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Scribbling Geek’s Sleeping Dogs Hong Kong Exploration 2 – Victoria Peak Photo Taking

Sleeping Dogs Victoria Peak Real Life photo taking
Video game tourist Victoria Peak photo taking, as inspired by Sleeping Dogs.

Victoria Peak photo taking. It is not as easy as it is in Sleeping Dogs! (Plus, I didn’t have an Amanda with me)


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North Point Night Market

Victoria Peak Photo Taking

Central and the Rest

I begin with a confession. 🙂

I’m stretching things a little here to facilitate this post. Sleeping Dogs or not, I would still have visited Victoria Peak. I do so whenever I’m in Hong Kong.

To me, “The Peak” is hands-down the dreamiest and the most gorgeous attraction in the ex-colony. In a somewhat juvenile way, and as I’ve mentioned in my previous series on Sleeping Dogs, any visit to Victoria Peak is also particularly nostalgic for me. This was the first attraction I visited during my first trip to Hong Kong in 1991. Ten years later, I also had a very memorable dinner here with my dad.

Great! The intro’s out of the way. Back to this video game tourist post.

The Journey to Victoria Peak


Again, all screenshots from Sleeping Dogs belong to its creators.
And if you haven’t, check out part one of this series.

Thanks, or no thanks to my usual dilly-dally ways, I left my hotel too late; the sun was already setting before I was even near the MTR station. Concluding that it was quite unlikely that I’d reach the summit of the Peak before twilight is over, I decided to take it “easy” and enjoy the journey.

The following is a pic I took while strolling to Wan Chai MTR station. (And while avoiding other pedestrians. Hong Kong people walk really fast!) This is Gloucester Road, in the heart of the Wan Chai District.

On a side note, I’m really glad United Front didn’t mirror actual Hong Kong traffic in the game! Can you imagine driving in this condition? What a killjoy that would be!

Alighting at Central MTR Station, I followed the signs and soon found myself in Chater Garden. As I predicted, the sky was already dark by then. I thus decided not to waste the moment and spent ten minutes or so appreciating the financial spires of Central. The following being one of the shots I took.

I shot this while listening to Anything New by Bibio. The track, of course, being from the Warp Radio playlist of Sleeping Dogs.

Quite satisfied with my brief break, I continued upslope to the Peak Tram lower terminus station at Garden Road, and was quickly aghast. (Imagine me standing by the road with my earphones dropping away). The station was positively packed! I had expected there to be a queue but I hardly anticipated so many visitors.

It’s was like, I could barely see the entrance and the ticket office looked as if it was about to be stormed. It was at this point that a taxi so conveniently cruised to a sly halt beside me. Without a second thought, I hopped into it and barked my destination to the driver.

“山頂!”

Traffic was quite heavy on the way up.
I was listening to Battles’ Futura when I took this picture.

It was while ascending the steep slopes that I abruptly realised. Traditional route it might be, it would have been “wrong” for me to use the Peak Tram. The Sleeping Dogs way is to DRIVE up to the Peak. (Or in my case, be driven)

Sleeping Dogs Screenshots for Comparison

In general, I’d say the game did a pretty neat job reproducing the scenery on the way up to the Peak.
I like to clarify about this sort of view on the way up, which I highlighted in my previous series. You do get glimpses of skyscraper tops, but only in snatches. Most are too brief for any photo taking too. (Unless you can get the driver to stop)

Dinner at Wildfire Pizzabar and Grill

Reaching the Peak fifteen minutes later, I sauntered out of The Peak Galleria, did my best not to smirk at the people queueing to leave the summit, and had my first breath-taking view of the evening. Following which I decided, the game can wait, so can photo taking. I needed to address the uprising in my stomach before I get replaced as Dragon Head.

Parma Ham and Mushroom pizza dinner at Wildfire Pizzabar and Grill. I would have preferred it to be a tad stronger in taste, but otherwise it was very fresh!

Sky Terrace 428

Re-energised, I whipped out my tripod and proceeded to the observatory deck of the Peak Tower, formally known as Sky Terrace 428.

But some information about Sky Terrace 428, and the Peak Tower, before I show you my better pics from that hour. What’s there at the real Victoria Peak is quite different from what’s in Sleeping Dogs. Actually, I should say it’s starkly different, be it the shape of the Peak Tower, the number of buildings surrounding it, or the route to the observatory area.

There’s no guide to bribe to open a gate to get to the observatory too. No, no! In real life, you tap your Octopus smartcard or buy a ticket, then take an escalator. Furthermore, Sky Terrace 428 itself, thank goodness, is not fenced up too. What a photography nightmare it would have been, had that been the case.

A heavily Photoshop enhanced version. There’s still a lot of flaws.
A blue tinted (filtered) one. (Empowerment by Photoshop!) This one shows more of what would be North Point.
My attempt to zoom in on Kowloon. Bad idea. Looks acceptable as a whole, but terrible under magnification.

Sleeping Dogs Screenshots for Comparison

Officer Wei Shen, pondering about his future.

