Hong Kong was just a stopover, a bookend to our extensive trip to China. The China trip got cancelled. We had our reasons. But we managed to make it to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is like a freshly baked cup cake with its culture carefully laid on the top, not too less not too much, just the right quantity, like a chocolate chip icing.. and its history like sweet bit sour chunks of plum in the middle and its beautiful outlying islands like a colorful pleated wrapper around. In itself a sweet little package.
An attempt to capture as many flavors of Hong Kong — Cultural, historical, cosmopolitan as we savored, in three days, in three hefty posts.
Here we begin :
For us, culture is always at the forefront when it comes to exploring new place. Nature at the second place. History the third and rest follows. Theme continues wherever we go. To follow the order, we figured out Lantau would be the perfect place to begin. Quaint little island far away from humdrum of the city.
Day 1: Lantau island
How to get there:
- The budget option – Take a NLB bus from Tung Chung station till Ngong Ping village. Frequency 15-30 mins. Travel duration ~ 1 hour.
- The aerial experience – Ngong Ping 360, a gondola ride, operated by MTR from Tung Chung train station till Ngong Ping village.
- The adventure path – Hike/Walking trails. Lantau trail along the coastline or the Ngong Ping 360 rescue trail.
We chose “the experience”. There are different packages available, suiting everyone’s needs and budget. More info here. We took the package that included round trip on Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car and “Walking with Buddha” a guided tour and boat excursion to watch pink Dolphins. Not just for it’s interesting content but for the fast lane access to ticket purchase and cable car ride. That later proved a huge time saver.
If the sky is clear, gondola ride is a twenty-five minute long breezy visual treat. On the right, there is beautiful harbor full of boats and splendid rock formations, down below lies a rich green forest.. with a visible wooden steps of Ngong Ping 360 rescue trail, the Hong Kong airport in the backside with a plane flying and landing every minute and mountainous Tian Tan Buddha in front. A picture perfect setting. Photographer’s delight.
The cable car dropped us at the entrance of a galleria packed with restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops and out-sized dummies placed all over in playful manner. Sounds of laughter and clanking crockery added distinctive rythm to the tumult. Hustle bustle filled the place with vibrant mood.
Along side, up above the hill, Lord Buddha sat in silence, devoid of material aspirations, with a perfected nonchalance. Grey clouds in the backdrop couldn’t agree more with his state of being.
We then headed to Tai O fishing village.
Tai O is a small fishermen’s village floating on the water. Pre-urbanized, old school, whimsical place where fishermen folks live their simpleton life in a close-knit mesh of stilt-houses, fishing away in their backyards. For it’s visitors like us, it is something that their city isn’t. For it’s dwellers it is just “a home”.
The specialty of this place is sea-food, of course! Its their forte. There is a market in the village that sells dried sea food. Salted fish and shrimp paste are the two things most popular among all. And so these delicious fish meat balls..
Ferry that took us for a village tour continued into the sea towards the Dolphin spot. We did see two dolphins.. actually, just their heads on the surface!
Back to Ngong Ping village. Into the Po Lin Monastery.
Monastery houses three Buddha’s statues that represents his past, present and future lives. Architecture appealed me specially for its Buddhist manifestations in red and golden theme and intricate carvings.
Pathway to the monastery had huge pots with burning incense sticks of all sizes. Foot long, two feet long. “Bigger the incense stick, sooner its scent will reach the heavens and your prayers will be answered quickly. ” a local shopkeeper spilled the beans.
A cafeteria in the monastery serves authentic vegetarian food but it looks and tastes like non-vegetarian. Food is made from plain soy and tofu, its the sauces that do the trick.
The path from the monastery till the staircase to Buddha’s statue is flanked on both sides by twelve divine generals. They guard the Buddha statue. Each of them have a weapon and animal on the top of their helmet that represents Chinese zodiac sign. Jo, our guide told us our zodiac sign based on our birth year and showed us our general.
We had to climb up to the Buddha statue now. It’s the second largest statue of Buddha after one in Taiwan. The statue faces towards (so as to bless) China. It was brought in parts(200 plus) and assembled on the spot.
Lord Buddha’s countenance exuded calmness and his eyes spoke thousand words.. for everyone to have their own interpretations and only for the enlightened one to have the right one. It didn’t matter once I stood there in silence and serenity made its way inward.
We got into last return cable car ride. Just the two of us. Sun about to set in the sea. Golden sky and the water alike. Romantic views sealed with a kiss.
And sun set behind beautiful gondola.
To be continued…
Photo courtesy : Ameya Parab.