We arise early, for a vacation day, earlier than LaDawna wants to. I get ready and then go down to get breakfast. I enjoy the Marriott’s Concierge Level breakfast. It is nice to have a leisurely breakfast. I know that I don’t have to hurry as LaDawna is just now getting ready. I eat and then prepare her a plate of eggs, bacon, breads, and some yogurt to take back to the room. The bags are prepared and ready to go; we need only put away the dirty clothes and toiletry kits. We have prepared our traveling bags which are really just a day pack and backpack. It has the clothes we need for the LDS Temple later today and the change of clothes we need for tomorrow. We are planning on staying with the Lawtons tonight.
We leave the hotel and our heavy luggage with the concierge. I would not have considered this as an option but I spent so many nights and weeks in hotels when I was working in Albuquerque, NM over the past several years that it is almost an afterthought. It is nice to be able to use the hotel as a sort of staging ground for these other excursions without having to worry about how to manage the large suitcases.
We catch the hotel shuttle to the subway and board the train for Lantau Island. We are planning to see the Big Buddha. The locations is official the Po Lin Monastery and the Tian Tan Buddha Statue. We plan on using the Ngong Ping 360 cable-car system to access the location. Other than that I know very little about the location. We are excited that one of the locations we will not be seeing on this trip is Hong Kong Disneyland which is just a few stops on the subway/train from our destination. Not that I have anything against the Disneyland idea, I am not up to fighting the crowds and lines I have come to associate Disneyland with. I mean, why you would want to fight lines of people for rides in a town that is known for having too many people in the first place is beyond my ability to fathom.
It is interesting to ride on the subway. When we finally transfer to the line to Lantau Island it is really more of a train than it is subway. We spend more time on the surface than we do underground. We realize that the crowd thins considerably once we depart the station that supports Disneyland. The train is still busy but it is no longer crowded. Most people can now be seated and there is no one standing. We arrive at the end of the line and exit the station. We realize that we are also at an Outlet Mall. I have decided that Hong Kong is really just one huge shopping destination. I have yet to find a location from the subway that hasn’t been developed with the intent of being a consumers’ paradise.
We really don’t have much idea of what to expect. There really isn’t a crowd going in the direction of the signage for Ngong Ping 360 and I wonder if that is a good thing. We get to the gate and are greeted by “helpful” attendants. I know enough about the location to know that I want to ride the crystal car and that I want a tour. With just that information the attendants are able to up-sell me and get me where we need to go. It is actually a good thing that we were up-sold (costs me about $30 HKD each) as it allowed us to get head of the line privileges which easily saved us more an hour of standing in line to get our crystal car tickets/bracelets and tour tickets and then another 30-40 minutes in waiting in line like sheep waiting to be loaded into the cable-cars.
We have a slightly cloudy day with the prospects of rain; while I have a small umbrella in the backpack it is not easily accessible as it has clothes on it. Not a very good packing job considering that we may wish we had it handing before the day is over. We climb into the Crystal Cable car; it is really just the same as the other cars (actually about 1 in 4 is a crystal car) except has a Plexiglas bottom. While we are getting situated in the car the photographer snaps a picture of us, we are told that when we arrive at the top we can view the photo and purchase it and other souvenirs. The cable car is very similar to what we rode in at Taishan and as we begin to move out of the loading platform area we note that the climb up the mountain also crosses part of the harbor.
We note that we can see the airport and much of the surrounding area. We are not able to see the tops of the mountains as the clouds are covering the tops. We also note that the rain spatters the windows just enough to make taking pictures through them difficult. We travel up the island peninsula before making a 90 degree turn across the harbor. We will be several hundred, possibly a thousand feet above the ground at our highest point across the harbor. We see a number of vessels and ships that are moving through the area. I try not to think about the results of a fall from this height. Have a borderline fear of heights, or maybe it is just a respect for them. Either way, I will be glad when the ground is only several hundred feet below us again.
We again make a 90 degree turn and can now see the Giant Buddha in the distance. This is a long cable car ride. The ride to the top takes about 45 minutes. LaDawna gets some pretty good shots of the area and misses the really cool waterfalls underneath our path as the water starts as just a trickle and is flowing within a kilometer. The pools look nice and the falls are really neat, but I am glad that we are not walking on this trip. We don’t see anyone walking on the trail below us, but it is there and like the other trails we have seen in the Orient, it is paved with stones. Even near the peak, a great distance in either direction, the path is well maintained and has stairs in the steeper locations.
We arrive at the discharge point, and it’s misty and almost foggy. We see the photographs and see that they have them in key chains and a snow globe. Now how can we pass up a snow globe with us in it? Besides how will we remember that we were here without? Clever marketing ploy to get my money, it worked. We have about 15 minutes until our tour starts and we wander through the little shops. I have begun to realize that these people in this part of the world will never pass up an opportunity to get some of your money. I don’t know how successful they are but there must be enough traffic and business to keep them at it.
