Trains, trams, boats and butterflies

We were lost. And trapped. Maps — physical and via phone — were of little use. But this was no time to panic. We put our survival skills to good use. (Sherry spent her summers as a Scout and I am no stranger to hiking and camping in the wilderness.)

First rule in this type of situation: observe your surroundings. Could we see daylight anywhere? (No.) What could we see?

That’s when we detected a pattern. There were signs everywhere, we just hadn’t been looking hard enough. And what were those signs? Tommy Hilfilger, Diane von Furstenberg, Cartier, Columbia, Nike. These were important clues.

One of the over 200 very colorful species of butterflies in Hong Kong Park.

Yes, it all became clear. We were stuck in yet another mall in Hong Kong.

We decided to rest, regroup and devise a new strategy. We made camp at (what else?) a Starbucks. (Ironically, not the best cup of Americano coffee in Hong Kong). And with the help of a few kind strangers, we found a way out.

The dark secret of Hong Kong

You will not learn about this from travel guides, the Hong Kong Tourism Board and certainly not the government. They are all in on it.

To be sure, the MTR transit system is an amazing infrastructure. The network of trains carry 4.7 million people. Each day. It all seems to work like the proverbial Swiss watch. And it’s clean, at least much cleaner than any other urban railway we’ve ridden.

So what’s the dark secret? It is this: you can get on but, like Hotel California, you can never leave. At least, you can never leave without going through a mall.

When we finally made it out into the open air we were greeted by the din of traffic and a downpour. But at least we were out.

We trekked to our desired destination: Hong Kong Park, resplendent with waterfalls, gardens and, best of all, a butterfly sanctuary. The colorful winged creatures danced gracefully, oblivious to the hectic bustling of the city and the skyscrapers that towered on all sides of their diminutive oasis.

After stops at the tea pot museum and the quaint Lock Cha Tea House, we hiked to the Peak Tram, one of the most popular tourist spots in the area. We were greeted by a long line. But, as we have learned, Hong Kong queues are very deceiving. The transit staff know how to keep things moving. And we soon found ourselves aboard the antique funicular-type device, ascending 1,200 feet in elevation at about a 45-degree angle.

A panoramic view of Hong Kong from the peak of the Peak Tram.

Atop the mountain, we were able to survey a stunning 270-degree view of the islands of Hong Kong, with more skyscrapers than anywhere in the world.

And then it was time to head home. We found our way to the pier and for a nominal fee of a little over four Hong Kong dollars (about 60 cents U.S.) we hopped the ferry to cross the harbor back to our hotel in the Tsim Sha Tsui district, the dangers of the morning’s mall mishap now just a distant memory.

Taking the ferry across Hong Kong Harbour.

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