We took the MTR from TST to Tung Chung, close to the airport. Normally, there is a gondola running that takes you straight to the Ngong Ping, where the Buddha is. Unfortunately, it was closed for maintenance, so we decided instead to take the bus. It was a somewhat foggy day and I was worried that we wouldn't get a good view of the Buddha, but it ended up not being a huge factor. The island is very pretty, with green hills rising dramatically over the landscape, and some very windy roads for our bus to ascend. We also passed by a jail on the way there - I wonder if that's the only one in Hong Kong.
Ngong Ping has a village area, which is pretty clearly not an authentic Chinese village, but it's still pleasant to visit. The Buddha statue, known as the Tian Tan Buddha, was just opening as we arrived. We were some of the first to see it today, and we were happy to beat the crowds there. The Buddha statue is quite large, and it was very windy at the top. Below us, we could see the Po Lin monastery and Ngong Ping village.
|It was a windy day.|
We visited the monastery next, and it was incredible. I actually ended up liking it more than the Buddha. The entry building had a Buddha statue and four other statues, two on either side. Dale suggested they may be the four heavenly generals. Each one had food offerings in front of them, which included a lot of fruit (bananas, oranges, kiwi, dragon fruit), rice, water, and a few other food items in small bowls.
Beyond that, there were two other major buildings: the main shrine and the grand hall of 10,000 Buddhas. We were unable to take photos of either, unfortunately, because they were prohibited. A religious ceremony was taking place in the hall of 10,000 Buddhas: Many people were gathered there, most in ceremonial robes. The monks in front were chanting, and everybody was being very quiet and reverent (a later internet search revealed that this ceremony was the first day of the water repentance service in the Qingming festival). The hall of 10,000 Buddhas was spectacular, and yes, I'm pretty sure it actually has that many Buddhas in it (most of which were on wall tiles).
|Those are big incense burners...|
|Me, being wise.|
|Our wedding photo, recreated.|
We hopped on a bus down to Tai O, an old fishing village on the west end of Lantau. It was a really amazing place. Many of the houses are built on stilts. We started off by taking a walk down the causeway, and then made our way into the village itself. There were several school groups making a field trip here, and most of the tourists appeared to be Chinese people. We walked down a long market street, with some conventional and some strange wares for sale. Some of the things we saw included a cooked squid that was larger than a chicken, a man cooking waffles in a smoldering stump, dried, flattened fish with the teeth still in it, and a lot of strange smelling things that we couldn't quite recognize. We got further in to a footbridge among the stilt houses, which was quite cool. There was also a small temple we wandered into.
|That's no chicken...|
|Many of the homes had metal exteriors|
|Cheap husbands - just over $3 USD!|
We took the bus back to Tung Chung - there is no direct connection from Tai O to Tung Chung, so the bus had to go all the way to the southern banks of the island, and then back over the hills. We took the MTR back and rested for a while. We went out for food, and my left achilles was really starting to feel sore. I decided to go back to the apartment and rest while Liz and Dale checked out the night market.
- Tai O was the first place we really saw lots of bicycles. As it turns out, the parts of Hong Kong we had seen up to this point aren't very bicycle friendly. There's been no bike lanes that we've seen, and in most cases riding a bike seems like it would be pretty terrifying on these streets.
- You actually pay more for cold drinks at restaurants than hot drinks. When you order a meal set (usually soup, entree, rice, and a drink) the drink will cost extra if it's a cold drink, but not if it's hot. I guess they're just more accustomed to having hot drinks than cold.
- People aren't very willing to give up their seats on buses, to the point that I gave up my seat twice today, both times to parents holding a small child. In one case, I was near the back of the bus before I gave up my seat.