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Hong Kong (Continued)

Still adjusting to the time difference, I was wide awake by 4 AM; however, I did not actually get out of bed until 7 AM. Since there were no group tours for the day, Traci and I could take our time. I cannot say enough good things about the Kowloon Shangri-La Hotel. They even change the carpet each day in the elevators to let you know which day of the week it is. This was a good thing because Traci and I were already in vacation mode and had already lost track of the days.

carpet in hotel elevator changed to match the day

Traci and I finally got a chance to take advantage of the glorious breakfast buffet at our hotel. We sampled a lot of different offerings that day. Oh, and the thing I said the previous day about losing weight on vacation, that's not likely to happen if I keep eating at breakfast buffets like this one.

Our destination for the day was Lantau Island to see the Big Buddha statue. I double-checked with the concierge before hitting the streets. This time the directions I got were consistent. It was a long subway ride that included one train change. Along the way, we passed the stop for Disneyland Hong Kong. We were kind of curious to see it but we would not have enough time on this trip. There is also a Disneyland in Shanghai. We also had no plans to visit that Disneyland either while we were in that city.

Our stop was at the end of the Tung Chung Line. The Skyrail that takes visitors to the Big Buddha was closed for renovation; therefore, we had to take the Number 23 bus. The bus left from a terminal just a few blocks from the Tung Chung station. There were mostly tourists on the bus. It was a 40-minute white-knuckle ride up the narrow, winding mountain roads to the Big Buddha complex.

The temperature was noticeably cooler when we stepped off the bus but pleasant. There were several stray dogs walking around the grounds. I hear there is an ox that also roams the grounds but I did not see it. However, I did see the droppings.

So what can I say about the Big Buddha? As the name implies, it's big. It sits on a mountain facing north. We climbed the 268 steps to get a closer look. There were some people who were praying in front of it. There is an exhibit at the base of the statue that provides information. Construction of the Big Buddha (Tian Tan Buddha) was completed in 1993. This bronze statue is 112 feet tall.

Visiting the Big Buddha (Tian Tan Buddha)





illusion photos at Ngong Ping Village


Traci and I spent time walking around the base of the statue admiring the elevated view of the surrounding mountains and valleys. We did not pay to enter the museum nor did we buy the vegetarian meal being sold. We descended the steps and wandered around the grounds for a bit. We saw the exterior of the nearby Po Lin Monastery. Our wandering led us through the Ngong Ping Village. It is full of touristy stuff, shops, and restaurants. Traci went in and out of the shops while I went from bench to bench. It was at this time that we ran into people from our tour group. They had paid for the optional Gray Line tour to Lantau Island. It sounds like they got more out of the experience than Traci and I did on our own. Their tour included a museum, a fishing village visit, and other stops.

Our bus ride down the mountain was even scarier than the ride up. The driver whipped around curves and had to avoid oncoming traffic. Since this was a public bus, it made stops along the way to pick up locals. Some of the bus stops seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. I was wondering where the people came from.

We made it back to the bus terminal safely. To get to the subway station, we needed to walk through the Citygate Outlet Mall. I knew this meant we were not getting on the subway anytime soon. Traci checked out the place from the top floor to the bottom. She did not buy anything though. The interesting thing about this mall was that everything was in English. Even the music I heard playing in the stores was that of American or British artists. If someone had blind-folded me and dropped me off there, I would have thought I was in a mall in suburbia U.S.A. - only difference being that just about everyone was Asian. The grocery store on the bottom floor, however, was different from what we are used to in the States. There was a section that sold some interesting seafood such as sea horses and sea cucumbers (a grub-like sea creature).

Seafood Section of the Grocery Store

sea cucumbers


sea horses (right)


We eventually made the trip back to our hotel later that afternoon; however, things had changed since we were gone. The Prime Minister of Pakistan had checked into the hotel. There were now barriers installed for about a two-block radius and armed guards posted. We had to go through a metal detector each time we re-entered the hotel. There were secret service personnel throughout the public areas of the hotel.

For dinner that evening, Traci and I hooked up with three of our new friends from our travel group and walked to Rocco's Pizzeria. Afterwards, we walked the busy streets just taking in the lively atmosphere. To satisfy sweets cravings, we went to the subway station near our hotel to get cookies from Mrs. Field's. We then walked along the Victoria Harbor waterfront admiring the illuminated skyline. We were all fading fast from not being fully over jet lag yet. I could not believe how fast time was flying. Our time in Hong Kong was already coming to an end. We said goodnight to our friends and then went to our room to pack our suitcases for the early morning flight to Beijing.

Evening Stroll in Hong Kong



We were supposed to be picked up by a motorcoach to the airport at 7 AM but all the security due to the Prime Minister's visit delayed the bus by 20 minutes. No harm done. Our group still had plenty of time to make our flight to Beijing. The interesting thing about the check-in process at the Chinese airports is that you have to explicitly tell the agent if you want a seat next to your spouse or travel companion. We were not aware of this. Even though Traci and I checked in together, we were given seats in different rows on the plane. This was not a big deal. Passengers were generally easy-going when it came to changing seats. [Continue to Beijing...]

Magnets Purchased on this Trip: (click to enlarge)

Entire fridge magnet collection...


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