Exploring Hong Kong: Ngong Ping, Central

Read Day 3, part 1 here.

We caught the No. 21 bus to Ngong Ping at 2 pm then made our way to the Po Lin monastery. The Po Lin monastery was founded in 1905 and is Hong Kong’s largest Buddhist shrine. The mountainside is dominated by the 24-m tall Tian Tian Buddha AKA the “Big Buddha“, the world’s largest outdoor bronze Buddha. Aids speculated that perhaps this Buddha is secretly the O Holy Warrior Buddha – a giant bronze robot that can be called upon in times of great need. Yes, we both watch too many mecha anime series 😛 The only things we ate in Tai O were one baked oyster and one baked prawn each courtesy of Joon (THANK YOU JOON! :D) so the first thing we did was look for the monastery’s vegetarian restaurant. The sit-down restaurant charges HK$60 per person and serves set menus depending on the number of people in the group. Your receipt from the restaurant also allows you entrance into a special exhibit at the Tian Tian Buddha. The food was great and the servings were way more than we could eat. There’s a small food court outside the restaurant if you want cheaper fare. There was one stall selling vegetarian desserts but we were too full to try them.

Great food at a great price. A must-try!
A little girl takes her own photo of the temple

After visiting the temples, it was time to climb up to the Big Buddha. I noticed that the drinks stands were perfectly placed at the bottom of the stairs. It took us about 20 minutes to climb the stairs because we stopped at every landing to catch our breath. The view from the top is amazing. You can see the mountains and valleys of Lantau spread out before you. There’s also a small exhibit at the base of the Buddha on the history of Buddhism in China. The special exhibit (where you need a receipt from the restaurant to get in) displays Buddhist artworks and two relics of the Buddha himself. You can’t take photos of the exhibits.

We must have spent around 30 minutes just going around the top and appreciating the exhibits and views. It was getting late so we went down and walked to the Ngong Ping Village. The Ngong Ping Village is a pure tourist area, with souvenir shops, restaurants (Starbucks!), and convenience stores. There are two attractions: the Monkey’s Tale Theater and Walking with Buddha. We passed on both to save money. Our plan was to ride the cable car to Tung Chung at sunset order to get the best views. Unfortunately, the line was horrendous – the waiting time was one hour for the Standard cabin. The sun had already set by the time we stepped into the cabin so no majestic views of the mountains and ocean for us. What we did get were the lights of Hong Kong International Airport and Tung Chung, which were also very pretty. The ride takes 25 minutes and ends in a small terminal beside the Citygate Outlet Mall.

I did some shopping while we were waiting for Joon. The shirt I got was 70% off the regular price. Yahoo! 😀 Joon, Aids, and I rested our feet and had dinner in the food court. Thank you again Joon! There was a small stall just outside the food court selling my long-dreamed-of Han Solo Lego watch at HK$250 but I decided not to get it because I’d already bought a watch a few months ago *sniff* After dinner, Aids and I rode the MTR to Central to meet with Chi.

Same situation with Chi – our messed up schedule resulted in us meeting him oh so very late. We’d lost the dinner reservation he made at a nice Chinese restaurant 🙁 We went to Tsui Wah Restaurant on Wellington St. instead – a restaurant famous for its good food and for being open practically 24 hours a day. As we’d already eaten dinner in Tung Chung, all I wanted was dessert. A slice of cake. Ice cream. Something. But lo and behold, the restaurant didn’t have any! This is because the Chinese in general don’t like sweet food. The sweetest item on their menu was toasted and buttered bread topped with condensed milk – something traditionally eaten for breakfast. I ordered that and asked for extra condensed milk. We also ordered iced milk tea, a specialty of the restaurant. Based on this experience, I therefore conclude that I will not survive living in Hong Kong for extended periods of time. How can I go without my sweets?!

The only sweet thing on their menu 🙁
Iced milk tea
View from the restaurant's window

After our second dinner, Chi took us on a short walking tour of Central. We passed through Lan Kwai Fong, an L-shaped lane full of restaurants and bars where Hong Kong parties very hard. I felt very shabby wearing my plain shirt, jeans and sneakers next to ladies dressed to kill. My brain couldn’t process how these ladies could walk up and down such a steep lane while wearing sky-high stilettos and drinking. Chi says that the very drunk ones roll, not walk, down the hill. The biggest parties in Lan Kwai Fong happen during Halloween and New Year’s Eve, where extra police get deployed to keep the peace. When we got back to Manila, our friend Mark asked us how many drunk expats we saw. Our answer? We lost count 😛 I proposed that we ought to have a group trip to Hong Kong sometime and go to Lan Kwai Fong together 😀 Chi also took us to the Fringe Club, where he produces gigs once or twice a month. The Fringe Club is “Hong Kong’s foremost alternative arts venue” and hosts exhibitions and music and theater performances. It also has a roof garden and restaurant. Unfortunately, it was closed when we got there.

It was close to midnight when we parted ways with Chi – us to Central MTR to go back to Tsim Sha Tsui and him to the Central piers to catch the ferry back to Lamma Island where he lives. Aids and I promised that we’d visit Lamma on our next trip to Hong Kong.

For Day 4 and our last full day in Hong Kong: another visit to Joon in Tung Chung, the Peak Tram, Victoria Peak at sunset, the Symphony of Lights, and a last walk through Tsim Sha Tsui.

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