On this day, we decided to travel to Lantau island in order to see Hong Hong’s famous Giant Buddha (officially ‘Tian Tan Buddha’)! (As you might be gathering, there are a lot of Big Buddha statues dotted throughout Asia! They are always amazing)
We caught the metro to Tung Chung station and from there we caught a bus (on which our Octopus card also worked!) to the site of the Giant Buddha. The bus was more like a coach, and air conditioned. There was also an option to take a cable car up to the Giant Buddha but I’m quite glad we didn’t do this – the day was another cloudy/foggy one so unsure how much we would have seen, plus it was expensive.
The bus took us to Ngong Ping village, which is a little walkable village next to the Giant Buddha site. As we disembarked, we noted that the fog was worse than in the morning . It really was very misty and we could see just enough ahead to follow the signs to the main square, on opposite sides of which there are a monastery/temple and the steps at the base of the Giant Buddha, but we couldn’t see the Buddha statue itself at all! Even though I knew from having read previous blogs and speaking to a friend that on clear days, it looms on the hill its sat on, and can be seen from ages around calmly surveying the goings on…
Anyway, we paid a small fee for entry to an exhibition at the Buddha which included a veggie ‘snack’ at the restaurant next to the temple on the opposite side of the square. You could pay more for a hot meal but I don’t think it’s worth it, to be honest.
Actually climbing up the steps to the Buddha doesn’t cost, by the way. As we climbed (there aren’t too many steps), the statue slowly and impressively came into view. It was a strange feeling, seeing it loom out of the mist – pretty cool, to be honest, even though photo taking was a chore! But of course take photos we did, and we circled the statue, admiring the surrounding sculptures, and overall, I am glad we went and visited. The exhibition, which contained some artwork, was alright – perhaps not worth paying for, especially if you’ve already got lunch arrangements in place (we didn’t).
After having seen the Buddha, we went and had lunch at the vegetarian restaurant next to the temple on the opposite side of the square. Our ‘snack’ actually turned out to be three items each (could choose from such items as spring rolls, dumplings etc) and some noodles, and so was a more than filling lunch! I enjoyed the spring rolls most, unfortunately didn’t like the other items…
Haha if you’ve followed this blog since our days in Japan, I bet you think I’m a right food fusspot! I suppose I can be but I’ll say this – I will TRY anything once, even twice to account for the fact my first try might have been cooked by somebody incompetent, before dismissing it!
In the late afternoon, after a quick walk round Ngong Ping village (takes less than fifteen minutes) we took the bus (still on Lantau) from the Giant Buddha site to the Tai O fishing village (again, about fifteen minutes!).
The time we spent at the fishing village was my favourite time in Hong Kong, despite the smell of fish (which I don’t think anybody likes).
The fog had cleared up, revealing the very beginnings of what promised to be a glorious sunset presiding over a beautiful sleepy little village. We followed a marked walking trail through and around the village, taking many picturesque shots of the sea and houses-on-stilts as we went, to a viewpoint, where we sat for a while, just enjoying the peace – because it was very quiet at this village!
After that we jumped on a little boat (for, I think, the equivalent of about US $2) with a few other wandering tourists to ride around the area for about a half hour. Dolphins were promised but we obviously knew better than to expect any. I would take the boat trip anyway, the scenery is lovely and the sea breeze is refreshing and hey – it’s cheap!
We headed back via public transport to our hostel after Tai O and met up with one of the guys we’d been introduced to the previous night in the hostel common room. Though too tired from work to join us (we got back later than expected), he recommended a cheap, reasonably decent Indian place to us to eat called Ebenezeer’s just around the corner – and that evening, I got my Indian-food-fix for real, as it was a very yummy meal!
This was our last day in Hong Kong and we had covered most of the sights we had wanted to see, so we had a pretty chilled day.
We woke up quite late and so decided to head straight for lunch. One thing we hadn’t yet tried was ‘proper’ Dim Sum and we had been told and read that Tim Ho Wan (which has a few branches in Hong Kong) was a famous dim sum restaurant, largely because it is inexpensive but has a Michelin star!
So, we found our nearest branch, which was in the MTR stop Central Station, and off we went.
Central Station is linked (indoors / underground) to malls, and Tim Ho Wan was situated on a floor in one of these. Given the station and attached malls are sprawling and complex and difficult to navigate, we weren’t impressed when we discovered the little useful interactive monitor-maps they had dotted around did not list our Dim Sum place under ‘restaurants’! (We saw other tourists puzzling over the same issue, as well!) However, the monitors usually had a Central Station staff member nearby and after asking a couple of them, we finally worked out where to go.
We had to join a long queue which looked more like a large gaggle of people (we had known to expect this given the place’s reputation) and at first couldn’t work out what was going on. The chaos was more organised than it appeared at first glance, though, and soon we had collected little order forms (which were in English and Cantonese) where you ticked what you wanted. You then handed them in and were assigned a number, so your order got cooking whilst you waited.
All in all, I think we waited about forty minutes before we were seated. I’m glad I tried Dim Sum but I’m not a massive fan (didn’t really like any of the four dishes we ordered, not even their famed Pork Buns – my taste buds couldn’t handle biting into sweet pastry then finding pork inside?!) and am not sure I’d ever queue forty minutes again! Dave, as always less fussy than me, quite enjoyed the meal but did not understand why it’d been given a Michelin star – it was good but not that good!
I’m glad we went though as now I’ve tried ‘excellent’ Dim Sum I can confidently say that I’m unlikely to enjoy any form of Dim Sum haha…
After lunch, we headed via the MTR system to Nan Lian garden (easy to find and signposted at the relevant MTR stop!), which is next to the Chi Lin Nunnery. This garden reminded me a lot of specially designed/landscaped gardens we had seen in Japan and was free and pleasant to walk around. Clear signs indicated eating, drinking, being excessively loud and littering weren’t allowed in the garden and as far as we could see these were working – there was absolutely no rubbish and everyone was being very well behaved. There was also some gentle music playing in the background, which was clearly coming from hidden speakers. I am unsure whether this ruined or enhanced the ambience for me!
There were various little exhibits around the garden too including one dedicated to different types of rock. Cool if you like rocks, I guess!
The Chi Lin Nunnery was a very peaceful area and again free to wander around, essentially a Buddhist Temple akin to ones we had already seen.
Overall, I liked these two places because they were like a little oasis in the middle of the city. A lot of the photograph opportunities reflect that – beautiful architecture and peaceful lawn-scapes with high rises in the background.
In the evening we headed with the guy who’d recommended Ebenezeer’s to us (note – he is working in Hong Kong for a several-month contract at a high school and is a very inspiring individual. You can check out his blog here) to the infamous Chungking mansion for dinner.
You remember I said earlier that there are lots of ‘mansions’ in Hong Kong which house businesses and accommodation? Well, our hostel was housed in what I believe is a reputable one, Haphong. Not too far away was Chungking, which has a mixed reputation – it does excellent Indian cuisine but is also apparently home to unsavoury individuals as well.
In terms of our actual experience, our friend took us around the bit with Indian shops and food and it was essentially fine. I didn’t see anything overtly unsavoury. We went to a little South Indian place which did excellent dosa – can’t remember the name but there were lots of little such places on the ground floor of Chungking mansion.
I am unsure I would stay in a hostel there but for cheap Indian eats, it’s fine 🙂
And thus ended a rather enjoyable stay in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is awesome and I think can easily be done as a short break holiday rather than having to be as part of a longer trip, for anyone interested in doing it as such.
Next post: starting our Indochina tour with g adventures after a brief stay in Bangkok!
Thanks for stopping by 🙂