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Saturday, January 03, 2015

Lantau Island, Hong Kong

Day 02 - 22nd Dec 2014 (I Continue from here...Hong Kong Day One)

At around 8:00 AM we were at our breakfast counter. They have just three options of breakfast for the guests - Chinese Breakfast, Hong Kong Breakfast and Western Breakfast. Our only option was to take Western Breakfast without egg and meat. That left us with a salad with a tasty dressing, corn and toast. Surprisingly it was delicious. The guy who took our order was kind enough to provide us with one extra bread every day with some jam and butter. 

At the reception, I enquired about our route to Lantau island. At Shim Shui Po MTR station, which is the nearest to the hostel we took the Tsuen Wan Rail line to  Lai king for HK$5. We later figured out that Octopus card was accepted everywhere. At Lai King we had to switch to the green line that is Kwun Tong line to alight at Tung Chung Station. At customer service we figured out that though out ticket did not cover the entire trip it was not required to exit the station and take another ticket. Instead, he asked us to travel to the final destination and then pay the difference at similar customer service station. I found that very thoughtful and fantastic way to make a traveler life easy. Within 30 minutes we were at the Tung Chung Station on Lantau island and paid the difference amount. If you use an octopus card, there is no worry at all. When you swipe in at a station it records the station on your card. When you swipe out at any station it does the math and deducts the appropriate amount. So thats what we did next, used our octopus card. Also, with an octopus card you are entitled for some discounts in train and bus fares. I would highly recommend a traveler to buy a card as soon as he steps out of the airport. It will make your life much easier. You don’t have to look for exact change everywhere. All you need to do ensure that your card has money. Every time you swipe it somewhere the reader shows your deducted amount and balance. And if you figure out at the MR station that you don’t have enough money to exit, no issues. Walk to a nearest customer service representative and get your card recharged. Outside, in the city, you can recharge in several places such as 7-Eleven stores.

Just outside of the MTRs station at Tung Chung is the cable car station that operates between here and Ngong Ping Plateau which is in the hills. There are two ways to get up there. First, take a bus and second and the most popular is to take a cable car. It is called Ngong Ping 360 and takes you on a 5.7kms ride. In the cable car station you can again choose amongst two options - First, a standard cabin (HK$165) or second a crystal cabin that has glass floors (HK$280). Or you also can choose a round trip with one way in each of the cabins (HK$235). We took the last option and the way up, we choose the crystal cabin. If you choose to go only one way up or back it costs you HK$115 and you could return by bus. (#23 from Tung Chung). 

The cable car ride was just amazing. As we took off on our right we saw the airport. Several aeroplanes where taking off one after another. The cabin can hold about 8 people. What could be scary but wasn’t for me was the glass floor. As you climb up you can actually feel the depth below your feet. We saw several trekkers climb the path. Yes, thats an option too but it looks like a very long trek. The trails are well maintained though.


As you reach the last station, you can see the Tian Tan Buddha or popularly known as the Big Buddha peacefully looking down at the valley from a summit of a hill.

The cable car station at the top giveaway to a theme park like made up village called Ngong Ping which has tiled street filled with souvenir shops and some other attractions. We directly walked to the Buddha idol. On the way to which you will spot statues of the 12 divine generals each representing 2hours of a day and also relating to a Chinese Zodiac. 



At the top around the Big Buddha are six devas with their offerings to the lord - Flowers (Charity), Incense(morality), Lamp (Patience), Ointment (Zeal), Fruit (Meditation) and Music (Wisdom). There is a small museum and some souvenir shops inside the complex, below the Buddha statue. 



At the base, opposite to the steps leading to the Buddha statue, is the Lin Mo Po monastery. Its an impressive architecture. Outside, one can find several devotees offering incense sticks. The golden Buddha idols are a main attraction here and the interiors are majestic with impressive lighting and magnificent colours.




Outside the Monastery are  some cafes that serve only vegetarian meals. We had booked a Vegetarian meal here for HK$88 per person just outside of the Big Buddha entrance. But it is not required to do so. You can just walk up to the cafe and pick your choice of food which may work out rather cheaper and a food of your choice. So unless you are very hungry and like Tofu, spring rolls and boiled vegetables, I did rather recommend going A la carte at the cafe.

