Tourists get a bad rep. We moan about them, throw them scathing looks and try to step on their shoelaces in the the underground. But the best part of my trip has been being a tourist. Driving through lush vegetation to remote little temples, being dwarfed by enormous Buddhas of all shapes and ethnicities (gold, bronze, wood) and piles of oranges sitting on alters bathed in the red of crimson bulbs; all things which tomorrow I won’t remember. But I will remember my permanent contented exhilaration at the different sky and the greener trees and the freshly baked crumbly almond cookies, and being away by myself.
Here is an exert from a jam-packed day of temples, beaches and villages.
The three Buddhas represent past, present and future. People don’t tend to care about the past, so the first Buddha sat in his own dignified solitude. A little crowd of worshippers knelt before the third.
One of the most beautiful temples I visited was at the Po Lin Monastery which is home to the World’s largest, seated, outdoor, bronze, Buddha: a world record with a lot of qualifications.
If you visit the Po Lin Monastery, make sure you have the vegetarian lunch as it is basically delish.
In Buddhist Temples the walls are lined with tiles bearing the names of the deceased. It is believed that if you don’t go to heaven or hell, your soul floats in a kind of purgatorial limbo, so you can buy a home for the soul of your loved one in the temple where they can rest.
There were some American tourists scratching their heads over these pamphlets.. “Err.. Mom, why is there a Nazi sign in a temple?” .. “I’m not sure honey but these folk can be awful strange. Maybe they think it means something else” responds a short spectacled woman with the twang of someone born below the Mason-Dixon.
Although I considered curing them of their bewilderment, I wasn’t sure I remembered enough about the Swastika and it’s original significance to give anything other than an awkward and sketchy explanation. Now that I’ve spoken to my old friend Wiki, I can confirm that my hazy recollection wasn’t too far off. The Swastika is an ancient Sanskrit symbol for good, the clockwise version of which only became a symbol for hate, violence and antisemitism in the recent 20th Century.
After lunch I sprinted up to the Buddha, 3 steps at a time.
But unable to face the walk back, I made the vertiginous 20minute journey to the bottom in a cable car.
Took a bus to a nearby village that had been abandoned. Walked through a ghost town of crumbling buildings, boarded up windows and beautiful doors leading to empty courtyards which had once been full of voices, billowing linens and life.
Tsing Ma Bridge
The longest road/rail suspension bridge in the world, leading from Hong Kong Island to Lantau.
A Lantau Beach complete with Local Heartthrobs
…..No one said anything about Percy
Tai O Fishing Village
This was the coolest place I visited. A fishing village in Lantau where all the homes are rickety wooden affairs built on stilts rising up of the water, where you bob along small canals in gondola-style fishing junks manned by strong sinewy old men in vests. There are tiny shops, more shrines and small local bakeries selling divine freshly baked goods.
|If you in Hong Kong and you can’t be bothered to go through the hassle of organising everything yourself, you can take the Tsing Ma – Lantau & Monastery Tour with Splendid tours, which is unbelievably good. I also did the New Territories tour, but it was so crap, so stick to the Lantau and Monastery one.|
Ended my funpacked day chasing the rabbit back to the City.