Escape from “Peak Tower,” Hong Kong’s biggest tourist trap

This week is a “Golden Week” holiday in Mainland China and Hong Kong is full of eager cross-border tourists. Many will take the historic Peak Tram up Victoria Peak. The tram ride is breathtaking. The building it dumps you into (the Peak Tower) is a horrid tourist trap. Use this handy guide to circumvent the pitfalls and successfully emerge from the Peak Tower into the fresh(-ish) air where the views are free.

Travel Guide: Escape from Peak Tower

Expat Lingo Travel Guide: Escape Peak Tower

Peak Tram iconThe peril begins with the termination of the tram ride up from Central. On arrival at “The Peak” you will emerge into the bowels of the Peak Tower. Danger lurks around every corner.

Beware of these traps:

Peak Market iconAvoid the overpriced trinkets. Rounding the corner at the end of the ramp leading down from the tram, you will walk into the “Peak Market,” a long hall filled with the following representative tchotchkes: (1) bright cheongsams; (2) “silk” table runners and cosmetic cases (can be selected to match cheongsam); (3) I “heart” HK t-shirts and magnets; (4) “oriental” fans; (5) jade jewelry;  (6) year of the “x” stuffed toys; (7) postcards; (8) Hong Kong themed coffee mugs/miniature spoons/mobile phone dongles/key fobs; and (9) copies of “The World of Suzie Wong.” All perfectly acceptable souvenirs, but which can be purchased for less in other places.

For cooler (but not necessarily cheaper) Hong Kong-related merchandise, visit the G.O.D. (“Goods of Desire”) store in the nearby Peak Galleria (but first you’ll have to escape Peak Tower!).

Wax Museum iconSay “no” to wax Hu Jintao and remain vigilant against the temptation to visit Madame Tussaud’s Museum. Do not let the lure of “over 100 local and international celebrity wax figures” pull you in. The British Royal family in wax form isn’t worth it. Nor are Brad Pitt, Jackie Chan, Johnny Depp or Marilyn Monroe. If you are a Mainland tourist, resist the targeted bait of wax replicas of Yao Ming, Chairman Mao and Deng Xiao Ping. You did not come to The Peak to be trapped in an over-priced basement stocked with slightly-off looking dummies!

No Way Out iconI thought there was a green mountain peak around here? How the hell do I get out of this building? As you begin to ascend the escalator system, you will wonder on which level the exit is located. The signage will not make this clear. You will become increasingly disoriented. This feeling is all part of “The Peak Tower Experience.” Many of you (not being able to see the carefully concealed exit) will continue up the escalators.

If you encounter these places, you will know that you have gone too far up:

Bubba Gump iconWho is Bubba Gump and why is there an American shrimp restaurant here? The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co Restaurant is self-described as “the first and only casual restaurant chain based on a motion picture[!]” It is based on the sugary-sweet, Tom Hanks movie “Forrest Gump.” Not only can you eat “Dixie Style Baby Back Ribs” here, you can also buy Bubba Gump themed t-shirts in the “Bubba Gump Market” (fancy “My mamma says I’m special” written across your chest?). Run Forrest, run away from any restaurant themed on a movie.

Sky Terrace iconDon’t open your wallet for a view that is free. Keep going up and you will eventually arrive at the pinnacle of the Peak Tower suck-cash-from-your-wallet experience. For 40 Hong Kong dollars (a touch over US 5) you can stand on top of the Peak Tower at “Sky Terrace 428” (the “428” is for the 428 meters it stands above sea level). Not a bad price for a lovely view, but you can enjoy an almost identical view for free from the top of the nearby Peak Galleria.

The secret to escaping the Peak Tower: find the juice bar and you will find the exit.  

Once you exit, head to the top of the Peak Galleria, which is located just across the plaza (an express elevator up to the roof is right behind Häagen-Dazs).

An even better option is to turn right after exiting the Peak Tower and walk a few steps until you encounter Lugard Road. The nicest view is down this road, peacefully away from the shopping mall vibe. Walk the pedestrian-dominated road 500 meters or so; you will be surrounded by trees and a lovely view of Hong Kong will open up before you.

View from The Peak, on Lugard Road,

The tram is a nice way to come up, but for a different experience going down, I recommend the number 1 green mini-bus, which can be boarded in the bus terminal at the bottom of the Peak Galleria. It will take you on a fast, curvy ride all the way down the mountain and back to Central. The last stop is in the basement of the IFC, Hong Kong’s second tallest building (which stands above yet another shopping mall).


Superficially related posts:

Ugly Americans, ugly Chinese: the tourist trap. Are you a Hongkonger who likes to complain about Mainland tourists? Get over yourself, and click here to learn more about the original “ugly” tourists: the Americans! Features a 1950s photograph of the first documented “Ugly American.”

Mini-bus language angst. “Ok, now I’m on the mini-bus, how the hell do I tell the driver to stop?”

29 responses to “Escape from “Peak Tower,” Hong Kong’s biggest tourist trap

  1. I went to the Peak several times when I’m back in HK and I understand what you mean. Its hot, crowded, full of Mainlanders and I nearly got robbed. Unfortunately, the view is addictive. If it wasn’t for the view, I wouldn’t have gone.

  2. Haha this is so true! I remember when arriving at the peak that it took a while to find the exit of that mini mall thing. I wasn’t willing to pay for their “Sky Terrace” either when I could just step outside.

