Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hong Kong Attractions :Getting to Know Mickey ,The Giant Buddha and Jackie

                         We only had few hours of sleep on our first night in Hong Kong as we had to get up early since our itinerary was full on the second day. It was drizzling early in the morning when we searched for a place to eat . We ended up at Maxim’s , (a fastfood but at least  it's not Mcdonalds).I hate eating at fastfoods when I'm abroad because it defeats the purpose of the trip which is to experience new things. 


                  Our first stop was the Wong Tai Sin Temple. I included it in our itinerary not for any historical significance ( it’s not even that old) but because I wanted to see an authentic chinese temple and to observe how the Chinese pray. I bought joss sticks which was very important as it would serve its sole purpose of being a prop during picture taking. I just bought the cheapest bundle for HK$5. When I asked the vendor how much it cost , she simply showed me a HK$5-coin. Okay. I went on and lit the sticks and then “hoy !”, Anna called my attention. She had noticed that I lit the wrong end of the sticks. Ooops! Suddenly, I became hesitant to have Anna take my picture because they might perceive it as a mockery of their customs and religion or worse blasphemy. Right next to me  was another tourist , a Chinese-looking woman at that who didn’t have a clue either of what she was doing. She was holding the joss sticks while grinning to the camera. Realizing that I had company, I continued. We went inside the temple. Everything that we saw was really foreign to us. There was one thing in particular , I was not sure what ritual it was but I saw someone shaking a bamboo cylinder full of sticks. When one of the sticks fell, it was exchanged for a piece of paper bearing the same number as the stick. They read what’s on the paper so I figured it was probably one way of fortune telling. After a few shots (outside at least as cameras were not allowed inside the temple ) we left and made our way back to the MTR station to head to our next destination, Disneyland.

                  We had agreed not to get inside the park and pay an absurd entrance fee when there’s nothing there to see except mascots and other kiddie stuffs. I was never a fan of those cartoon characters , not even as a kid. But just for the sake of having something to brag on facebook we still wanted to have our pictures taken at the entrance at least. We took the MTR  from the Wong Tai Sin station on the Kwun Tong line then we got off at one of the interchange stations on the Tsuen Wan line. “Interchange” is one of the two words you’d often hear at the MTR, the other is “Mind the freakin’ gap”. It annoyed me after hearing it a thousand times. From the Tsuen Wan line we got off at Sunny Bay interchange then headed to Disneyland Resort station. The train looked different this time. It had the Disney theme. The windows and handles were shaped like Mickey’s head and were really cute. Instead of the usual seats at metros it had blue couches covered with velvet. At every corner in each carriage was a statuette of a Disney character. If I’m not mistaken I sat next to Minnie. The station at Disneyland also had the same theme. It’s designed in a Victorian style making it looked so magical. You’d feel like being lost in a magical kingdom , in the middle of nowhere since the park’s location is in a remote part of Lantau island. ” A Whole New World”, which is from the movie Alladin was being played when we arrived at the park, so even from the outside we could still feel the Disney air. It was only 10am but the sweltering heat from the sun was becoming unbearable that we decided to leave, again, not without a dozen or so pictures taken of course. We headed to our next destination , Tian Tan Buddha.
               Also known as the Giant Buddha, Tian Tan Buddha is a large bronze statue of  Buddha, and located at Ngong Ping Village, Lantau Island. We took the train again from Disney station to Sunny bay then to Tung Chung , thanks to the unlimited ride on the MTR courtesy of our Octopus card. Taking the MTR is very convenient, fast and cheap especially with an Octopus card. The downside though is you’d be missing out on the sights as it’s a subway on most lines. The Tung Chung station is just across the Ngong Ping 360 which is a cable car. The ride takes you to the Giant Buddha in just 25 minutes. TWENTY FIVE ? It sounded scary , it meant we would be dangling over the ocean and the mountains for almost half an hour. Nevertheless, we were looking forward to experience it as we’re up to a little adventure but only to find out it’s closed for a week to undergo maintenance. Aaaaargh ! It was the first letdown on our trip. There was another option though , a second option , a very far second.... we traveled by bus instead but it took much of our time as one way took 45-boring minutes.
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                         When we got to Ngong Ping Village it was raining "pandas and dragons" so we took to one of the souvenir shops in the village. I didn't expect a storm during our trip because I had checked the weather in Hong Kong during that time of the year .We checked out the items, ngeeeh! way too expensive. When the rain stopped I looked for the Buddha but I couldn’t get a glimpse of any enormous bronze structure. I thought the Buddha was still covered with the thick fog. When I turned around I was stunned by the size of the statue looking down from the top of the hill. He was so huge and it was kinda’ eerie because I felt like He was just observing everyone below. We climbed up the hill and enjoyed the view from the top. I realized that the storm earlier was a blessing in disguise because after it had cleared up the 268-step-climb became a breeze sans the humidity.

                   The Giant Buddha is not old, it was completed in 1993. It sits on what looks like a lotus flower. Underneath the statue is a building. We went inside and we saw framed photos of how the statue was assembled after it had been shipped from mainland China. One particular photo shows how big the statue is as one of the construction workers is only as tall as the statue’s index finger. 
                 Around 3 pm we went back to Hong Kong island to go to Victoria’s Peak , said to be the highest point in the island. We hopped on a tram , it cost HK$2. It moved at a snail’s pace but we didn’t mind because we were busy observing everything that we passed by. After a while we realized that it wasn’t moving to any higher ground so we decided to get off. Several nose bleeds later after asking directions from the locals we learned which tram to take to the Peak.  It turned out that there’s a specially designated tram that takes tourists and locals to the Peak and not just any other tram. We agreed to postpone our trip as it was almost 6pm and we still wanted to watch the Symphony of Lights show which takes place every night at 8pm. That being our last night in Hong Kong ( it was only a 3D2N trip) meant that it would be our last chance to watch it.


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