Our first stop on the tour once we arrive and get “counted” is to get on a bus and go back down the hill. Actually on the other side of the island but still just a little humor in riding all the way to the top to get on a bus and ride back down. We are going to the little historical fishing village called Tai O. It is an actual village, a stilt village. Many of the houses in the village are built out over the water on stilts. The guide tells us that it is on the decline because the villagers are not being replaced by their children. The children are leaving to work in the city and won’t return to continue the historical way of life. They also have been told by the government that they can’t replace homes when they are destroyed. The village had a fire last year that destroyed over 100 homes because the fire department couldn’t get to the fire because of the village layout. We arrive and park in a large parking lot near the village. So, while this a “primitive” village it is also a tourist attraction and won’t really be as primitive as I think that the guide is trying to make us believe.
It is obvious as we pass through the streets, or more appropriate sidewalks, that this is going to be an adventure. We have people walking, riding bikes, and motorcycles in the same place. Those that I see on bikes are rather disgusted with us for being there making it more difficult to get around. The looks on their faces probably looks a lot like mine did when trying to get a seat at the Thayne Cheese Factory when a tour bus full of Chinese tourists got there before me. The walkway/road is no more than 8 feet from building to building. It is very obvious that this village was created long before anyone thought about using anything bigger than an ox cart to go down the road.
The sights, sounds, smells are almost overwhelming, honestly, it is mostly the smells. I have never really been offended by the smell of fish, but in China, the smell of, what is mostly reasonably described as rotting fish is all too prevalent. This is a fishing village, there is no doubt. It has fish and sea everywhere. We get a little lesson about dried fish. I am aware of the value of fins from the news related to shark poachers and bandits. I know that the Japanese are big fin soup eaters; it is obvious that this part of China is also a big consumer. What I am not aware of is the various internal organs of fish that are also considered delicacies. The slices and chunks that are packaged and on sale range from several hundred HKD to well into the thousands. I believe that if you can stand the smell long enough to eat it and keep it down, you will become whatever the old-wives tale tells you will be. It is a nasty smell.
We see many shop keepers finishing up the processing of the day’s catch. I note that there is a tub of something that looks like snakes, but they are sea creatures and might even have salamander legs, so I am not sure what they are doing with it. I note that in the basket right next to her hand with a knife is the consequence of separating the heads from the bodies. These little things can’t be more than 6 inches long. It is actually quite disgusting, I get a little nauseous
We cross a bridge over a small waterway. It is the major route for the majority of the fishermen to get from their homes out to the harbor where their ships are tied. All of the homes in this section of town have been built on stilts. I see a pair stocking feet poking out of a window. The man is sitting in a chair about 15 feet from the bridge. He is asleep and has his feet sitting on the ledge of the window as he naps. Across the bridge, about 5 feet from the walkway, is another home. The enclosed area is filled with hanging laundry. I am a big fan of dryers, never have really liked having my underclothes hanging out in public. It is obvious from what is hanging in this home today, that it was under clothes wash day, bras, panties, and thongs; still nauseous, just for a completely new reason.
We are allowed to just kind of wander around the little village. There is a little temple in the village. It is past its prime but it is still obvious that it was very ornate and beautiful in its heyday. The eves and peak of the roof are covered with frescos and statuettes of the standard Chinese fare, dragons. As in all of the Chinese temples we have visited, the incense is burning. We are again offered the opportunity to burn a few sticks and have to pass up the opportunity. There are some very unusual carvings and statues in the temple. We find it interesting that this little village has such a temple.
On our way back we stop at a little shop where a lady sells LaDawna a peasant’s woven hat. It fits her head, it is not even close on my enormous noggin. I wonder now how we are going to get it home. The suitcase is going to packed and we have many shopping stops still to make on this Hong Kong adventure.
We make our way back to the parking lot and board the bus back to the top of the mountain. The fishing village is indeed unusual. We would never have made the trip to it without the tour package, glad to have spent a little extra money.
Once at the top, we disembark from the bus and are introduced to the temples and areas that surround the Giant Buddha. I am disappointed to learn that it is not ancient. It is build by the communists and isn’t even a temple. It faces the center of this unique little universe here that we are living in, Beijing. I find there to be some humor in building a religious shrine (at least Buddha is a religious emblem to me) and then deliberately having it face the political and government center. It reminds me that the communists’ view of religion is low on the importance scale.
There are a number of other temples in the area. We visit them and while some are old, there is a very large construction project occurring in the area. A new addition to the temple, interestingly it is directly in line with the direction that the Buddha faces. I guess that the Monks found the direction and implied meaning to be a little unnerving also. It also reminds me that there is a booming business being made in selling incense sticks large and small at these locations.
The temple is nice but I have begun to realize that I can’t tell the difference between a Buddhist temple and a Confucius temple. I spent a little time during the past year trying to understand the differences between the various religions that exist in this region of the world and what I understand as a Judeo-Christian. I admit only knowing the very basics and not even knowing that very well.
