The Shay Rebellion | Christopher Shay

On Power Plants, Escalators, and Accidental Night Hikes

From the top of Victoria Peak, the city becomes graspable. My twenty-six story apartment building looked quaint amongst the other residential high-rises. The white lights of I.M. Pei’s Bank of China Building pierced through the Hong Kong haze, and the Central Plaza Building stood proudly erect, declaring that it was the biggest building in Hong Kong. While the neon lights of Kowloon turned the bay into a rainbow of reflected color. But Hong Kong is not just concrete, steel, and glass, the city is also covered with large swaths of jungle, which at night, look like green jig-saw pieces, interrupting the urban fabric. We had just been down there, meandering through Central, the clubs of Lan Kwei Fong, the posh boutiques of Soho, and a sloped jungle. Now, we were high enough that we couldn’t make out a single person. The view was breathtaking, and it wasn’t just the pollution.

It’s not often that a hike ends at a peak with such an impressive view, and it’s not often that one accidentally walks there.

Despite the pouring rain, we started the day with a ferry to Lamma Island. There are no cars on the island; everybody walks everywhere through the lush jungle and by beautiful beaches. The slow pace of the island is immediately evident as it stand in stark contrast to Hong Kong Island. The most arresting part of the island is one beach where people swim next to a coal power plant. Have no fear; one local resident, who invited us into here home, told us, “Don’t worry, all the pollution floats to Hong Kong Island.”

After a delicious seafood meal on Lamma, we took the ferry back to Central and wandered, taking in new parts of the city as we gawked at the shiny lights. I felt a bit like a freshman in New York. Then, we hopped on an escalator, and there is certainly nothing like that escalator in NY. Hong Kong has the world’s longest escalator system, an elaborate infrastructure of moving stairs that through residential and commercial areas, clubs and street markets, and we wanted to see it all. Lan Kwei Fong, an area home to Hong Kong’s only jazz club and a variety of stylish bars and hip clubs, is a fun area to explore but certainly not cheap. But the escalator transported us through the snippets and smells of other people’s expensive nights out. We glided by Germans quaffing Australian wine and Brits drinking American beer. We saw people dancing in clubs and crying in the streets. Without spending a Hong Kong dollar, the escalator put together for us a collage of a full night out.

The entire ride was made all the more surreal, because people burned “hell money” and incense by all the roads for the visiting spirits and ancestors that come down during the Ghost Festival. The entire city was veiled in smoke, and the smell of incense mingled with the already aromatic city.

As we effortlessly slid past downtown, we realized there just had to be a view at the top of the escalator system. But when we reached the top, walls of residential buildings blocked it. As three stubborn Americans, we wanted a view, so we just kept walking up and up and up. Before we knew it, we saw a sign to Victoria Peak. We finished up the walk and took in the most famous of view Hong Kong with the herds of tram-taking tourists. However, we couldn’t dilly-dally too much on the Peak. We received a call that a dozen people also doing a Princeton-in-Asia program were passing through Hong Kong. To finish the day, we danced the night away in Lan Kwei Fong in a basement club with other PiAers.

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