I was invited to go to Hong Kong with a friend, Sheryl, and her family after I returned home from my Japan trip. I was not sure I wanted to go back to Hong Kong because I was pretty tired and I had just been there a few days before. Except the suggested itinerary intrigued me because I had yet to experience the two main things they planned to visit. She was going to see the Big Buddha on Lantau Island and Stanley Market. I had thought about heading to Stanley Market when I returned from Japan but I ended up not really having time to do it. Stanley Market is not close to where I was staying nor is it a metro stop away. I would need to take a bus and I just did not want to figure that out. So this seemed ideal, I could go with someone who had been before. In addition, I would go see Tian Tan Buddha as well and that was something I was told was well worth a visit. I also knew that Joseph, another friend, was going as well so I decided I should go too.
We got up pretty early and piled into a van to head across the border. One of the nice thing about crossing by van is that you hand the driver your passport and paperwork and it seems to go very quickly after that. As we drove to the border, people furiously filled out the departure paperwork for the China border and the Hong Kong entry card for the Hong Kong border. We are pretty close to the border and that meant we did not have much time. I had a filled out departure card and only had to fill out the Hong Kong information. We pulled in front of the guard and this became a little bit of a debacle because people were not ready. Some people had filled out the entry portion and not the exit portion and others simply were not done. Border officials do not have a great sense of humor or patience for this kind of thing so they were not going to wait on us. We had to get out of line while they all got sorted. It kind of made me feel a little nervous because the last thing I wanted to do was hang out at the border too long. Once the paperwork completed we headed through after showing our faces to the two sets of border officers. Then our driver took us to Lantau Island and dropped us off at the place where we could get a cable car.
My friend had us all buy the crystal cable car that had the glass bottom for better viewing. She felt that it allowed for better viewing and for faster transport to and from the Buddha. There are less of those but the ticket is more expensive and somehow that equated to getting to skip past tons of people. Since we had no issues going or coming despites the herds of people I assume she is right. one thing I know she is right about, get there early because the line forms quickly and can be a 3 hour wait to purchase tickets. We were early so we bought tickets as one of the first groups and then we headed to the Buddha while the surrounding “village” was still setting up. The “village” is basically a place for tourists to spend money. The ride to the Buddha was long but very scenic. This island is pretty sparsely inhabited and there are tons of trees. I have heard that it is referred to as the lungs of Hong Kong because of the trees. As we rode along we kept in view of the long path hikers could take to the Big Buddha. We did see several hikers and I thought about how I was not terribly interested in walking to the Buddha. It looks like a challenging hike and so as we rode along I thought how cool those that do the hike must be. Eventually you come to the point where you can see the Buddha from afar and you realize that they are not kidding when they decided to call it the Big Buddha. It towers high above the mountain and sticks out from the surrounding green. The pictures I took to prove it unfortunately reflected on the glass and what I have is mostly a picture of a dirty window. I do have a shot from when the cable car came to a stop though.
The cable car stops at Ngong Ping Village. The village has a lot of restaurants and shops. it also has movies playing somewhere. Of course there was a gift shop as you left the cable car that had cable car memorabilia as well as the photo they take of you when you get on. The first thing we saw was a replica cable car on the ground filled with Hello Kitty figures. I thought about posing with them but the line was longer then my interest in the picture lasted. We were all hungry so we stopped and ate at a Middle Eastern restaurant. Then Joseph and I started walking. We took our time admiring the statues on our walk to the Buddha. The rest of the party was not moving as fast. They were a little older and different parts of their body were not working the way they should So it was slow going for them. That was understandable but then they added the lure of the shops to the walk to the Buddha and they ended up not catching up with us until much later. Joseph and I were planning to see the shops on the way back and so we headed toward the Buddha.
The area near the Buddha has a circular area that hoists various flags and if you go toward the flags you can follow the path to the Po Lin Monastery. We planned to head that direction but we wanted to go up the stairs to the Buddha. We paid a fee so we could go inside the Big Buddha and saw that you could pay a little more to eat a vegetarian meal up there somewhere. We had just eaten so we did not pay for that but I think I would the next time I go. There are a lot of stairs to climb to get to the top where the statue was built. I had to stop and snap pictures a few times but eventually the top was reached. At the base of the Big Buddha there are 2 sets of three statues that are offering him gifts. We walked around that level and took some pictures before entering the Big Buddha itself. Inside their was a tour going on with a group of Chinese tourists and he was explaining things very loudly as they went along. I was feeling a little jealous that they were getting an explanation and I could not understand it. What is inside the statue is a museum. It tells the story of Buddha and the construction of the Tian Tan Buddha in the 90’s. There are quite a lot of art works made by monks included in the exhibit. It was well worth the few dollars it cost to walk through the inside of the statue. In the middle their is another Buddha statue and a spiraling staircase that eventually takes you out to right below the flower base that the Buddha is sitting on. I decided to use the telephoto lens to take a close up of Buddha’s face and see how it worked.
This was the first trial I had with the older Canon camera I had purchased in Japan. I was pleasantly surprised by it. I switched lenses a few times while we were up near the Buddha. I took photos of the ocean, hills and the monastery below. It worked well and I was pleased with the pictures I had after the trip.
Eventually we headed down. We thought we might see the rest of the party but they weren’t there. We knew they weren’t climbing up the steps because they had said as much earlier in the day. Which meant we hadn’t missed them at the top. So we decided to continue our tour and headed to the monastery. There are several buildings that are open to the public to a certain degree. The one that was the most eye catching has a beautifully painted outside with a lot of stone pillars that are carved with dragons. There are also a lot of stone reliefs that seem to be scenes about Buddha. The inside has a lot of images of Buddha and some are gold. It is a beautiful interior but the sign said not to take pictures of the inside and I honored the request.
After we were done their we headed back to the Buddha and did not see our party so we headed back toward the statue area. That was where we ran into them, they were just barely getting there. The pull of shopping had ensnared them. We walked back with them and sat down near the flags while Sheryl and her cousin headed toward the Buddha to snap pictures. Then we talked about how worthwhile the monastery was and we walked with them there. Two of our party did not feel up to the steps to see the part of the monastery that had pleased me and Joseph so completely which was a shame. It really was beautiful. We headed back toward the little village after that and this time Joseph and I looked around. There were beautiful chopsticks for sale, souvenirs of other types and clothing. Joseph went in and bought a very cool jacket that was cut in the Chinese style. Sheryl bought a phone sim card because we were supposed to be meeting up with a friend of hers at the Buddha. He had already been there and had wandered the area twice. He had not run into any of us and had went down to the nearby outlet mall with his friend. So we got in the cable car and headed down to meet them. It was late in the afternoon by the time we met up and that meant we were not making Stanley Market that day. I felt a little sad about it but I had a wonderful time at the Big Buddha. We headed to the metro and back toward Central. Central is on Hong Kong Island and is close to the ferry station I usually use to go to and from the mainland. From there we headed to the Star Ferry and traveled across the water to Tsim Sha Tsui. Sheryl took us to a mall to find a place to buy a new iPhone 6. It was really crowded over there and we think it had something to do with it being Boxing Day, December 26th. Everybody was in the malls. We were all feeling a little tired so while Sheryl went in search of a phone the rest of us sat down and had burgers t a burger place in the mall. I also ordered a shake to healthily wash it down. When we were done eating it was time to meet our ride nearby to head home.