As I mentioned before the first few days of our time in Hong Kong were rather gloomy but then things started to brighten up for the GF’s temples checklist. First up was the famous Tian Tan Buddha, aka Big Buddha, at the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island. Allegedly the biggest bronze sitting Buddha in the world, atop 268 steps, it looks out from the top of the hill all the way to Macau on a clear day, but more usually just out to the aircraft flying in and out of the airport below.
We took the slow route to get there, with a ferry from Central pier and then a bus up the winding road …slow but scenic and cheap.
Just like last year the day started gloomy but cleared up midday. Is there a message there for future trips ? Go see Buddha first ?
It is a tourist hotspot, so don’t go there expecting tranquillity and enlightenment !
(Click any photo for a larger version)
Heading down, and looking down at the airport.
We went back by the quick ( and expensive) route, first down by cable-car and then the MTR subway. The cable car is rather spectacular, especially when it goes over the last hilltop and descends down towards the airport below. It’s what is called a detachable cable car, so instead of one long cable it is made up of several shorter sections. At the end of each section the gondola is loosened from the first cable, trundles over some runners, then the weight of the gondola clamps it on to the next section (in a previous existence I worked at a ski resort, catching the chairlift to work on the mountaintop everyday). This causes it to clatter and sway a bit when going through the stations, my GF was a little bit worried and refused to look down at the view below !
A short walk to the subway station, one train change on the way home, and get out of the MTR right next to our accommodation.
Taking advantage of the clearer skies next day we went up to the Peak, along with half the other tourists in Hong Kong. If you take the tram up, my tip is don’t bother with the “Peak Tower” package as that lookout was packed, and you will probably be “asked” to move along by the photographers selling souvenir photos who want to use the prime viewing spots. You can get just as good a view from the free lookouts just below.
Next day it was more temples to see, first up the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple, conveniently right next to a subway station ….I love Hong Kong’s public transport !
Apart from the usual hubbub of worshippers, fortune tellers and incense this temple also has a “good wish gardens” hidden behind it, a tranquil oasis surrounded by the skyscraping apartments around it. Next stop along the subway line was the Nan Lian Garden and the adjoining Chi Lin Nunnery. These gardens are even more tranquil, even though they are surrounded by main roads on 3 sides you would not know it.
The Nan Lian Gardens, with the Chi Lin Nunnery just behind it to centre-left.
Golden Pagoda, Nan Lian Gardens
Chi Lin Nunnery
The stairway to Heaven ?
Next to the gardens is the nunnery, made completely from wood and without a single nail ….although I did notice some screws ! To get to the nunnery you actually walk over the main highway, although you would not know it.
Last on the temples to be ticked off was the “10,000 Buddha Temple” out in suburban Sha Tin. Getting there was easy, once again thanks to the ever efficient MTR. Getting up to the temple itself involved a bit more of an effort. According to the Lonely Planet guidebook there are about 400 steps to climb………
I’m glad that I did not bother taking my DSLR camera up as you were not allowed to photograph inside any of the buildings. Instead I just took my little compact Canon, much, much lighter !
And then it was back to Bangkok the next day, to be greeted with a queue at immigration that stretched way, way back and took me about an hour to negotiate, followed by an equally horrendous queue at the taxi rank. Welcome to Bangkok ! Immigration here really could learn from places like Hong Kong……I’m glad that I had not just flown in from Europe or America to put up with that after a long flight.