Thank God I can’t drive to Hong Kong on a whim, because I would be there all the time. I would describe this magnificent country (it’s a special administrative region of China) as a mixture of Miami, Las Vegas, New York, and New Orleans, with a little Rodeo Drive and Madison Avenue thrown in for good measure. By far the most magnificent sky line of any I have ever seen, and as metropolitan as any major US city, with a great sense of history and culture thrown in.
We knew when we arrived that we were only going to be in Hong Kong for less than 24 hours and would have to plan wisely in order to make the best of it. So after coming into the magnificent harbor and doing our usual morning responsibilities joined by 4 of my colleagues we decided to go out and see what Hong Kong had to offer. In leaving the port area we had to walk through a mall to exit, this was the most high end mall I had ever been to; Armani exchange, Dolce and Gobana, Burberry, Chloe and other boutique stores, all for children. We knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore. As we walked out of the exit we were encountered by Christmas decorations, they were everywhere outside this mall it was a winter wonderland, it made us actually remember that the Christmas season was upon us. We asked for some quick directions and thought were on our way when in mid stride we were immediately stopped by a small group of school children that wanted to survey us on what we thought of Hong Kong, of course having just arrived we couldn’t answer many of their questions though GH did answer as much as he could.
Of we went to discover the city. Walking into what seemed like the downtown area past 5 star hotels and more A-list name stores. It really felt like we were in any major city in the US, with the exception of all the Chinese writing on the buildings of course. We had to run a quick errand with AH who needed a stamp on her passport and while she ran off with PL to take care of that me, ED, and GH went to Starbucks to get real coffee. We had been missing “real” coffee (the ship coffee is made from a paste, and taste like it). We enjoyed every sip of the coffee. Having our errand done, we now did our usual first day in port things:
1. Exchange money
2. Get stamps
3. Get postcards
After we had finished that we decided it was time to figure out how we would spend the next few hours. There were so many options and so little time. Should we hop on the tram and get a guided tour of the area, or would Hong Kong Disney be our next stop, or Victoria Peak. Instead I convinced the group that we should take the subway and head to Lantau Island and see the Tian Tan Buddha. You might be thinking what’s the big deal about seeing a Buddah, you seen one you seen them all, no? Well not so my friend. The Tian Tan Buddha is the 2nd largest outdoor seated Buddha in the world and a magnificent sight. Since none of us had any real plans for our day and everyone was game, off we went. A subway ride and 360 degree view cable car ride later we found ourselves on Lantau Island walking towards the Big Buddha, but not before stopping to watch a kite demonstration.
We watched as 5 men shifted around this huge kite which looked like nothing in particular on the ground and as soon as it was airborne we could see that it was an octopus. We stood around and watched until that kite crashed and then they put up these diamond shaped kites with long tails that made ripping sounds. After a few minutes we kept walking towards the Buddha. At the foot of the steps to the Buddha we noticed there was a monastery across the way, so we decided to visit that first and then circle around to walk up the many stairs to visit the Buddha.
We walked over to the monastery and walked through the entry way, which was more lake an ante room, to reveal a quiet courtyard and a beautifully ornate temple. Incense had been burning outside the temple entryway but not beyond its doorways. Everything was so beautiful. We walked around a bit taking pictures and being reflective before we headed back towards the Buddha.
Once at the bottom of the stairs again we started our ascent to visit with the sitting Buddha. As the clouds rolled in around him it seemed like he was moving at times. The closer we got the more details we noticed and the more interesting he became. Finally at the summit just below the lotus throne he sits on we walked around wondering how he had come to be, sitting atop this mountain. He was immense and amazing. We walked around a bit and then descended from his throne.
Having enjoyed our visit with the Big Buddha we were pleased that we had selected this way to spend the little time we had in Hong Kong. We boarded our crystal cabin cable car to take us back, we enjoyed the 25 minute ride as we watched planes take off and land from nearby Hong Kong international airport, we watched other empty cable cars swaying in the wind as well as other magnificent views as we lost view of the Buddha in the distances. We arrived to the ground safely and after a brief stop at the post office walked back to our subway station and took the subway back to the center of Hong Kong. By the time we reached our ship it was dark and the magic of the city was all aglow. The light show in the harbor would begin shortly as buildings flashed their neon lights while others stood hovering above just glowing.
Our day was well spent. Next time I'm in Hong Kong perhaps I will do the city tour.