We were served a very tasty soup to start with. It contained some sweet potato and other grains. Spring rolls were delicious filled with potatoes and carrots. The main course was a let down for me particularly as i dislike the smell that the salads have. I presume they come from the ingredients that make them sticky. I also am not a fan of tofu, so I did not enjoy the main dish made of corn, green peas and tofu. 

At the cafe outside this restaurant, which is more of a fast food place, interesting food was served like vermicelli, spring rolls and some rice variety. We settled in for some desserts there. A baked bun filled with red dates, other filled with pineapple and then a cake made of green tea and red beans. The deserts were good. 


We then took a walk to the Wisdom path. Its an interesting work of art created by Professor Jao Tsung-I. Its a monumental calligraphic of the Heart Sutra. Heart sutra is a treasured text revered by confucians, Buddhists and Taoists. The column located at the highest point is left blank representing Shunya (emptiness), a key theme of Heart Sutra. A monk offering prayers here ave this beautiful work of art a spiritual essence.



The monument overlooks the Lantau peak. One could trek to the summit on the trail that starts at the wisdom path. Its a 4 hour hike. There are other trails to the countryside for few hours. 

We headed back to the cable car station and rode down to Tung Chung. Here, we had some trouble locating the fort. Nobody, including taxi drivers seemed to know where it was. Finally we asked the cable car station employee. She too struggled but was kind enough to go and look for another employee who she thought would know. And the other lady did. She directed us and told that it was a good 20 minutes walk. She noted down its Chinese name on my travel journal and asked me to check with people as I walk along. One thing i must admit that Hong Kong people are extremely kind and helpful. 

Our walk was long but fun. We watched the locals as we took the pathway that had several bicycles locked to its grills. A lot of locals living in the neighbouring apartment complexes where walking their fancy dogs. It was fun to watch a lot of different interesting breeds of dogs with their sweaters. 


With some pink signboards directing to tourist attractions and with the help of the Chinese text from he kind lady, we made it to the fort. However, it was rather an unimpressive site. Narrow street that passes through a trashy looking area leads to the fort built during the Qing Dynasty that now houses a museum and a basket ball court. The canons now aim at the tall apartment complexes. 


We next walked to Hau Wong Temple located at a picturesque site overlooking the harbour. 


We also looking for Lo Hon monastery but the signboards led us nowhere and nobody seemed to know. The places began to look very suburban as we walked further on those narrow paved paths so we decided to return. We took bus# 38 back to Tung Chung station and boarded Bus # 11 to Tai O. You could also take the bus # 21 to Tai O from the Ngong Ping summit and directly go to this beautiful coastal village to save time. 


By the time we reached this village it was dark and all the tourists had left. Perhaps thus, it looked even more beautiful. One by one the shops where closing. But on those narrow streets I chanced upon this beautiful shop selling some interesting artefacts and perfumes called Chamber Fairy. The shop owner, a young boy in his mid twenties told us that his sister Michelle makes these products. There was a fragrance that went by her name. One that he came up with is called "Magic of love". What was rather impressive for me was the colourful soft pottery that contained these perfumes. On my request, he took us to the workshop behind where his dad was making some soap art. I just fell in love with this store. There were other interesting stuff that was basically a blanket that could be arranged to look like a chair or an animal when not in use. I bought 4 bottles of perfumes for HK$100. 

Chamber Fairy@Tai O, Hong Kong (https://www.facebook.com/ChamberFairy)

We walked down the street to see some stilt houses. This village was once a home for Tanka people and an important trading and fishing port to China.Salt and fish were major exports. However now not much remains here. This place was also once known for trading illegal immigrants brought from China by "snackheads".  We enjoyed walking around some of the wooden platforms leading to stilt houses.


We walked to the Kin Kau temple but it was closed. We then took a bus back to Tung Chung and . MTR to Lia king and Sham Shui Po station.

It was a long day but filled with several interesting experiences. I think I loved the sleepy village of Tai O with its Stilt houses and an inspiring little shop that sold perfume the most as it was off the tourist track. 


Continued Here  - Hong Kong Island

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