Often, I reference my non-existent bucket list and my lack of New Year’s resolutions, but one thing I do keep track of is my modes of transportation. I love to rack up as many different ones as I can in a single trip, but am more exciting when I can experience a brand new one. Our long weekend in Hong Kong (it’s Tomb Sweeping Day in China) gave me the chance to do just that- ride a funicular! How have I never done this before? It was a weird cross between a trolley car and a roller coaster, having the size and speed of the trolley, but the steepness of that initial assent to the peak of a roller coaster. Since our funicular was red, in my mind, all I could think of as I watched it make its trips in and out of the station was Mr. Roger’s trolley car (although ours had a black roof, rather than the ever-memorable yellow one in the Neighborhood.) Still, I couldn’t wait to take my place on the wooden bench and steel my abs for the ascent that pretty much crushed all of my body weight onto my backbone.
Up and down Victoria’s Peak on the funicular was definitely worth the hour wait on the bottom and the shorter, but much windier/rainier wait on the top. (We somehow made it to the top just as a crazy rainstorm hit the peak, with the wind pushing the rain UP the mountain and enshrouding the whole thing in a massive cloud.)
The weekend was one of “rides,” although not all were as fun as the funicular. (Come on, it has fun in its name. How could it not be fantastic?) Sadly, death-defying-cable-car swinging –from-a-not-nearly-stable-enough-metal-rope has the word “fun” nowhere in its description. But, on it I went. At the other end of the ride was a beautiful, bronze, sitting Buddha that I absolutely wanted to see, but getting there was a mental challenge, to say the least. I don’t do heights. It isn’t a conscious choice to not like them, but more in lines of a phobia- I know it isn’t rational and yet when my pulse starts racing and my stomach churns, threatening to bring breakfast back and my palms get clammy, there is little I can do.
After waiting two hours in line to get tickets for the cable cars, it was finally time to head to the top of the mountain. (Who waits two hours and then pays money to be terrified? What a ridiculous idea! Plus, it didn’t help that for the entire two hours, I had to watch the cable cars going up and over the mountain, reminding me of just what I didn’t want to do.) When we got to the ticket counter, we could choose between the glass-bottomed cable car or the standard one. Thad was really leaning towards the glass bottomed one, but I convinced him that if I were going to go on this death trap, I’d rather go on one where I could at least stare at the floor and pretend I was on level ground the whole ride up, rather than being able to see my death hurtling towards me. So, standard carriage, roundtrip it was.
Fear brings out the four letter words in my vocabulary. Going up, there was a lovely family (mom, dad and young daughter) who decided it would be a great idea to stand up and take pictures of the 360 degree views of Hong Kong. I get why they would want that, but come on people! Let’s not jiggle this dangling car any more than necessary. Get your ass on the tram, sit down and don’t stand up again until we reach the other end of the ride. No standing and repositioning. No posing for selfies by the door. NO MOVING! Luckily for me, this lovely family was deaf. That meant I could grumble away with a sailor’s tongue and native language didn’t matter. Their lack of hearing meant I didn’t even have to measure the tone of my tirade. Nice. (I was blown away by how many people in Hong Kong speak English and definitely had to sensor my random comments, which I can make loudly, with impunity in Chengdu. In Hong Kong, I had to be a little more careful about commenting on the hairstyle of the woman right next to me on the subway or deriding the etiquette of the oblivious middle-aged man who cut me off as we crossed the crowded intersection.)But seriously people, find your seat, put your ass on the bench and spend the next twenty-five minutes praying to whichever high power you believe in; whatever it takes to get us to the top safely!
I must admit, coming back down the mountain was a bit less harrowing. My adrenaline stores had been fully depleted on the trip up the mountain, so coming back down, I felt more resigned to my possible fate. If Death decided to come knocking at my door, there wasn’t much I could do to turn him away. My eyes were open (almost) the whole way down and my swearing was kept to a minimum, partially because I didn’t have the good luck to return with the deaf family and mostly because I tired and ready to move on to a new adventure. I had read the map/information handout about the Buddha entirely, front to back, every caption and asterisked bit of information as a distraction on the way up, so coming down I had no choice but to hang on to the center pole with white knuckles and scan the horizon for possible hazards, all the while keeping a keen eye on the cable itself. (How often do they check that thing for fraying?)
Since you are reading this, it is a fair assumption that I survived the cable car, a slight bit traumatized, but in the long run, none-the-worse for the experience. And while I have been on my share of cable cars in the past (you’d think I’d learn!), this was definitely the longest and earns a spot in my transportation annals.
It only took four years of China living, but we finally made it to Hong Kong! (Another check on the non-existent bucket list and no new stamp in my passport.)