Tag Archives: 1000 Places to See Before You Die

Going Up to the Peak in Hong Kong – Takes our Breath Away Every Time

The Peak, Hong Kong

By Lakshmi:

Ask any visitor to Hong Kong what he/she must do before they leave the city and two attractions are bound to feature on the list – The Star Ferry and The Peak.  The Peak is the highest mountain on HongKong Island.  Many a travel article have waxed eloquencies on the entire Peak experience and it is featured on the famous list of 1,000 places to see before you die.

Our first foray to The Peak was over a decade ago when we did the must-do tram ride from Central.  This funicular railway has been in place for over a century and transports passengers from the base of Central to the top of the mountain.  As we went up, we marveled at the skyscrapers that appeared to lean as we zipped by.  And when we got to the top on a clear day, we were taken aback by the absolutely breathtaking 360 degree vistas from the top.  While there are many places in the world that offer beautiful views from a high point, Hong Kong sure had the jewel in the crown.

Like many a tourist, we crossed it off our bucket list and went back down.  The next time I was in Hong Kong, we celebrated a very successful business trip by cabbing to the peak close to midnight for dinner.  The night time views of a city that never sleeps coupled with the superb food made for a moment of tremendous joy and gratitude.

For many years now, Hong Kong has become an annual pilgrimage for the Paupers.  And The Peak is a must do on our list, now elevated to the status of a half day or day long excursion.  We take the Star Ferry from Kowloon to Central and then take front seats on the upper deck of the 15c bus that slowly transports us to the top.  We look at the store fronts in Central, survey the new additions or restaurants we must add to our list, smile as we pass the now familiar Gurudwara as the bus takes hair pin turns weaving its way to the top.  We  absorb the locals boarding the bus, the nannies and chauffers taking kids to school, children playing outside and of course the apartment complexes and homes that house Hong Kong’s wealthiest in some of the toniest, most expensive real estate in the world.  All this happens while we admire the absolutely gorgeous collage created by the ascending peak, the harbor, the skyscrapers, and the people.

Once at The Peak, our first order of business is always to pay obeyance to the views from the top.  The next several hours are spent eating and shopping!  We fuel ourselves with a good cup of capuccino and then invariably end up at the same stores every year that we simply know as our favorites.  Baleno for t-shirts and sweatshirts, a small store with the quirkiest tech accessories, a handbag store run by a woman who knows we will walk away with at least a couple of collage handbags of beautiful places and people, and of course the home decor store for one more piece to add to our collection.

Several hours later, as we walk out debating whether to bus or cab it down, the song “You Take My Breath Away” from Top Gun plays in my head.  Yes, without a doubt, The Peak does this to me each year.

To learn more about The Peak, click here:


Watching La Traviata at La Scala – What an Experience!

La Scala in Milan

By Lakshmi:

La Scala Opera House, touted as the World’s Favorite Opera House is featured in the book 1000 Places to See Before You Die.  And since it was my first trip to Milan that more importantly coincided with my birthday, my treat was going to be to get really good tickets to see an opera!

I called the day I landed and checked on ticket availability and prices, but since I was unsure of my work schedule, I did not commit immediately.

And then came the call from my boss.  He wanted to know what my plans were for the next few nights, since we might have to attend a company celebration.  My heart sank.  I desperately wanted one night to get out and watch an opera and now that was looking bleak.  He proceeded to tell me that the celebration was being held at La Scala and we had tickets to go see La Traviata.   Could I do it?  I jumped for joy and that lasted all of five minutes before I realized I did not pack a gown.

So, on the appointed day, as my colleagues marched into La Scala in their tuxedos and beautiful gowns, I came in a business suit.   Everyone looked so beautiful, almost ethereal.  While I had seen plenty of opera including The 3 tenors on TV, being part of the real thing was something else.

The theater was simply breathtaking and the production spectacular.  From the opening act where the courtesan Violetta Valéry greets her guests to her romance with Alfredo to their misunderstanding and ultimately Violetta’s death in her lover’s arms, I was transfixed.  I was following what was happening on the little monitor, but the understanding came from being in the moment.  As someone who is fairly naive about opera, I was surprised with the hold the music had over me.  I had seen plenty of broadway shows, but the production here was something else.  And I was with a group of Italians, avid opera lovers who were smiling and tearing up the entire time. I simply melded into their experience.

When the performance concluded, there was fervent chatter in Italian all around me, including veterans who were comparing and contrasting the various performances of La Traviata they had experienced.  It was then it hit me that opera is a deeply spiritual experience for many, a journey that enriches them each time.

I would not say the show made me an opera convert.  What it did do is leave me with a deep appreciation for another genre of music and art and a tremendous sense of gratitude that I was able to do what I really wanted to do in Milan.

To learn more about La Scala and get a schedule of performances, click here: