The first island I visited was Lantau Island. Lantau Island is about an hour's ferry ride away from Hong Kong Island. I think the island has changed in the last few years since I can't remember the big Buddha from when first visited Hong Kong. Plus, Lantau is the site of the new airport on it. And, it's the future home of Disneyland. So, I chose to go to Lantau so that I could see the island before it was fully developed! But, it's a much bigger island than I thought it would be and there will still be lots of undeveloped areas even after Disney comes I think.
I really enjoyed the ferry ride as we were leaving Hong Kong Island. I was sitting on the left side of the boat, right up against an open window. The two women to my right had a small dog who was cute. And, I especially remember how good the breeze felt as we got going since it was HOT. The big city view we were passing was amazing. I think Hong Kong Island has a very dramatic skyline and the fact that it is framed in the background by Victoria Peak and fronted by the harbor just make it all the more spectacular. Even more amazing is the fact that I've been to Hong Kong so many times that I actually recognize buildings and can often tell when a new building has been built to alter the skyline.
Soon we left Hong Kong Island in the distance and in time arrived at Lantau Island. After I arrived on Lantau, my first goal was to find suntan lotion, since I had forgotten to bring any with. This gave me the change to explore the small shopping area around the ferry terminal. After finding my suntan lotion in the local grocery store, I set out to find the bus to the first place I wanted to see - Cheung Sha Beach. The bus was easy to find and soon I was jouncing along the road. Lantau Island is BIG and the roads, though paved, were not smooth. Nor did the bus I was on have the best of shocks. I remember wishing I'd brought a sports bra along! Finally, we arrived at the beach.
The first sign I saw when arriving at the beach was the sign about when to swim and when not to swim because of sharks. I just had to take a picture for Seth. The water temperature at which sharks was most often seen was approximately 24 Celsius and a hand written sign told me that today's water temperature was 25 Celsius! Needless to say, even though I had my swimsuit with, I didn't go swimming. Even though there was netting in the water around the swimming area to protect people from sharks, I decided to buy some bottled water to pour on myself and forgo a swim.
After the beach, I headed back to the bus stop to continue onto The Big Buddha. The bus that pulled over to let me in was already so crowded that I ended up sitting on the floor next to the driver! It was actually fun, relatively comfortable and cheaper than if I'd had to pay full fare for a proper seat. I even had an excellent view out the front window & the shocks were much better in the front of the bus. The Big Buddha is BIG. He is also a very modern Buddha.
I walked up to the Buddha very slowly and with my umbrella up since I was worried about getting burned even though I did have sunscreen on. I just love how a rain umbrella doubles for a sun parasol in Asia. Two people on the way up offered to take my photo - which was nice. I enjoyed the views of Buddha and the surrounding countryside then wandered down to the Po Lin Monastery for lunch. I was served a yummy vegetarian Chinese dish and immediately thought about how Seth would eat none of it - but I enjoyed it thoroughly. I also started writing my postcards out at lunch. It was a nice break in an air conditioned room.
After lunch, it was back on the bus. This time, I headed for Tai O, an old fishing village. Tai O was MOST interesting. I wandered around the streets for a long time looking at the interesting shops and houses. One neighborhood consisted of homes I find hard to describe. I almost think the structures I saw won't be around for too long since they were all catalogued with red paint on the outside stating what the dimensions of each room inside was. I can only describe the houses as made of sheet metal and teetering precariously on stilts over the water. There were ALOT of drying fish hanging out on people's porches. There were also full shops that seemed to specialize in this particular type of fish hung upside down to dry. Very Interesting!
After wandering for a long time, I headed back to the bus & ferry for the trip back to Hong Kong Island. There was a nice looking market right where I got on the ferry, but I didn't stop to shop since I wanted to get back so that I could go to Baron Kay's Tailor and order some shirts for Seth before they closed at 6.
I had so much fun at Lantau Island the first day, I decided to go to another island the second day. This time, I headed out towards Lamma Island. I was fully prepared for Lamma Island since my friend at work had loaned me his Lamma Island walking tour map. I was very undecided about which side of the island I wanted to take the ferry to, so I just hopped on the first one and that decided that.
I ended up at Yung Shue Wan and decided I'd walk across the island to Sok Kwu Wan and catch the ferry back to Hong Kong from there. Yung Shue Wan is described in Essential, The Official Hong Kong Guide as "Lamma's main village, home to many young expatriates seeking a relaxed Hong Kong life". The large number of foreigners around and the sight of many Filipino maids taking young, white kids to the beach definitely re-inforced what the guide book had to say. I started walking across the island .
