Never did the world make a queen of a girl who hides in houses and dreams without traveling
Roman Payne, The Wanderess
As the plane hit the tarmac, I was excited to explore Hong Kong during a 13-hour transit between Nepal and New Zealand.
Rather than spending all day in the airport, I had pre-booked a sightseeing tour around Lantau Island, the largest Island in Hong Kong, thanks to Hong Kong’s lenient visa policies for New Zealander’s.
The overnight flight from Nepal had left me feeling exhausted and I accidentally walked through the wrong gate, and up to the departure lounge, rather than exiting at immigration! So I spent the next 3 hours waiting for the airport information desk to open, and eventually a member of staff walked me through the correct exit so I could walk to the nearby hotel where I had organized to be picked up by the tour bus.
The tour bus arrived on time, and I climbed onboard with my heavy carry-on luggage and took the first vacant seat, right up the front.
The bus was full of 40-50 year-old American couples, and a few Australians who seemed eager to get going.
Our tour guide was a friendly local lady, who was very knowledgeable and she exuded confidence, while telling interesting stories about Hong Kong’s history.
Our first 15-minute stop was upper Cheung Sha beach, one of Hong Kong’s largest beaches, which was located on Southern Lantau Island. The long, white sand beach had a stunning backdrop of rolling green hills, but by now, dark rain clouds were forming and I worried that it might rain.
Stepping onto the sand for the first time in 6 months, and looking out towards the South China Sea was an exhilarating and magical moment. I was bought up around the ocean, and I had deeply missed it living in Nepal.
I took a deep breath, breathing in the fresh air and relishing the moment before running back to the bus to find everyone waiting for me!
Our next stop was Tai O Village, a traditional fishing village located on the western side of Lantau Island. The fishing lifestyle was dying out as it barely provided a subsistent income, and many of the residents were elderly because most young people moved away to the city when they came of age, but the rich history and remnants of a bygone era was left to admire.
We caught a boat to see all of the wooden stilt houses along the waterfront and then I walked around the local markets, which was filled with live fish floating around in circles in small buckets, and all sorts of weird dried crustaceans. I walked through the tidy narrow lanes with tiny shops before walking back to the bus early, as I didn’t want to be late this time!
So far I was pleasantly surprised and impressed with Hong Kong. It was nice to see a different culture and way of life from what I had been living in, in Nepal.
Our next stop was to see one of the world’s largest outdoor-seated Buddha statues, which was nestled up high on a hilltop with spectacular panoramic views.
Tian Tan Buddha, an extension of Po Lin Monastery, sat 34 meters high and after 3 years of construction, it was completed on the 29th December in 1993, which the Chinese believe is the day of Buddha’s enlightenment. The majestic bronze Buddha symbolized the harmonious relationship between man and nature, people and faith, and is a major center of Buddhism in Hong Kong and a popular tourist destination.
The Buddha’s raised right hand represented the removal of affliction, and the left rested open on his lap, signifying a gesture of generosity. He faced north, which is unique amongst all the great Buddha statues, as all others faced south.
Beneath the giant Buddha was a museum, which contained a relic of Gautama Buddha, consisting of some of his cremated remains.
Most visitors have to climb 268 steps to reach the Buddha, however my tour bus had direct access to a road, which dropped us off directly beneath it!
After taking in all the views, I walked back to the bus and we drove down to Po Lin Monastery, where I enjoyed a delicious vegetarian lunch.
Three monks, who were visiting from the mainland in China, founded the Monastery in 1906. The beautiful main temple housed three bronze statues of the Buddha- representing his past, present and future lives, as well as many Buddhist scriptures. Surrounding the temples were huge pots filled with burning incense and the towering Big Buddha watching overhead, from a distance.
I sat down at one of the tables, and the round swivel top had an over-abundant assortment of food. Bowls of Chinese-style vegetables, noodles, rice, sweet-corn soup, tofu, and all sorts of fried delicacies. I munched away, trying to fill up as much as I could to save buying dinner at the expensive airport, before the rain started pouring down. I made friends with the tour group and we all remarked at how glad we were to be under cover during the downfall.
After lunch, the rain didn’t subside but the tour went on, so we all walked over to pretty Ngong Ping Village to ride the cable car back down the mountain.
The Ngong Ping cable car is one of the longest in the world. The ride spanned 5.7 kilometers, and it was a 25-minute scenic aerial journey across Ngong Ping Plateau, and Lantau Island towards Tung Chung Bay. The panoramic views over the South China Sea, Hong Kong International Airport, the Tung Chung Valley, and the Ngong Ping Plateau and surrounding terrain would have been spectacular, if it hadn’t of been raining that day.
My tour bus was waiting at the bottom of the mountain, and I was dropped off at the airport where I made my way through customs, and back to the departure lounge.
Hong Kong exceeded my expectations, and I definitely wanted to return one day to see more.
A few hours later I boarded the plane, tired from a full day of sightseeing, and made my way back to New Zealand, where I couldn’t wait to see my daughter!