After having had a very hectic and fun-filled day (Day 1), We were really looking forward to spending some laid-back time on our day trip to Lantau island. But before I get into details about how Day 2 of the trip to Hong Kong was spent, it’s important to give you a little information on the geography of the place. Hong is divided into 3 geographical regions – Hong Kong Island, Kowloon peninsula and the new territories and outlying islands. One of the new territories; Lantau Island is the largest island in Hong Kong – twice the size of Hong Kong island itself! In fact the Hong Kong international airport and Disneyland are located on Lantau island.
I had booked an all inclusive day trip to Lantau Island trip through Viator and although expensive, I would recommend you to go with a small tour group for this day trip as public transport to and fro from Lantau island is quite limited, and the population on this entire island is barely 50,000. So yes, you wont see too people that you can ask for directions here, except the day visitors. The hotel you would be staying at too will provide you with such tours as they have tie-ups with local tour agencies, so that is another option in addition to Viator.
We were picked up from our hotel at 9 am in a minibus and were taken to the ferry terminal where after grabbing a quick coffee and sandwich we boarded our express ferry and reached the island roughly after an hour. The ferry can get choppy, so it’s advisable to sit on the upper deck and enjoy the view of Hong Kong. On reaching the island we were huddled into a comfortable bus which would be our mode of transport from one place to another for the rest of the day. We were around 15 of us including the guide and the driver. The guide was a cheerful young girl who kept us engaged with stories about the place and Hong Kong in general.
Our first stop was Cheung Sha beach which is not necessarily a beach you’d be thrilled to see as it is not like the other beaches of South East Asia with their turquoise and sparkling waters, but it is one of Hong Kong’s better known beaches. In any case we were not allowed into the water as it wasn’t swimming season yet and there were quite a few warning signboards regarding the possible presence of sharks in these waters, there had been a fatal attack many years back on this beach. Needless to say we didn’t feel like we missed out on the swimming. It was just a 15 minute stop more for the use of the clean washrooms anyway.
We then quickly made our way to our next stop which was Tai O fishing village; Hong Kong’s only existing fishing village which was over 300 years old! The village is famous for its stilt houses that sit above the tidal flats. Included in our trip was a 15 minute bout tour of the village where we got to see how the locals lived. Luckily it wasn’t raining even though the sky was overcast with clouds. The weather was actually quite pleasant for a boat ride.
After our short boat ride, we took a stroll through the fish market, where all kinds of dry fish and fresh fish were being sold. The smell can be overpowering for some, but it is quite an experience to walk through this market and see all the different kinds of fish they consume.
Our guide explained to us that while the younger generation has started to realize that killing sharks for food is not the greatest thing to do, sadly the older generation will not refrain from having their bowl of shark fin soup because it is associated with wealth and status symbol in China and Hong Kong alike.
We spent close to an hour in the village and even visited a small temple there. Then it was time for the highlight of the day- The Tian Tian Buddha and Po Lin Monastery. Normally one has climb some 268 steps to reach the base of the giant Buddha statue but because we had gone with this particular tour company, they had permission to take the bus all the way up to the base of the statue. What a relief that was! The giant Buddha also know as the Tian Tian Buddha is made out of bronze and weighs around 250 metric tons! Inside the statue are 3 floors of a museum with paintings and other artifacts and the top floor allegedly has a relic of Gautama Buddha himself. Now obviously you cant see it, so you don’t really know if its there or not, besides some the locals too are not completely convinced about it’s existence. The giant Buddha is surrounded by statues of 6 devas, 3 on each side with some kind of offering in their hands.
We also caught amazing views of the landscape and the Po Lin Monastery from the deck at the Giant Buddha, it’s hard to believe that this vast region of lush greenery and forests is Hong Kong as well!
After a tour of the Tian Tian Buddha we headed to Po Lin Monastery, and since it was nearing lunch time, all of us were pretty famished so we went straight to the restaurant at the monastery where a lip-smacking vegan lunch awaited us. This set lunch has actually been rated as one of Hong Kong’s most delicious. Even though I am a hardcore carnivore I couldn’t help but dig into seconds and thirds of the never ending spread. It was a nice lunch over conversations with our fellow travelers.
It was honestly so so good, that even as I write this post I can recall the taste of that amazing soup! We had a nice long lunch for atleast 45 minutes, thereby losing time to check out all the shops at the Ngong Ping village, but I don’t think we missed on much as it’s cheaper to shop in Kowloon or Hong Kong Island. We spent some of the remaining time in checking out the monastery properly rather that souvenir shopping.
After that we still we had about 15-20 minutes in had to explore the Ngong Ping village which is basically an open air shopping area with many stores where occasional performances also happen. We then took the bus back to be dropped off at our respective hotels. The total trip took up about 8 hours of our time, but it was time well spent and an absolute delight to discover this side of Hong Kong too. We usually associate Hong Kong with busy city life and skyscrapers, but there are many such outlying islands that are begin maintained by the Government in order to have a healthy ecological balance. I would definitely urge you to check out atleast one of the many outlying islands of Hong Kong during your visit. Some of them even have gorgeous hike trails too.
To continue, our 2nd day didn’t stop there as it was barely 5pm and we were not really tired, so instead of getting dropped off at our hotel, we got dropped off near Mong Kok in Kowloon as we wanted to shop a bit and check out the general vibe of the city.
More on that coming up in the next post.