After a beautiful wake up to the Hong Kong skyline, the family set off to Lantau Island. Only 30 minutes away, Lantau Island is home to popular attractions like Hong Kong Disneyland, hiking through National Parks and shopping in busy, industrialized centres.
The Ngong Ping Cable Car connects the centralized Tung Chung city to the surrounding hills, where a 112 foot tall Giant Buddha sits. After a 25 minute ride of terrifying wind gusts and smoggy views, we arrived at the Giant, Tian Tan Buddha.
Although the relatively new Buddha statue (completed in 1993) and its surrounding, disney-esque Ngong Ping city are the main tourist attractions, the older Po Lin Monastery, built in 1906, has multiple rooms of devotion, statues and gold that were the most sincere of the visit. I really didn’t like the fake village of Ngong Ping… there was a store selling just chopsticks, another selling masks, a Chinese theatre and a tea house… all extremely overpriced and overdramatic. The monastery on the other hand, had been commercialized only slightly with a vegetarian restaurant and some stands to buy incense at, but there was a stronger sense of history that I preferred.
A short bus ride around the winding hills and peaks of the Island and we arrived in Tai O. Tai O is a fishing village, known during the Chinese Civil War as an entry point for illegal immigrants but now mainly used as a tourist site. The town is dying out; dilapidated stilt houses called Pang uk’s are feebly balanced over the water and only the old and some very young people are living there. Despite the conditions, the town continues to function; stands of salted fish, shrimp paste and doughnuts fill the thin streets and boats can take you through the waterways of the town. We took a boat out of the harbour and further into the ocean in an attempt to see some rare Chinese white dolphins, but no luck there.
From Tai O we caught a bus back to Tung Chung and a train back to Hong Kong. We traveled on a 100 year old tram system through the city, passing through less popular streets where the amount of English on signs was little and shops with dried shark fins hung in the windows. Lantau Island was a great escape from Hong Kong and it showed a completely different side to the bustling city and overall, I really enjoyed spending a day there.