Further afield in Hong Kong

It didn’t take long for me to find Hong Kong’s claustrophobic feeling of the skyscrapers to get too much, and my lack of interest in shopping required me to finding something further afield. The weather wasn’t ideal for hiking, which is a shame as there are some interesting routes on the islands.

So I decided more temples was in order. I headed to Ngong Ping to see the Big Buddha, and though I was initially disappointed to find the cable car wasn’t working I was eventually thankful. It meant it was a bit quieter and my first impression hadn’t been tarnished by departing the cable car into yet another shopping area.

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Catching a local bus instead provided me with the opportunity to see the wildness that still exists on Lantau island. I’m sure had the cable car been working and the mist not enveloping the island I would have got this view from the sky looking down, but it felt more authentic to see it from a local bus.

I have to be honest here, I was disappointed upon reaching Ngong Ping and its touristy shopping area which had some how managed to turn Buddhism into a theme park attraction. Having visited smaller Chinese temples and just left Cambodia with its spiritual temples, I was not that impressed to see Buddhism becoming so touristy. This wasn’t just a popular temple that had become a tourist attraction, but created as a tourist attraction.

That said the Buddha was beautiful, and though the temple was quiet and void of worshippers it was beautiful too. Despite the weather I also walked the Wisdom path with its 38 wooden columns representing the heart sutra.

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I needed somewhere quieter to escape so headed back to the metro station and caught the metro to Nan Lian Nunnery and garden. Despite its proximity to yet another shopping mall and busy roads, the garden was truly serene.

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From here I headed on the metro to nearby Sik Sik Wong Tai Sin Temple, which is entirely Taoist. It was a stark contrast to the quiet of the nunnery and I was greeted by throngs of worshippers, clouds of incense and bus loads of Chinese tourists. If you believe in I-Ching or just fancy something a bit different, Taoists have a strong belief in fortune telling and there are a lot of fortune tellers surrounding the temple.

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The final temple I visited was the Ten Thousand Buddha temple at Sha Tin. Amazing, but a bit garish with its golden Buddha in different poses lining the path to the top of the hill and the temple.

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I finished my trip to Hong Kong with an overpriced trip up Sky 100 tower to see the view over the harbour. Expensive, but worth it for a final night experience, seeing the lights of the harbour from above.

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Exploring Hong Kong

Hong Kong – the place that kept my baggage for while I had a few days in Siem Reap. Having to change flights here again on my way home, I’d planned a week in the city to break up the journey. But being almost 20 degrees colder than Cambodia, a huge city of towering skyscrapers and every metro station leading into a shopping mall (and I really do mean every single one); it was a culture shock in more than one sense.

Hong Kong is a fascinating city, though requires energy to withstand the pace, which I lacked on first arrival. I’d come from a laid back Buddhist Cambodia where the pace was slow, so it took me an afternoon to adjust to the pace. As well as the price of food and goods and the endless shopping. At least a 3-day Oystercard for the Metro was a reasonable price.

Staying in the popular Wan Chai district, within walking distance to the huge shopping centre of Times square, I did spend my first night wandering around admiring the lights, being shocked that it was Christmas (I’d managed to avoid this fact in Cambodia) and eating noodles in a little back street cafe. Despite the culture shock I found the ideal first night, seeing the lights around the Harbour from the Conference centre.IMG_2332 IMG_1969 IMG_1983

The following morning I explored Hong Kong island on foot, despite the drizzle, visiting the nearby Yuk Hui Temple, tucked away amidst towering skyscrapers of housing.

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From the Temple I wandered on to Hong Kong Park with its impressive aviary and The Peak.

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I have to admit, the day wasn’t ideal for visiting Victoria Peak, given it was misty. The Victoria Peak tramway was opened in 1888 and provides an interesting alternative to hiking up to Hong Kong islands highest point, at 552m. The view was still impressive, although I was underwhelmed to find a shopping mall at the top of the hill; but that wouldn’t be the last time since Hong Kong is built around shopping.

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The following day I spent wandering around the other side of the bay having caught Star Ferry across the harbour – which is ridiculously cheap for the experience and leads you to the clock tower and the promenade with its Avenue of Stars.

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I wandered on to the History Museum which is free on Wednesday and definitely worth a visit. From there I continued up Nathan Road, passing shops I couldn’t possibly afford to buy from, finishing at the Jade Market. I had a good wander round and was definitely tempted to buy, especially since haggling is so much fun, but I wasn’t sure it was really jade or just some cheaper stone, so I resisted.

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I then finished the afternoon at the local Tin Hau temple with its overwhelming incense and throng of local Buddhists. Tin Hau temples are listed buildings in Hong Kong as they are dedicated to Tin Hau, goddess of the sea who protects fishermen. It’s clear that Chinese Buddhism is closely linked with Taoism and its mix of deities.

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After a huge helping of fried noodles I braved Temple St night market and on the way back to Wan Chai took a ride on the mid-level escalators. Only in Hong Kong would escalators end up a tourist attraction, but at 800m it is the world’s longest outdoor covered escalator and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a ride.

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