Feb 20, 2012

Exploring Hong Kong's Lantau Island

We have been to Hong Kong many times. It is a wonderful place to spend a few days recuperating after a 16-hour flight. This time we decided to check out Hong Kong’s Lantau Island instead of going into the city center. Lantau Island is home to Hong Kong International Airport and Disneyland. We stayed at the Airport’s SkyCity Marriott which was perfect in many ways. We arrived late in the evening and it was just a short jaunt from the airport to a good night’s sleep. In the morning we ready to go with the minimum of jetlag. Like many airport hotels in Asia, the Marriott is a full service hotel with several restaurants and a spa. In the morning I headed to the spa for foot reflexology which is a wonderful way to get rid of any ankle swelling that occurs during long flights.

Before we left the States we had booked a Lantau Island tour on-line with Splendid Tours. It worked out perfectly because they picked us up at the hotel. Lantau Island is called “The Lungs of Hong Kong” because it is so green. There are some huge hi-rise buildings in one area but most of the island is a place where the people like to hike and camp. On the tour our first stop was the 360 Ngong Ping Cable Car for a 25-minute aerial tour of the island. It was a misty day so the views were not as outstanding as they are on a clear day but it was still a great ride. We were amazed at the number of people walking the trail to the top which takes two to three hours.

At the top, after the cable car, we were transported to the Giant Buddha. The tour bus dropped us at the base of the 112-ft Buddha which eliminated the 240 steps most people use to get to the statue. The Buddha, sitting on a lotus flower, is the world’s largest brass sitting Buddha. Outside on the walkway around the statue are six life-sized bronze statues known as "The Offerings of the Six Devas." They are posed offering flowers, incense, lamp, ointment, fruit, and music to the Buddha. Inside the base were displays depicting the building of the statue and a Hall of Remembrance honoring people’s ancestors.

The tour bus then transported us to the bottom, once again avoiding the many steps, where we visited the Po Lin Monastery. The pathway leading to the monastery is lined with 12 stone guardians, each with an animal on its head, one for each of the Chinese year signs. This year is the Year of the Dragon. Inside the monastery there was a Happy Buddha and four large bronze statues representing the cardinal directions.

Our last stop was Tai O fishing village which is a sharp contrast to the super modern rest of Hong Kong. The historic village is lined with small shops and is especially noted for it dried seafood and traditional way of life. Of special interest were the fish bladders (maws), some of which were huge, used in many Chinese recipes. The tour was excellent and most of the people returned to central HK via the ferry. We took a cab back to the Marriott where we enjoyed a wonderful dinner. I passed on the seahorse soup but loved the sizzling Kurabuta BBQ pork loin.