Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"The Big Buddha" a no go...

I had noticed on the news Sunday night that Lantau Island had experienced incredile rains while we were in the mainland resulting in landslides that had knocked out road travel (though ferry is still possible).

I didn't make the connection that it would affect seeing Ngong Ping and the Tian Tan Buddha until we went to transfer to that line in the MRT Monday morning and discovered that the Ngong Ping Skyrail (360) was out of service. Come to find out one of the fiber optic cables was damaged in the landslides. I should have made the connection before that.

I knew that several SASers had gone to see the Tian Tan Buddha (either the largest or one of the largest in the world... I can't remember) back in '05, so I've wanted to go just for grins since. It's not actually that old and is in what equates to a Chinese Disney Land (Ngong Ping Village), but I thought it would be fun to see anyway. The views from the skyrail (like gondolas on the side of the hills) are supposed to be beautiful, and there's supposedly rainforest on Lantau Island.

Lantau will have to wait. Nature didn't want us to go there I guess. I just hope the residents of the Tai O village on the island get running water back soon.

We decided to turn back around and head to Central for some more time in the skyscraper cluster.

The day amounted to a lot of walking and hiking up hills and staircases. Along the way we might have given in and had Starbucks, visited the conservatory that was closed last time in Hong Kong Park, and checked out the Hong Kong Zoo. By the way, the parks, conservatory and zoo are all free admission and very well kept. I can't get over this phenomenon. A trip to the zoo at home is what, $20? I can't remember. It's pretty ridiculous.

We headed to the Star Ferry Pier and took in the 1 hour Victoria Harbour Tour. It was quite beautiful.

Back on Kowloon in Tsim Sha Tsui (I'm beginning to think of this area, particularly Nathan Road, as home base) we walked along the Avenue of the Stars. It's basically the asian Hollywood Boulevard, right by the Hong Kong Museum of Art. It is a beautiful, free, clean walkway all along the harbor offering spectacular views of the Central Hong Kong skyline. We spotted the stars and handprints of Jackie Chan, Chow Yun Fat, Jet Li, and even a statue of Bruce Lee.

Dinner offered an unreal view of the twinkling lights of the skyline at dusk.

Off to the night market after sunset. I can't believe how things can change in only three years. Last time I went to the night market, there was a lot of hassling. Vendors touching and grabbing my arms, saying "Missy, missy...", and generally doing their best to be annoying in order to get me to buy stuff.

This time, it was almost eerie how much they left me alone. Except for the endless offers for "copywatches" and "copyhandbags", it felt like I was back in the U.S. in that people generally allowed you to browse their booths without much hassle. I wonder if it's anything to do with the economy? At least they still bartered... some of them.

The walk home offered much of the same as we've experienced on Nathan Road this whole time... always the offers for the copywatches and copyhandbags, endless jewelry stores, offers for tailored suits and shirts, and restaurant owners beckoning you inside.

I can't explain to you how much we had been on our feet. I was practically falling asleep as we walked up the steps back to our room. I had BETTER be in better shape by the time we get home!

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