Two days in the Hong Kong Metropolis
Arrived in HK at around 7pm, had no idea where i was going to stay for the night, so pulled out my laptop and discovered that luckily for me there was free WiFi access in the airport! Did a quick Google and and found a cheap hostel in Kowloon. Phoned up and booked a room for the night.
The 40kg worth of luggage I had to cart around was starting to get pretty tedious, and I really wanted to put most of it in storage during the 2 weeks i was going to spend in the Philippines. I decided to save $HK50 and took the bus into town instead of the MTR. The excessively air conditioned bus was ultra modern as most things appeared in this metropolis of a city. I got off the bus in Mong Kok, and took a look around. This place really was like a scene out of Blade Runner - the ludicrous amount of neon, smog, people walking around with face masks, the noise, the lights, the buzz as well as the warm rain really gave it that post-apocalyptic feel.
I found the tower block where the Dragon Hostel was located on the 18th floor and checked in. Although the room was a double, which was all that was left, it was tiny - just like a little capsule with a small bathroom and a TV built into the wall. Land is HK obviously comes at a premium and it showed. Most people in HK live in small apartments in massive towering blocks like this one. The view wasn't anything to write about as there were no windows! Who cares - this is Hong Kong... I was excited to go and explore the city and went back out straight away. I spent the next few hours eating and walking around just taking in the atmosphere; the shops, food stalls, markets and malls were still in full swing when I headed back to the hostel at 2am.
The following day, I discovered, was a public holiday here in HK and therefore all business offices (including all self-storage places) were not open, bloody inconvenient as I really didn't want to travel with all my gear for the next few weeks. I found a place on the internet with the earliest opening hours during the week, and made a plan to get there early with my stuff tomorow. This was going to be close as the onward flight was leaving a few hours later at 10.30am. Now that I had the whole day free I didn't want to waste it.
I decided to visit the Giant Buddha at the Po Lin monastery on Mui Wo (Lantau Island), a tourist attraction but sounded like a good day trip to me. I took the MTR from Mong Kok to the central pier and caught the ferry to the nearby island. The view of the city skyline as the ferry left HK harbour was awesome, just as impressive as Sydney. But what was even nicer was passing by the many small islands and wooden fishing boats just scattered in the sea. From the pier at Mui Wo I missed the bus due to wasting time trying to find an ATM and had to take a taxi. The drive took us on a winding journey through the hills to the Ngong Ping plateau and the entrance to the grounds of the monastery.
The monastery was founded in 1906 by three monks visiting from Jiangsu and was initially known as "The Big Hut". It was renamed to its present name in 1924. The main temple houses 3 bronze statues of the Buddha representing his past, present and future lives as well as many Buddhist scriptures. Tian Tan is actually the world's tallest outdoor seated bronze Buddha. The statue symbolizes the harmonious relationship between man and nature, people and religion.
I looked up to see the amazing sight of the giant Buddha surrounded by clouds, resting over the temple at the top of a massive staircase. I explored the area, walked up the stairs and admired the bronze statues around the edged of the upper temple. Looking over the edge I could see the tops of the small islands in the surrounding sea also covered in a strange misty cloud.
A very tranquil spot, I could definitely see why this place was chosen all those years ago to build a Buddhist temple. Also went into the main temple in the square below, checking out the massive pots filled with burning incense along the way. I watched as some of the visitors just sat around crossed legged meditating, understandably so as this was truly a spiritual place. I was surprised though to find a Coke vending machine hidden away in the corner of the temple's vegetarian restaurant!