Today we took a taxi down to Central and then the MTR out towards the airport on the island of Lantau. We were headed for the town of Tung Chung and from there took the cable car over the mountains to Ngong Ping.
The cable car ride is impressive , running for almost six kilometres over the sea and then climbing up the mountains. The fare, one way, is $80HK (around £6.50) which is reasonable value, however the operating company work hard to up-sell the experience with add-ons such as meals (!!) and other “attractions” at Ngong Ping Village which frankly is all a bit tacky, especially as the main reason for the site is the Po Lin Buddhist monastery and the huge Tian Tan Buddha statue. We could not, however, resist buying the souvenir photos in the cable car at the end because of the slick nature of the whole process and the way they instantly edit out unwanted passengers from your souvenir picture and key ring.
On arriving at Ngong Ping, we tried not to stay too long at the “Village” which consists of tat shops and cinema shows about “The Monkey’s Tale”, and made our way to the monastery and the giant statue. The monastery complex is a sprawling area of buildings , ceremonial gates, gardens, areas of devotion, the temple itself and a large restaurant selling vegetarian food. We decided to try the monk’s grub before climbing the many steps to see the statue at close hand. Whilst you couldn’t fault the value at around £5 per head for a variety of courses and tea, the food lacked any real taste and some dishes were a visual nightmare: sweetcorn, peas and tofu in a peculiar red sauce anyone?
There was a service taking place in the temple so our view was limited to the front area only but the experience was quite spiritual with the monk’s chanting and the sounding of devotional bells. We climbed the great staircase to the base of the 40m statue which took 4 years to build from 1989. It consists of 202 pieces of bronze around one half inch thick, put together with 5 kilometres of welding. The Buddha’s face is a single piece weighing around 5 tons.
After coming back down the stone staircase we decided to take a taxi to Tai O , a fishing village on the western coast of Lantau island. This small place , although quite a tourist attraction, is still very much a working fishing village and many of the houses are built on stilts over the tidal areas.
The village is apparently famous for it’s shrimp paste although all we saw were a myriad of small shops selling dried fish and other USF (unidentified sea food). The small winding alleys and the poor houses were a reminder of what Hong Kong’s outlying islands must have been like before the economy really took off. This place was more like the set for “The Deerhunter” compared to Hong Kong’s “Wall Street”
It was time to leave and we had wanted to cross the island and return to Hong Kong by ferry from Mui Wo but the cabbie would only take us back to Tung Chung, so we were left with no alternative but to take the MTR back to Central and then eat a quiet burger at Shelley’s Yard Restaurant off the Mid Levels Escalator.