March 2019 Update: apparently this viewing deck is no longer open to the public. 🙁
One of the must see places to visit in Hong Kong is Victoria Peak: once you get to the top, you can see the glass skyscrapers of Hong Kong Island, the boats on Victoria Harbour, the everyday apartment blocks of Kowloon, and finally Lion Rock atop the mountains in the distance.
The only downside is that every man and their dog also turns up there: resulting in long lines for the Peak Tram that runs up the hill, and price gouging when you finally get up there.
However, there is at least one more sky high vantage point you can visit, and this one is free.
The Bank of China tower has an observation area on the 43rd floor – many sources say it is the 42nd floor, but I’ve since been corrected! Unfortunately it doesn’t give you a 360 degree view, as the public area only takes up one quarter of the level – the rest is offices.
So lets take a tour!
Starting from the west, the Cheung Kong Centre is to the extreme left, while the tall multi sided building is ‘The Center’.
In the distance beyond the skyscrapers of Central is the Stonecutters Bridge over Ramblers Channel, and the mountains that make up the island of Tsing Yi.
Swing around a bit towards the north, and Hong Kong’s second highest building is found: the 88 storey, 415 metre tall International Finance Centre Two. The short building with the round windows is Jardine House, back in 1972 it was HK’s tallest – at 55 storeys and 178 metres tall it is less than half the size of IFC Two.
Swing around a bit further, and over on the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbour is the current tallest building: the 118 storey, 484 metre tall International Commerce Centre.
10 years ago the ICC tower site was bare earth, and 10 years before the site was still water. Behind the tower is the Yau Ma Tei typhoon shelter, with fields of apartment towers beyond.
After one more turn, you are now facing almost directly north, and looking at the main part of the Kowloon Peninsula. The cruise terminal and Star Ferry pier are on the waterfront, with the tourist hotels of Tsim Sha Tsui behind. Past here the suburbs of Hong Kong open up, with row upon row of apartment towers stretching on until the hills become too steep to build upon.
Turning our eyes back to the Hong Kong Island side, if you look downwards you will find one of Hong Kong’s few remaining heritage buildings: the dome topped Legslative Council building. It was built in 1912 as the home of the Supreme Court.
Alongside is the Hong Kong Cenotaph, which was constructed in 1923. It is modelled on the the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London except for the addition of Chinese characters.
You don’t need to look very far to see the pace of Hong Kong development, as a short distance away ‘Central Reclamation Phase III’ is under way. A land reclamation project, it is expanding the land area of Hong Kong Island another 300 or so metres into Victoria Harbour.
The Hong Kong government says this will be the last instalment of land reclamation in Central: despite similar projects being carried out in HK for over 100 years, this one actually attracted protests from concerned residents. The most contentious issue was the demolition of the 1950s-era Star Ferry pier, and replacement by a new pier with a fake historical look. The old pier was demolished in 2006, with development work currently under way on the newly reclaimed land.
Showing how much has changed, at the observation deck there is a model of Central circa 1988. Today virtually all of the water shown on the model is now reclaimed land.
How to get there
For those playing at home, here are the details:
- Go to the Bank of China tower – it’s the jagged looking building with the triangle trusses showing on the outside.
- Step inside into the lobby.
- Tell the reception desk you want to head up to the observation deck.
- If you have a large bag with you, they will ask to x-ray it with a machine in the corner, after the check the operator will give you a ticket to give to reception.
- Show some photo ID (eg: passport) and sign in on the visitor register, and they will give you a security pass.
- Head over to the lift lobby, a security person will direct you to the correct one. The lift you take only stops at the 43rd floor.
- Step out, and you are there.
Back on the ground, the security person will ask for security pass on the way out. Getting up there is more complex than riding the Peak Tram, but the lines are much shorter!
March 2019 Update
Apparently this viewing deck is no longer open to the public. 🙁