We were too tired to stand on the embankment for hours just to see a ten-minute fireworks show, so after some nap time, I rose on New Year’s Eve to see the fireworks on the telly, and partially from the window in my hotel room.
On the first day of 2017, I took the to the mountains.
More specifically, J and I ventured to Lantau Island, the largest of the islands in Hong Kong. We traveled first by shuttle, then by train, then by foot, and then by cable car to reach Ngong Ping, the Po Lin Monastery, and the Tian Tan Buddha.
The seated Buddha is one of the largest in China, with the statue itself reaching a height of 112 feet, all in cast bronze. He faces south, toward the Po Lin Monastery.
When we set out on Sunday morning, the skies were overcast, so a trip to the mountains seemed logical. A shuttle bus runs to the Kowloon train stop, where we caught the line that heads west — a long way west! — under the water and across the northern edge of Lantau Island. Along the way, one sees the local international airport, completely built on a man-made island, and one runs by Hong Kong Disneyland, also on a man-made island to the northeast of Lantau.
The wait to purchase tickets for the cable-car was well over an hour, spent in pleasant conversation about Chinese policies and social structures. We passed up the chance to take a glass-bottomed gondola, then ended up in a gondola with four hilariously uninformed American college coeds. Their chatter in line had been eye-rolling, but they quieted down some for the 25-minute, three-mile trek over the hills of Lantau Island. (I could start quoting them, but to do so would lower my IQ by a few points, so I shan’t.)
Before and on the cable car:
Once safely on the ground, hundreds of feet above sea level, we trekked through Ngong Ping and started to climb the 250+ steps to see the Buddha in person. (I’ll blog separately about how infuriating aspects of this were.) And then we spent nearly an hour with the Buddha. The sun shone. Buddha beckoned. And all seemed well.
After the Buddha, we walked over to Po Lin Monastery and watched the offering of incense for a while. I have never seen sticks of incense 6″ in diameter, but that’s exactly what we witnessed. Incense was being offered at two different altars outside of the monastery gates. I especially enjoyed a father & mother teaching their young daughter how to pray.
Lunch followed — pizza for J, chicken curry for me (a la Trader Joe’s). At the next table, an amusing child.
I saw more Westerners in the highland village than I’ve seen in one place for the past few days. But mostly what I saw were Muslim women. Hundreds of them.
We reversed the transit route and returned to Kowloon, then headed to the Temple Street Night Market. I bargained hard for a silk table runner and some silk pillow cases. The lady at this booth was adamant that she had given me the lowest price at HK$135 (about US$20), so I turned to go.
She grabbed my arm. I said no. And I turned again. She grabbed again. I looked at her, turned around and took one step away.
“One hundred,” she cried. “Eighty.” And I turned around. But I guess my look of satisfaction — I was going to buy at 100, so 80 was a deal! — was too much for her.
She suddenly scowled, said “You cheap man” in bitter and appalled tones, and started putting the merchandise away.
And I left.
I still don’t have my silk stuff I wanted, but I wasn’t going to get them from her!