Victoria Harbour and Victoria Peak – Hong Kong, China

Hong Kong by Ferry and Funicular

At any given hour, it looks like a round of bumper boats in the crowded waters of Victoria Harbour as the Star Ferry threads its way through a melee of tugs, barges, commuter boats, and the occasional junk, sampan, and gleaming cruise ship.

The busy deepwater harbor, China’s most important, is the soul and centerpiece of this dynamic port city and the place for which it was named: In Old Chinese, Hong Kong means “fragrant harbor.” Since 1898 the two-tiered green-and-white ferries have been transporting visitors and commuters from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island and back. It is one of the world’s most unforgettable ten-minute ferry rides, not only for the drama of the round-the-clock aquatic rush hour, but to view Hong Kong’s granite forest of skyscraping banks and trading companies that stand as expressionless monoliths by day, illuminated towers of energy by night. Go first class – the upper deck guarantees a better perspective.

Then again, second class promises better people-watching. Even better views are to be had via the world’s steepest funicular railway, which has been making the climb to the 1,805- foot Victoria Peak and its relative peace and quiet since 1888. Up top you can marvel at the world’s busiest harbor, some of the 235 outer islands dotting the South China Sea, and, when the weather is clear, the distant coast of main­land China. Landscaped gardens and paved paths such as Governor’s Walk provide solitude and greenery.

Each time of day has its own magic, but dusk may be the most special as an orgy of neon begins to grip the city, the Manhattan of Asia. Dining is available (as, unfortunately, are the kind of souvenir hawkers you hoped to leave below), but it’s really all about the view.

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