John dropped me off at 8 a.m. at a nearby hotel and I was picked up by Marco for my day-long bus/cable car trip to Lantau Island with Grayline. Marco is the same tour guide I had in October for the Grayline trip to the New Territories – and he was very good.
This trip took us via underwater tunnel to Kowloon to pick up more tourists, and then we took a walk around the Avenue of the Stars and the riverside walkway which offers a stunning view of Victoria Harbour.
We paid homage to the Hollywood style star and statue of Jackie Chan, who is a Hong Kong native, one of the only Asian stars who is familiar to most of the western tourists. It was raining, so not a great photo day. Too bad – the view of Hong Kong is magnificent from here!
Cable car to Lantau. After an obligatory quick trip to a jewelry “factory” sales facility, which our newly wed couple from Mexico city complained about, we bussed to the cable car base for the“Ngong Ping 360” cable ride with views of the airport, the South China Sea, and lush mountainside. I shared a cab with my new friends from Singapore. It carried us 5.7 kilometers, a ride of over 25 minutes, across the water and mountain peaks to the base of the Tian Tan Buddha – known as the Big Buddha. The system can move 3,500 people per hour in each direction. While we could have walked up the 268 steps from the base (much shorter than the walk up through the mountains), we were bussed up instead. A good thing.
Far below the cable car we could see a foot path weaving its way on the scenic route up to the Buddha. The rustic walking path was surrounded by rocks and lush vegetation, perfect for a pilgrimage to the Buddhist site. At times the path vanished into a hole and then appeared again further up.
Here I am at the base of the Big Buddha, which the trip brochures claim is the largest sitting bronze outdoor Buddha in the world. In googling large Buddhas, I now know that there is quite a world competition going on for having the largest Buddha in your home town.
We had a vegetarian lunch at the monastery next to the Buddha, and my table partners, family members from Philippines (and some from San Francisco but originally the Philippines), were a riot. I’ve been invited to visit them in the Philippines!
Next, the bus took us to a historical fishing village at Tai O where Tanka boat people still live in their stilt houses near the monastary. Our stop included a walk through the fishing market and a boat ride into the harbor to see dolphins (which did not cooperate). Great view of the houses of the fishing families – different from the river houses in Bangkok. This village was mostly on the water, not beside the water, with the only access to many individual houses by boat or by catwalks along your neighbors’ houses.
Every part of a fish you can imagine can be dried and eaten. The top hanging
delicacies here are fish stomachs.
Scenes like this made me wonder how the self-image of a person changes after a monstrosity of a building is put up behind his little fishing house – his little house which used to occupy the landscape alone. Marco explained that the land on one side still belongs to the fishermen, who cling to their homesteads despite that they are sitting on the most expensive square footage in the world.
Fishing boats in the harbor.
We had a super fun dinner that night at a Thai restaurant called Chiles with George and the gang from the office. They were a blast as always. I love it that they all took time out of their day to have dinner with us – and that they share such a warm and supportive spirit.
Shopping in the Lanes
Today I researched a few blogs written by quilters and found that I could maybe find some fabric in a couple places in Hong Kong. The easiest place to get to – just two stops on the underground metro in central Hong Kong Island – was Li Yuen Streets East and Li Yuen Street West. These two narrow streets are called “the Lanes” and they were packed with old-world vendors, surrounded on all sides with soaring and sophisticated banks and financial buildings.
I found a vendor called “Flourish” (21 Li Yuen St W, Central District) which had some wonderful Japanese prints – just what I wanted, and only about $10 per yard US. There was another vendor called “Cotton House,” but the prices were much higher and fabric choices not as good.