flight brought Domo and Pipkin to Hong Kong, and they arrived just in time for dinner. Cantonese food in Hong Kong is sooooooo good. These two are going to get soooooo fat!

They ate a mish mash of noodle and rice dishes, dim sum and Peking Duck (yeah, they're nowhere near Beijing. Whatevs!) Their next stop was to take in the city lights of Hong Kong from the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbour.

Hong Kong means "fragrant harbour". Being one of the most densely populated cities in the world (pop. 7 million) and being the middle of summer, Pipkin would agree that yes, it's rather fragrant here. All joking aside, look how pretty the lights are!

A Junk crosses the harbour

Hong Kong has a very active night life. It was nearly midnight but tons of people of all ages were out enjoying the cooler night temperatures. There were runners, couples on dates, people out eating and shopping (shops are open very late - some until 1 AM) and of course, people being tourists.

It took a while to fight through the crowd and wait a turn to take photos by the smaller ducks next to Florentijn Hofman's giant inflatable rubber ducky floating at the end of the Star Ferry Pier, but it had to be done! They'll probably return in daylight (when there are fewer people) to try and get a better look at the giant rubber ducky.

For now, the duo are going to head east along the Kowloon pier to check out the Avenue of the Stars. Till the next blog post!

Out In The Park

There are a lot of public parks in Taiwan. They are often clean, have nice rubbery padding underfoot, and are full of fun things for both children and grown ups. Pipkin and Domo spent some time riding on these colorful, springy animals.

Then they played on this quad see-saw. Between the see-saw and the spring animals you can see some exercise equipment. There's an elliptical on the right. In the center is a turning wheel that's great for loosening up the shoulder and rotator cuff, and on the left, hard to see, is a pull up bar.

Many parks in Taiwan have exercise stations so grown ups have something to do while watching the children play. This park is empty right now, but in the evenings, parks are full of people and children and grown ups all use the exercise equipment!

This one park in Taipei had a lovely walking path and 12 stone benches, each representing an animal from the Chinese zodiac. Look, it's the Year of the Rabbit!!

Boy, did this stone rabbit have stories to tell. A lot of people sit here and this rabbit sees it all. Pipkin's a good secret keeper so, if you want the latest in Taipei gossip, you'll have to head to one of these parks yourself.

Pip chatted a while but then said his goodbyes to the stone rabbit, to the park, to Taipei, to Taiwan! He and Domo are super excited to head to Hong Kong!

Saluting Taipei

Pipkin and Domo had very little time to walk Taipei today and they couldn't agree on where to spend their time. In situations like these, sometimes it's best to agree to disagree and spend a little time on your own. After a week of bunking together, Pip wanted a little solitude. So Domo went to Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall to see the Changing of the Guards, while Pip hopped over to Taipei 101, the seemingly crooked tower in the photo above. (It's not leaning, it's a "keystone effect" caused by the camera angle.)

Domo salutes Dr. Sun Yat-sen
The gold roofed building is a memorial to Taiwan's National Father, Dr. Sun Yat-sen. Every hour there is a changing of the guard ceremony that draws a lot of tourists into the lobby to watch the guards march and put on displays of rifle twirling and tossing maneuvers.

Pipkin went to Taipei 101, the world's tallest building from 2004 until the Burj Khalifa in Dubai was completed in 2010. Taipei 101 has (you guessed it) 101 stories above ground and 5 below ground.

Pipkin didn't make it much further past this guy. "No animals inside the building!"
Pipkin thought he'd have time to hop up the stairs but no animals were allowed inside. He'll just have to enjoy the view from oustide.

It's quite...tall.

Where is the love? Oh, out here. Not inside.
Pipkin didn't know one of Robert Indiana's LOVE sculptures was here in Taipei. He's pretty happy about it, and he's forgotten all about the whole "no animals" thing. Love is all you need.