Hong Kong in the Time of Troubles Part 2
As we wandered around the Venetian plaza, we found ourselves going towards the Parisian area. Soon we were confronted with, what else, the Eiffel tower. The Parisian streets were classier and the shops even higher end. But we had by now had our fill of artificial wonders and wanted to visit the old Macau of Portuguese descent. The Parisian casino had a convenient (and free) bus service that took us to the old Macau and here we entered the world of what was once Portugal’s last toehold in the East. There was more than a passing resemblance to Malacca, and obviously so, as they had been built at roughly similar times by the same people. There are ruins of the inevitable St Paul’s Cathedral, a fort and lots of steep windy streets full of souvenir shops and eateries. And there are tourists. I think Macau is much more easily accessible to the Mainland Chinese and perhaps this was why wherever we went there was a huge number so people; it reminded me of the Tiananmen Square and the Great Wall of China, both of which are always full of people.
It rained heavily while we were exploring the fort which was atop a small hill and it was pointed out that all the defences were organized to repulse a seaborne invasion, the Portuguese never feared the millions of Chinese at their back. The rain spoiled things a bit and when it stopped, the humidity, if anything, had increased and we were now quite ready to take a bus back to the ferry terminal and return to Hong Kong. Here we ventured to check out the longest escalator in the world; unfortunately, a middle section was not working, so that we could only go up one section.
On our way back in a bus, we sat in the top of the bus and as all Calcuttan’s of my vintage know, it is the best way to see a city. I was reminded of the good old L9 bus from Gol Park to Shambazar. Hong Kong has not destroyed its soul as Singapore has. The streets still have the flavour of the Far East, many old buildings remain and there are plenty of small lanes and markets which make up the individuality of a city. Public transport is excellent, there are buses, double-decker trams and of course the MRT. The numbers of cars are fortunately limited though I am not sure whether they have Singapore like tough laws to limit their number.
|Double decker trams in Hong Kong|
After dinner, Ninni insisted on us visiting the bar that she had gone to the first day and we spent some time soaking he atmosphere, chatting and of course drinking an overpriced cocktail each. And so to bed.
The third and the last day was given over to the Big Buddha. We needed to check out as we would not be returning to the hotel. After a late and leisurely breakfast, we set off by the hotel shuttle to the Hong Kong central station and from there to the Tung Chung station by the MTR. Travelling by public transport was a breeze in Hong Kong: reasonably priced, fast and not too crowded at least today, which was a Sunday.
The plan was to take the cable car to the Big Buddha. But first we deposited our luggage at the left luggage place. Shockingly overpriced ($ HK 100 for each piece of luggage) but we had no choice as we certainly did not want to be saddled with our bags all day. Today was hot, really hot. There were notices galore warning of severe heat conditions. It is really like being in a sauna when the sun is really out and glaring.
The cable car was spectacular. It is run by the MTR and has been in service for about 10 years now. There have been several glitches in the service in its early years, but today we rose above the bay to see the airport laid out below us and the planes taking off and landing incessantly. The car makes a sharp turn to climb over a set of hills before depositing you to the Big Buddha complex. The entire run is 5.7 kilometres which makes it one of the longer cable car rides that I have ever taken. The ascent is over a forest which was interspersed with waterfalls and flowering trees. As we rose, the breeze began to blow and we found ourselves ascending through the clouds that had gathered on the peak. Before the end of the trip, the Big Buddha was visible in all its majesty, now covered by clouds, now serenely visible.
The canny Chinese have converted the top station of the cable car into a sort of Tourist village where you can, and we did, spend a lot of money! It is fun to buy souvenirs and have pictures taken, especially when your daughter is paying for it!
The Big Buddha itself is aloft some 250 odd stairs, not too much and we made it up with little difficulty. The statue is similar to many that we have seen in India, Korea and Japan. Most recently, I remember seeing the statue in Ravangla. It is much more spectacular in a location with the Himalayas as the background. Be that as it may, this statue was also very well sculpted and the deep devotion that it evoked among the local population was palpable.
|At the Wisdon Path|
There is a so-called wisdom path which takes you into the surrounding jungles near the Buddha. We hiked down the path, meeting the occasional walker but mostly meeting up with myriad butterflies, and an occasional feral bull. Birds were there, but in much smaller numbers that one would expect. Perhaps the heat of the day had sent them undercover.
The next to do thing was the Tai O Fishing village. We took a bus (standing room only) down to the other side of the island and we were at the Fishing village. A small river flows down beside it and empties itself into the sea. The village is not really anything to write home about, we have seen many such in out travels in South East Asia, plenty of smells and houses suspended over the river on stilts. The thing to do here is to take a boat to try to see the pink dolphins. Blogs had already warned us that nobody in living memory had seen them, but what the heck, being on a boat in the water and the breeze blowing through our hair was what the doctor had ordered in this sultry and very very hot day. We did walk around the village a bit afterward, but to tell the truth, the sapping heat made it difficult to even sit in the shade. In about an hour’s time we were quite ready to return to the cooler climes of the village above.
By the time we returned it was nearing 3 PM and we really needed our lunch and we opted for Japanese food in one of the many restaurants. The return journey in the cable car was just as spectacular and soon we were at the airport via a short bus ride.
|Protesters at the Hong Kong Airport|
We had some time to wait for out flights as were to leave at half-hourly intervals from 9.30 PM. It was from the Departure hall that we first saw the famed protesters. The entire concourse in the Arrival area was taken over by black-shirted protesters who sat mostly quietly, often bursting into song and slogans and applause. At that time we were not aware of it, but in downtown Hong Kong there had been some police action which had led to one young girl losing one of her eyes. But here the protesters were disciplined, not attempting to disrupt any airport activities but handing out Xeroxed fact sheets about the protest.
My flight got to KLIA 2 at 2. The immigration line which is never short in KLIA 2 no matter what the time took around 30 minutes and when I drove into my condo car park it was past 3 AM. Thank goodness the next day was Hari Raya Haji!