  3. Seriously useful.

    One thing though: you may have “the first and only casual restaurant chain based on a motion picture” but have you eaten at “the first and only Chinese revolving restaurant located on top of a flour silo in Singapore”?

    • Ha ha ha ha! Flour slio! The machinations that PR people will go to to make their place unique!

      It all reminds me of a long standing joke my husband and I have about “the world’s biggest, bronze, reclining Buddha.” If you make your definition narrow enough, you too can have the biggest, best, oldest, youngest something.

      • Exactly! We once visited “the most cavernous underground limestone cave of the [forgotten] era in all of Western Derbyshire” too, but I can’t find a picture of that one for you. Less thematic, also.

  4. I went up several years ago and remember the Bubba Gump restaurant. I could never quite understand why it was there. Happy Golden week from elsewhere!

  5. I climb the peak on Old Peak Rd. about five times a week in the early morning and take the path along the top. I love the views and the greenery and the exercise. On Tuesday, the official holiday, we decided to walk up later in the morning and maybe get coffee and enjoy the view. It was so crowded along the trail at the top and the line to get down on the tram was soooooo long!!! I could not believe it! Glad to see people out enjoying the path and the views, but WOW! I thought to myself, if I had waited for the tram to get to the top and be in the tower then fight for a meal at the very crowded restaurants, and then competed shoulder-to-shoulder with all the people on the path, I would be sadly disappointed. My advice, steer clear of the peak tower as mentioned in this excellent post and don’t go on a holiday!!

    • I’m very jealous of your 5x per week stroll up the mountain (incidentally, you must have thighs of pure steel). Great point about Old Peak Rd being another great way to get up or down.

  6. I can’t stop laughing – this sentence did it for me: “The secret to escaping the Peak Tower: find the juice bar and you will find the exit.” It is soooo true. Actually the best way to experience the Peak is walk up and down the Old Peak Road. It’s nice exercise and just gets you away from the masses (although there will be several elderly people walking on the road, crazy runners sprinting up and down and a few dog walkers).

  7. Spent 5 weeks in HK in total. There are lots of places I wouldn’t recommend to visitors but this was not one of them. It was a nice day out but only if you follow the advice in this blog and don’t get ripped off. You are right.

    The same day we went to the zoo. I don’t know what that is like now but 12 years ago it was awful!

    • Funny, I was just at the zoo for the first time last week. I suppose it’s really more of a botanical garden with a few animals thrown in…. But it is a quiet spot in the middle of the city.

  8. The locals nicknamed the Peak Tower 老襯亭 roughly translate as ‘Fools Pavilion’ implying one can observe all the fools down below the city from up there. I guess this goes both ways as folks below can see the fools up there as well? 🙂

    I agree the view alone is worth the effort to visit despite everything else.

  9. So true! But you’ve now kindly provided your blog readers with a wonderfully handy dandy map! I remember going to the top of the observation deck, but never being able to find the exit either. I kept thinking to myself, “For God’s sake, where’s the exit? What if there was a fire? We’d all DIE amongst trinkets!” And yes, avoiding the Peak during holidays and weekends is a must. Also, never buy a round trip ticket on the tram, just do one way and take the bus back down! 🙂 Happy Golden Week!

  10. The first time I went up to the Peak was August 2003. It was great, because SARS kept everyone away. Nay, everyone, but that one feller who stuck his arm in all of my photos while on the Peak. Bubba Gump was but a lonely name of a children’s clothing store in Dongguan at that time. These days, they charge tourists to get to the “top” of that hemisphere, no?

    That’s also when I discovered ginger milk, in the grocery store of the anachronistic mall where the bus station is.

    The walk down towards the Mid-Levels is alright, and when I got to the underpass with the graffiti “a fat whale,” I knew to make a left. Though, have you walked down the more bucolic route in the other direction from the Peak?

    • Haven’t walked down the other direction from the Peak. Just around the Lugard Rd loop and up to Victoria Peak Garden. Yes, I’d image the place well deserted in 2003. Did you don a face mask? Maybe someone was selling souvenir masks reading, “Hong Kong takes your breath away”? 😉

  11. Hey, this is great info. GG may very well be going to visit me in HK and China end of November and going up the peak is on the agenda. I’ve only been up there once and remember it as being hazy and over-touristed.

    Speaking of Golden Week, I’m here in Hawaii, and yesterday at the hotel this table with two Chinese women from Beijing (they had very thick Beijing accents) were putting on their makeup (in 30-degree weather and 80% humidity) and talking about what time it was in China and whether they could call people on their iPhones (it was 3am China time), while taking pictures of themselves on their iPhones and complaining there was “nothing to do”. It was like a little bit of China had followed me all the way over here.

    • Basically, if you walk 200m in any direction from the Peak Tram terminus, you will have a nicer time. A short walk weeds out many, many people. For lunch it’s also nice to eat outside at the Peak Lookout (the only old building up there) as there is a nice shady garden and view view down the other side of the Island.

      I wonder what those ladies spend their time doing in Beijing? Probably sitting in traffic jams while putting on make up and complaining that there is nothing to do. Enjoy the rest of your holiday.

  12. Pingback: Friday Letters 11/10/13 | Sherbet and Sparkles·

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