Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hong Kong - Day 2 Continued

Our second day on Lantau Island continued by visiting the giant Buddha, after we first toured the Po Lin Monastery. The photos below show the Buddha, Ngong Ping and a little bit of Hong Kong’s SoHo district which we walked through at the end of the day.

Tian Tan Buddha, the world’s largest Buddha statue. It’s made of bronze and is 112 ft. tall and weighs 280 tons.

The Buddha rests on top of a three-story base, which houses a museum and the Hall of Remembrance.

Smaller statues surround the large Buddha...including a “statue” of George.

The scenery on Lan Tau Island is beautiful. Lush mountain ranges are surrounding the monastery. This was one view from atop the hill of the big Buddha. Notice the small pagoda sticking out of the forest.

The opposite side offered views of the South China Sea.

After climbing down those steps again we needed a little break in form of ice cream bars and some Cokes. Dried seafood didn’t sound that refreshing.

The swastika has a complete different meaning in Asian cultures. It dates back more than 4,000 years and depending on the region it either represents the sun, the universe or simply means good luck. Unfortunately, in more recent history this symbol has been misrepresented and misused on countless occasions and took on a completely different meaning in Western cultures.

This sign just cracked us up. Yes, there is also a “female” toilet. And no, there weren’t any holes in the ground either. Those types of toilets are mostly found in mainland China.

The wooden columns of the Wisdom Path, near the monastery.

Close-up of the wooden columns, with various text of wisdom carved into.

One of many nature trails.

With the South China Sea in the background.

A make-shift sign, calligraphed by hand, that we saw along the way while walking through the forest to the Wisdom Path.

Ngong Ping Village, with the giant Buddha in the background. From here we took a different route back to the city...via a suspended cable car.

The Ngong Ping 360 cable car is a 5.7 km long bi-cable gondola lift system. It’s linked between Tung Chung, where it connects to the MTR subway station, and Ngong Ping. Along the way one can see the mountain ranges, canyons, the ocean and the comings and goings of the busy Hong Kong International airport in the distance.

The ride took approximately 25 minutes and passed several angle stations. At the last angle station the gondola turned 60 degrees before flying over Tung Chung Bay and heading down into the terminus station.

After the sun was setting we were back again in the bustling city streets of Hong Kong. Here we are in SoHo, surrounded by even more people, traffic, shops and street markets. We found this street stand where a man made the most delicious juices out of all the most exotic fresh fruits. You won’t find any of these at any Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods either.

More interesting angles of impressive modern architecture in the city.

I will try to post more photos of our remaining time in Hong Kong over the next few days.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hong Kong-Day 2, Po Lin Monastery

Our second day took us to Lan Tau Island on the other side of the big natural harbour of Hong Kong. The whole island is absolutely beautiful, with lush mountain ranges and gorgeous sandy beaches lining up along the South China Sea.

We visited the Po Lin Monastery and the largest Buddha statue in the world. Later that day we took the Ngong Ping Cable Cars back to one of the many modern subway stations. We then headed back into the bustling city and ended our day in Hong Kong’s SoHo.

Below are photos of the monastery. The photos of the giant Buddha and Ngong Ping will follow in a separate entry.

Our second day started out at one of the many piers down at Hong Kong’s harbour. We took a 45-minute ferry ride across the huge bay towards Lan Tau Island. This is the famous Star Ferry Pier.

The main gateway to the Po Lin Monastery.

Once we passed the gateway, we reached a big plaza from where we saw the giant Buddha sitting on top of the mountain.

The world’s largest Buddha sits atop the mountain behind George and I. Later we would climb those stairs to get to the top. There are no escalators or elevators. Many elderly Chinese women were almost in better shape than we were trying to walk up those stairs.

The unassuming entrance into the monastery. There were flowers everywhere. It was overwhelming.

George in front of the smaller shrine of the monastery. You need to pass through here first before reaching the square in front of the big temple.

All the beautiful craftsmanship and artistry were almost too much to take in.

One of many big bells in the monastery. All the offerings consisted of fresh fruits and more flowers. Why does only Buddha get all the good stuff?

These stone plate inscriptions could be found all over the area. Does anyone know what this particular one says?

Behind me is the main temple of the Po Lin Monastery.

The three golden Buddhas inside the main temple. This building is so richly appointed with art that one doesn’t even know where to look first.

Silk lanterns hanging from the tall, vaulted, and elaborately painted ceilings inside the temple.

Detail of a dragon, chiseled out of stone, at the main temple of the Po Lin Monastery.

The temple is surrounded by these amazing stone carvings and sculptures.