We buy a “meal ticket” for the Big Buddha. This will allow us access inside. We begin the climb. It is not as strenuous as what we have experienced in the past. But it really is unfair to compare this climb with Mount Tai, we cheated on this one and took the tram. There are a number of stone statues at the base of the Buddha. We shoot some pictures outside of the Buddha. We enter the Buddha and realize it is indeed a shrine, but more for the donors that made it possible. The more you gave the more splendid your memorial inside. Our meal ticket gets us an ice cream bar as we exit.
I notice as we are sitting out near rail on the platform that we have another experience for my ‘are you kidding me’ category. A busty young woman is wearing a very sheer silk blouse with a black bra and is posing for photographs near one of the statutes. Really, what is the point of an outfit like that?
We shoot a number of photos of the scenery. It is really a beautiful location. We make our way back to the tram/cable car. It has not been rainy but as we get ready to get in line to board the tram to descend the mountain it begins again. It rains just hard enough to make it difficult to get good pictures, again.
We arrive at the bottom and move towards the train station. We wonder around the outlet mall and realize that even the outlet mall clothes are expensive. I wonder how it can be that we buy clothes in America that are made in China at prices that are less than they cost in China. It just doesn’t make sense. Something must be very wrong with how this society functions.
We board the train back to Hong Kong. It is about 3:30pm and we are supposed to meet the Lawtons near Kowloon Tong station at the Hong Kong LDS Temple. We don’t want to be hurried and we still need to change our clothes and get something to eat. The trip back is uneventful and the train stays un-crowded all the way to our stop. We realize that our legs are tired and our feet hurt. It is nice to sit and relax.
We decide that we would like to have a hamburger. We have been in China now for a little over two months; this will be our first hamburger since arriving. We are glad the McDonalds is a franchise. The burgers and fries taste like they are supposed to. We finish our meals and sneak into the restrooms and change into our better clothes, my slacks, white shirt, and tie and her skirt and blouse. The McDonalds is very crowded. It overlooks an indoor ice skating rink. There is a youth figure skating competition there. It is also right after school when we arrive. Much like America, the mall is now filled with teenagers; in this case, all of them are still in their school uniforms. When I have finished changing there is no place to sit in McDonalds so I go and find a chair just outside in the mall. I wait a long time and still no LaDawna. I finally go back inside to see what happened to her. She is sitting in the back waiting for me. We decide that we should have been clearer on what to do when we finished dressing. She still thinks it’s my fault we didn’t find each other sooner, and its more than eight weeks since when I am writing this.
We go to the taxi stand to get a taxi. We know the temple is supposed to be close but we don’t really have any idea where. The taxi driver has to radio in for directions on how to get to the LDS Temple. We realize that is very near (walking distance) as we arrive. You might remember from one of the other earlier parts of the Hong Kong series that we got lost out of this same subway station. It is now that we realize that had we taken a right turn instead of the left turn we would have found the temple. The temple is very convenient from this station.
We have arrived at the temple early so that we can take some pictures. We are excited about attending the temple. Our last temple attendance was in June when we were in Cumorah and Palmyra. It has indeed been a busy year. We take a number of pictures and are able to get one of the pedestrians that pass to take our picture together. We are excited about being able to attend this temple. When we were married in 1985 we decided that the temple would always be an important part of our lives. We decided then that we would attend all of the temples. That seemed like a really reasonable desire in 1985 with the roughly 2 dozen announced and operating LDS temples. It is not even something we would even consider possible now. My, what 25 years of temple construction can do to a desire like that; there are now more than 100 in addition to that number. More than 4 per year is pretty significant considering that it is really more like 6 or 7 a year in the last 15 years.
We went inside and got our temple clothes and changed. We were able to visit with other couple missionaries working in the Hong Kong area. We are so happy to be able to attend the temple on this holiday. We are the witness couple. We have to wear head phones as the session is Cantonese and we know even less Cantonese than we do Mandarin. The temple is not very busy on this night and every man in attendance has to participate in the prayer circle. The prayer is offered in Cantonese, not one of the easiest prayer circles we have every participated in, but one of the more memorable ones.
We go home with the Lawtons and get a nice view of Hong Kong Harbor from their apartment building. We stay up late talking and seeing if we can find any other information on the newly announced temple in Star Valley, WY. We hope to be able to find out who prophesied it when the valley was being settled by our ancestors. There is still very little information available but we are able to watch a KIFI TV8 news clip from Idaho Falls about the announcement with scenes from the valley.
The Lawtons apartment is really a one bedroom with an office. LaDawna gets the single bed in the office and I get the couch in the living room. The 5th is a holiday, as it should be, it’s my 48th birthday. The Lawtons have a ward/branch party that day and don’t have to go into the office so we don’t have to get up early. Of course, the couple missionaries aren’t required to have “missionary hours” but we have a busy day tomorrow as we are going to the Tijuana of Hong Kong, Shenzhen China.