As you can see, other differences are immediately obvious upon comparison.

The real Victoria Peak is much higher than the one in Sleeping Dogs. Much further away too. What’s viewable from even the worst spots is also far more complex and dramatic than the scene in the game.

I’m not dissing the game graphics here, though. Given the incredible complexity of the actual scene, I think it would have been foolish had United Front faithfully reproduced the scene; too few of us would be able to run the game.

As simplified as it might be, the visuals in the game do overall give an idea of what’s available at Victoria Peak. If anything, it probably inspired gamers to visit the Peak or visit again. It certainly did that to me.

Victoria Peak Photo Taking Advice

I want to share this.

I took over 30 shots at Sky Terrace 428 but ended up with few that are truly satisfying. Overall reason being, I vastly underestimated the difficulty of this spectacular night scene. If you are visiting anytime soon and thinking of lovely selfies and atmospheric nightscapes, please be aware of the following:

  • Tripod. Needless to say, this is a must. (Recommended even if you’re using a cellphone)
  • SMOG. Unfortunately, air pollution from mainland China has long invaded Hong Kong. In the night, this appears like mist or fog, with the repercussion being all sorts of unpleasant and hard-to-edit effects on your pictures. IMO, this is probably the biggest challenge for any Victoria Peak photo-taking session too. Even the Dehaze function in Photoshop can’t completely redeem bad shots.
  • Light contrast. For me, the other great technical challenge is the extreme light and dark contrast of the scene. The nearest (residential) apartments are dark, followed by the bright towers of the Central District. Then comes the shiny cluster across the harbour that is Kowloon. Technically, there are various ways to deal with this. In my case, I didn’t use any filters and opt to edit in Photoshop. You might prefer another method.
  • The huge variety of lights in the scene can really confuse your camera’s white balance!
  • Tripod length. You need one that’s around 1.5 metres tall to completely avoid the railing. Otherwise, be prepared to crop and edit your pictures.
  • Don’t lean your camera on the railing to achieve steady long-exposure. Apart from the danger of your gear taking a joyride down the mountain, other visitors would be leaning on, tapping, grasping, and bumping the railing. The vibrations are worse than any camera shake.
  • WIND! This was my killer that evening. As I was using a rather light travel tripod, extended to the max, the wind effortlessly swayed my camera no matter how hard I tried to hold it down.

Lastly, to all you lovely people using the latest flashy cellphones with “top” camera functions, I can only say this. Don’t expect perfection and your shots should feel fine. The flash from your phones would only be able to illuminate your faces. Consider whatever grainy/blotchy mess in the background as … romantic. (Don’t zoom in to check!)

(Or you could just pay the pro photographer there at the terrace to take your pic)

Real life Victoria Peak photo taking is not as easy as it is in the game. You’ve been warned! 🙂




The Peak Tower and Peak Galleria

Done with picture taking, and knowing deep down that I didn’t quite get the shots I want, I continued with exploring the rest of Victoria Peak. At this point, I must say the whole Sleeping Dogs feel for the evening was rather gone. Luckily, there were the dreamy tracks from Softly station on my phone to uplift me. With the crowds largely gone, it was also quite pleasant strolling about the shops.

Madness 3D Adventure, a free attraction. It’s more or less a Trick-Eye Museum kinda thing. Another way to enjoy Victoria Peak photo taking, I guess.
Historical postcards display.
Historical peak tram. The building behind i.e. the one covered by scaffolding is the Peak Galleria. It’s under renovation but during my visit, most if not all of the shops were opened.
The Peak Tower, Hong Kong. The crowd under the awning is the queue for the Peak Tram.

My GREATEST discovery that evening. The most atmospheric smoking point in Hong Kong!

A Hong Kong Smoking Spot with an Awesome View!

(Basement, bros and sis. Lowest basement toilet is next to heaven.)

Comparison

Victoria Peak Tower, Sleeping Dogs version,

In short, game and real-life are quite different. It would have been nice to have such a fountain at the actual Peak too.

Final Adventure of the Evening

I left the Peak slightly after ten. With the worst of the tourist hordes gone, I was able to quickly board the tram for the journey down.

Now, this was my first time ever taking the tram downhill. For all previous visits, I took the tram up and left by taxi.

GOOD LORD, the ride down could give those at Ocean Park a run for the money! It’s like riding a reverse roller coaster – the most alarming part being the segment near May Road Station where surrounding buildings were all deliriously at 45 degrees inclination!

Peak Tram arriving at Peak Tower Station. Riding the Peak Tram, up or down, is a must for most visitors to Victoria Peak.
The Peak Tower, Hong Kong

Please continue to Part 3 of this mini series on Sleeping Dogs Hong Kong Exploration.

Read my other Video Game Tourist posts.

Summary
Article Name
Scribbling Geek’s Sleeping Dogs Hong Kong Exploration 2 – Victoria Peak Photo Taking
Description
Part 2 of my Sleeping Dogs Hong Kong exploration series. This time, I indulge in an evening of Victoria Peak photo taking.
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