Another detail shot of the countless stone chiseled dragons.

The giant Buddha as seen from the temple. It was our next destination. More photos of that in the next entry...

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Fragrant Harbour

For the life of me I just can’t find the time to write a comprehensive report about our trip to Hong Kong, China over the holidays. Too much is going on in our lives right now. So I will just post photos over the next few days and add some brief captions, which hopefully will help to describe our amazing journey.

That much I can say at this point. Hong Kong is one fascinating city.

Our flight took us from Las Vegas, Nevada to Seoul in South Korea. Korean Air flies nonstop from Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport to Seoul’s Incheon Int.’l Airport. Koren Air is a great airline. The flight attendants were all most attentive and very gracious. Most American airlines could learn a thing or ten from them. The picture above shows one of countless signages throughout the huge and modern Incheon Airport. All signs are in Korean, Japanese, Chinese and of course English.

The airport in Las Vegas has slot machines and tacky shops for tourists. Incheon Airport in Seoul has real orchids throughout all the terminals, classy designer stores and fine dining restaurants.

George is enjoying his morning coffee while waiting for our connection fllight to Hong Kong.

That was our bird behind me. An Korean Air Airbus 330-300 took us on a three and a half hour flight to Hong Kong, the “Fragrant Harbour.”

Here we flew over Taiwan.

The first impressions from the airport into the city of Hong Kong were already overwhelming. This was our view from the 27th floor of the trendy and chic Cosmo Hotel, right next to Happy Valley.

Our hotel room view looking in the opposite direction, towards the financial district. The skyscraper with the reflection of the morning sun is the 88-story International Finance Centre and the second tallest building in the city.

Next to our hotel was a Sikh Temple and recreation center. Hong Kong residents are mostly Chinese but still has a very diverse population with many different religions living in close proximity.

We walked past this golden dragon statue many times.

There are many of these little shrines in-between storefronts or next to entryways. One can easily overlook these little gems.

Hong Kong is one bustling city. At times, traffic seems totally out of control but yet it flows. Controlled chaos. Here is an old double-decker tram which some locals call Ding Ding. It's been in operation since 1904 and travels all the way from one end of Hong Kong Island to the other. A fun way to get around and explore the city.

The financial district. Every imaginable bank from around the world is represented here. Some of the architecture is just amazing. The tower on the left is the Bank of China. The tower on the right is one of the two Lippo Corp. towers.

In all the crazyness of humanity and traffic we found this little oasis, the Hong Kong Park.

Although Christmas is not part of the Chinese culture it was ever-present. Here are some holiday decorations along a stepped water fountain in Hong Kong Park.

I was lucky to capture this shot of a beautiful butterfly.

The Museum of Tea Ware inside the historic Flagstaff House featured this exhibition of contemporary art of local artists, as well as an extensive display of the history of Chinese tea culture.

These types of trees are found throughout the city and they were all covered with these fragrant blossoms.

Taking in the scenery and the fresh breeze coming from the tall waterfall behind me.

We have never seen so many turtles in one area. The pond was full of them, along with huge koi fish and a variety of waterfowl.

The towers of the Lippo Corporations are peeking from behind the lush greens of the Hong Kong Park.

More impressive architecture was seen on our way to the Victoria Peak Tram.

Hollywood is everywhere, even in China. An advertisement for Walt Disney’s “Tron Legacy” in 3-D.

The rest of America’s money-making machinery was hard at work all over the city. Like this Seven-Eleven ad on a taxi. Every possible name brand was found here. McDonald’s, Subways, KFC, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Starbucks, Häagen-Dazs, Circle K...you name it. Most have outlets here.

The incredible view from atop Victoria Peak. Hong Kong was lying beneath us and on the other side of the harbour was Kowloon. One could see the South China Sea from the other side of the peak.

George on top of Victoria Peak.

George and I on Victoria Peak with Hong Kong and Kowloon in the background.

After taking a rather adventurous bus ride down the mountain again, we took the famous Star Ferry over to Kowloon on the other side of Victoria Harbour. The sun was setting and most of Hong Kong’s skyline was starting to sparkle with millions of lights and hundreds of neon signs.

Another view of Hong Kong’s skyline.

Every evening at 8 p.m. the whole skyline turns into one gigantic light show which is synchronized to music. This “Symphony of Lights” uses decorative lights, searchlights and lasers and has been awarded the world’s “Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show” by Guinness World Records.

And so ended our first day in the city I now like to call a “Chinese London.” I will try to post more photos in the coming days.

再見 (Zoi Gin - Good-bye; See you soon)