Sunday, August 12, 2012


Saturday, August 11.

Continuing the trend of travelling to far-flung islands, we went to the largest island in Hong Kong, Lantau (大嶼山), the site of the airport, Disneyland, and a few other attractions.  We started in Tung Chung.
Developed in the same project as the airport, Tung Chung is one of Hong Kong's newest New Towns, benefiting from a local version of the Airport Express rail line.
We were headed up the mountain to the (now) overly touristy area of Ngong Ping (昂坪).
A cable car (I've been going on a lot of these recently, haven't I) called the Ngong Ping 360 was built in 2007 to bring more tourist dollars to the area, which was originally the site of a Buddhist monastery and later the largest outdoor bronze seated Buddha statue in the world.  (an awfully specific record, no?)
While the cable car in Maokong was only NT $50 ($2.66 CAD), this one costs $86 ($11.17 CAD) or $133 ($17.27 CAD), one way, depending on whether or not you want your floor to be glass.
And yet the crowds are much larger.
Since its opening, Ngong Ping 360 has had more than its fair share of problems.  For starters, during initial tests in 2007, a (empty) car just dropped off the cable and plunged into the mountainside below.  Early this year, when temperatures were abnormally low (literally a few degrees above freezing), the system was stopped as unusual noises were coming from certain structures,  trapping some 800 in the various cars for an hour.

Nonetheless, the crowds still flock here.  We got on a "crystal" glass-floored cabin.
and headed out.  It was very cloudy on this particular day, and moreover, the clouds were hovering very low, as you can see in this shot of western Tung Chung.
There really are subtle nuances in the ground (or sea) below you that you just can't see without a glass floor.
...but obviously not in this shot.

A view of the ropeway going up:
and starting the journey up.
One of the nice things about this ride is that for the first half, you get some great views of the entire airport:
and the highrises of Tung Chung.

and as you ascend, the city disappears behind the mountain and you're left with the lush greenery of Lantau Country Park.

Like I said, the clouds were really low, so as we got closer, this was the view:

As we began our final descent, it started raining a bit.

Remember that largest outdoor bronze seated Buddha?  Well, it's sort of in the distance there...

There weren't too many people up here... yet.

We climbed up the 250 steps to the Buddha:

and even from the top, it was pretty blurred out by the clouds.
I was going to make a comment on the swastika on the Buddha's chest.  Whereas in Hindu traditions, the right-facing swastika is more often seen (the same one turned 45 degrees and used as a Nazi symbol), Chinese Buddhists often use the left-facing symbol.
The thing has a long history, and is so unfortunately seared into many modern minds as a symbol of Nazi atrocities.  It forms the basis of the the simplified Chinese character for ten thousand,  万 (trad. 萬), which stems from its ancient use as a symbol for "all" (ten thousand being very close to that!) 

We hopped on a bus to the far-flung seaside town of Tai O (大澳), sometimes called (by tourism promoters and such) as the "Venice of Hong Kong" (it's even on Wikipedia!)
Nearly every stall here sells dried fish or fish products of some sort.

Yeah... Venice...
Maybe in the 13th century.
Lunch was a standard Cantonese dinner, at a local restaurant.
Deep fried squid:
Spareribs with a rice vinegar sauce:
Stir-fried choy sum (菜心) in a garlicky sauce:
braised eggplant in a clay pot:

braised tofu:
and a seafood, mung bean noodle clay pot.
Now, usually, we get bowls of plain steamed rice with this kind of stuff, but instead we got a large plate of Fukien fried rice (福建炒飯), fried rice topped with various meats and veggies in a thick sauce.

Oh, and we had to get something with dried, salted fish in it, being in Tai O:
A pork "biscuit" (肉餅, like a flat meatball) topped with salt fish (鹹魚, lit. "salty fish").

We walked for a bit afterward - "good for digestion!"

Low tide.


at the end of the road, the end of the island, was this.
Originally a police station, this building by the sea was recently restored and made into a luxury hotel.

I think this is breadfruit.

We stopped for dessert:
They call it tofu pudding here, which I think is quite apt.

A final look at "Venice" before we go, 

and back up into the cloudy mountains we go.

After walking back through Ngong Ping,
See how new and well-kept everything is here?  All fake.

we hop back on the cable car.

Dinner was at the mall beside Tung Chung station.
Food courts actually have nice, non-deep fried food here.
Although this pho was very disappointing, laden with MSG and overly salty, and that red bean ice tasted like water.

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