Hong Kong Day 7 - Buddhaland

7 October 2009

Tuesday 6th October

An enormous cockroach appeared in the bathroom as I was getting out of the shower. It was about four inches long and I dispatched it with my shoe. It could be worse I suppose - at least it’s the only one we’ve seen all week. We’ve seen quite a lot of dragonflies out and about but there don’t seem to be any scary insects or spiders lurking around Hong Kong.

It was lunchtime when we left the hostel and it felt like the hottest day yet, quite a dry heat instead of the humid warmth we’ve begun to get used to. The cafes were packed but we found a table in one very basic establishment, and I had yet another ramen, with random bits of chicken in it this time. It wasn’t particularly exciting.

We then headed to Lantau, one of the outlying islands, to see the 34-metre Big Buddha at Po Lin Monastery at Ngong Ping. It’s apparently the largest bronze outdoor seated Buddha in the world, which seems quite a specific claim to fame. There must therefore be quite a few bigger Buddhas out there, although this one is impressively huge.

You can reach Ngong Ping either by rickety, unreliable cable car, or by bus, as we did. You’ll probably feel sick either way - the bus travels along winding roads for about 50 minutes, struggling up the steep hills.

At the monastery itself, you can buy a combined ticket that gets you a vegetarian meal and entry to the museum under the Buddha. It was 3.30pm when we arrived and they were only doing food until 4.30, so we went straight for the meal even though we weren’t that hungry. I was even less hungry when the food came -bland and unappetising. I felt that it needed quite a lot of salt or soy sauce. Or, to make it more like the other meals we’ve had out here, perhaps the internal organs of an obscure animal would have given it that little extra something.

There is plenty of building work taking place and plenty of tourists at the monastery, so it’s not very peaceful. Incense smoke is everywhere. A big hill with a long stairway takes you up to the Buddha, and you have to zigzag your way up past all the people posing for photos. The museum is full of Buddhist artworks and one tiny, well-guarded crystal, which they reckon is some kind of relic.

Back down at ground level, leaving the monastery itself we entered Ngong Ping village, which is straight out of Disneyland by the looks of it. It is truly hideous and features a “Chopstick Gallery”, a “Walking with Buddha” exhibition and a Starbucks.

We retreated back to the bus stop and the metro to return to the hostel for a nap. Will went out to get some shopping done, and me, Rachel and Nick went out for cocktails. But first we picked up some Japanese fast food from a place called Yoshinoya. It seems silly to me that in the UK the fast food concept is only ever applied to burgers and fried chicken - this food was both very quick and very tasty.

For our cocktails we went to three different hotel bars. First was the Holiday Inn, which seemed rather posh for such an establishment - there was a Lamborghini in the car park. The cocktails were nice and strong. Then we went to the Sheraton which is near the harbour, to its Sky Lounge bar on the 18th floor, which has an excellent view of the skyscrapers on Hong Kong Island. I had a mojito which was pretty good, though not quite as strong as I’d have liked. Finally we went to the Peninsula hotel, to its Felix Bar on the 28th floor. The view isn’t as good as the Sheraton’s, because for some reason they have Venitian blinds over the windows. The bar was pretty small and our drinks were on a strange sloping table. Very much style over substance. Surprisingly it was the toilets that made the trip worthwhile - the urinals have a great view, and the central sink is a weird table contraption where water appears from twisted metal when the attendant pushes a button. Mad.