October 25 and 26
We were greeted by loud Chinese music and these “dragons” who did a dance welcoming us to Hong Kong.
Then, the first thing we saw in the area of the terminal was this display of Maserati cars. I guess we aren’t in Vietnam any more!
Our guide, Ryan, met us on the pier for our trip today. We went to Landau Island, which is the largest of the 260 islands that make up Hong Kong. It is twice the size of Hong Kong Island, but the population is the lowest, only 25,000. That’s because it was so hard to reach before 1997. Our first stop was to see the two bridges that were constructed over 5 years and opened in 1997, and the airport was moved to the island in 1998. Now there is a lot of building on landfill there.
Interesting that they built the bridges with two three lane expressways on the upper deck and two railway tracks (electric trains), on the lower deck. In addition, there are two sheltered single lanes on the lower deck for traffic diversion during high winds or emergencies. It is the longest cable double layer bridge in the world. We drove over the Tsing Ma Bridge and stopped at the Tsing Yi lookout.
Hong Kong is one of the two last European colonies (the other is Macau) that were handed over to China: Hong Kong in 1997. Now it is called a SAR -Special Administrative Region – of China. It finds itself in the unique position of being a capitalist enclave subject to a communist state under the relatively liberal “One Country, Two Systems: policy. Mainland China is only a 45 minute drive away. Hong Kong has its own currency and many of the strict Chinese rules don’t apply here. For instance, Facebook is prevalent!
We had an unusual day due to regulations here. Our bus took us over the bridge to Lantau Island, but then only special licensed buses are allowed to operate there, so we transferred to another bus. This is true of taxis too, red ones in most of Hong Kong, blue ones on Lantau Island and green ones in the new territories. Most people take public transportation here as gas is the equivalent of $8 US/gallon. There is also not much parking availability, so we really didn’t run into the kind of traffic we have seen in other ports. Ryan says to watch out for the blue licence plates as they are Chinese, where he says that traffic signals and signs are “only a suggestion”.
There are only three roads on Lantau. Before the bridges and the airport were built, there were only farmers, fishing villages and monasteries. Now Hong Kong imports its goods from all around the world, so the farmers aren’t farming anymore, and the fishermen supply pretty much just the local population. There are 9 monasteries on the island. Taoism is the main religion here, Confucianism is second and Buddhism is third. Ryan says that many people don’t believe in any one religion but adopt practices from all.
We saw graves on the hillsides (and this island is very mountainous. Here people are buried for 7 – 10 years, then dug up, the bones cremated and another person is buried in the same grave.
There are also “silence houses” on the island, which house non monks who want to practice their religion in a strict way.
Also, since the development of the island, Hong Kong’s Disneyland was built here. We didn’t go there (yay) but saw lots of kids with Disney backpacks, shirts, etc, as we went to the giant Buddha. And I guess in Hong Kong, Snow White wants to get married.
First we visited a 600 year old fishing village, Tai O. We walked through the market and saw the two types of fish they sell – dried and fresh. Fresh means alive. I was amazed at the variety and the display.
The homes are built on stilts here, the people are poor but happy.
There were other goods there too, one man was making a type of waffle, and these nice folks gave us a taste of theirs!
Then our tour took us to the Po Lin Monastery, located at an altitude of 1700 feet on the Ngong Ping Plateau. It was opened in 1970 and the main attraction is the 250 ton, 102 foot high Great Bronze Buddha, the largest seated Buddha statue in Asia. The pedestal of the statue is a three story exhibition hall embellished with Buddhist figures and scriptures. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, but here are some of the statues on the grounds and around the Buddha.
It is a beautiful mountainous setting and the temperatures were much cooler than we have had in weeks.
We also visited the Kwan Tai Temple and the hall of 10,000 Buddhas.
The monks are vegans and don’t drink alcohol. So our lunch in the monastery followed those guidelines and it was simply delicious!
Well, they have restrictions on vehicles, alcohol and meat, but no one restricts the cows from anywhere they want to go!
Our visit concluded with a ride on the Ngong Ping Skyrail which is a 5.7 km cable car journey in the sky. It actually is higher than the planes go as they take off from the airport below. Wonderful! We then boarded yet another bus back to the ship.
Back in Kowloon, we went to the Temple Street Night Market for an adventure of shopping and back to the ship to see the laser light show in the harbor – they have it every night.
On Monday, October 26 we explored some of the shopping in the city. On Kowloon island and also Hong Kong island, it looks like New York, with many large buildings. The Ritz Carlton hotel here is the tallest hotel in the world. The shopping rivals anywhere we have seen.
We got our flu shots at a medical clinic here and spent time at Starbucks for fast internet. One difference is that you get 30 minutes of free internet with each purchase. We each made three purchases… do you think all that coffee will make us hyper?? I did try the green tea latte, but threw it away, it tasted yucky!
New passengers and some crew (including a new captain) join today, so it is a good day to stay away from the ship. We had lunch at a dim sum restaurant and spent some time shopping.
Yet another lifeboat drill this afternoon, then it is dinner and meeting many new people.
At sea tomorrow enroute to Manila, Phillipines.