My first detour was to a beach to get a good look at the power plant that provides electricity for Hong Kong Island. The beach was not a nice place. There was an incredible amount of garbage washed up on to the sand, but I did get a good look at the power station.
After walking for quite a while, I arrived at the nice beach This beach had the obligatory shark signs and shark netting just like the day before. I again didn't go swimming. While I was walking, a large number of people passed me riding bikes. I decided that riding a bike across the island would be a good idea. Especially since when I was going downhill, I'd enjoy a breeze. And it was HOT again today. I had seen a bike rental shop when I was coming from the ferry, so I walked back to the village and rented a bike. The lady renting me the bike made sure I could control it and cautioned me with alot of sign language and few words to take care on the path across the island since at some places it was narrow.
There was a good breeze when I was coasting downhill, but I did have to get off and walk occasionally since the route back to the beach had a few hills on it. Finally, I was back to the place I'd reached before, but this time with a bike! While riding the bike, I couldn't use the umbrella to keep the sun off my face, so I bought a baseball cap and headed up the next big hill. For a while, it was definitely walk the bike time.
The view was stunning as I climbed higher and higher. I was on a very nicely paved path (courtesy of the power plant that has used land on Lamma to power Hong Kong) that wound it's way up and up along a hill that dropped steeply off into the water. The beach became smaller and smaller behind me as I continued to push myself and the bike up the hill. The view got even better as I started to be able to see off both side of the island! There were lots of people walking, running or biking along the path, but not so many as to make things crowded - except for in the covered pagoda at the crest of the hill. That was taken, so I couldn't take a nice photo of it.
After I passed the pagoda, the path did narrow considerably and then there were no guard rails. This only improved the view -- a narrow path winding ahead of me with a steep drop to my right into the water. Finally, the view switched to my left and the path started heading down. I rode most of the way down - but I did get off a few times when the incline of descent was too much to handle without worrying about pitching myself off the path, down the hill and into the water way below. Finally, after rounding another bend, I saw a quarry and the village that I expected was my goal. The ride up to the village of So Kwu Wan was exceptionally nice since it was a slightly sloping downward path that approached the town from across a bay.
So Kwu Wan would be a perfect place for dinner if either Seth or I liked any time of seafood. There was restaurant after restaurant after restaurant - all with nice outdoors seating over the water. I was VERY happy to find a fruit shop and got some - surprise - watermelon! Yum Yum. I stood at the end of the seating area, looking out over the bay to the quarry beyond and enjoyed my watermelon in 100+ degree weather. It was GREAT.
After exploring the whole row of restaurants, I prepared to head back. But, not before stopping at a small, little beach that was littered with shells first. I got a nice collection together while holding my umbrella and then headed back across the island. The pagoda was again full, but no worries, I just sat on a big rock to rest a bit and enjoyed the view.
I returned the bike exactly three hours from when I had rented it and rushed to catch the next ferry back. I had a wonderful day - but I sure looked a mess at the end.
|I wrote this as I was departing Hong Kong Island on the
way to Landau Island:
" As I sit on a ferry watching the skyscrapers of Hong Kong Island pass
by, I am astounded with where my life has taken me. It is HOT. So hot that
as we sat waiting to depart, I felt drops of sweat slide down my arms.
It smells of dog since the lady in front of me has brought her dog along.
I treasure the cooling breeze. Now that we are under way, the cooling breeze
streams in the window I am sitting by. Something about the working waterway
draws my attention more than the book I brought along. The white cresting
waves, the other ships, the cranes, the breeze that comes unexpectedly
as we leave Hong Kong island behind. "
|Here I am sitting at the top of the stairs up to the big Buddha on Lantau Island. This valley was one of the more populated places I was at on my two-day island trek.|
|Overall Experience||9||Going to these islands was seeing a side of Hong Kong that I'd never seen before and I would highly recommend it.|
|Ease of Journey||8||For each island, it was about a 1 hour ferry ride from Hong Kong Island and I remember there being frequent ferries.|
|Accommodation||8||The Conrad International is well located ontop of an upscale mall and movie theaters. Plus, within a fix minute walk, you can eat at a Chicago-style restaurant and buy Mrs. Field's Cookies. Plus, if you get a harbor room on a high enough floor, you'll have a great view over the harbor. The view from the whirlpool, especially at night, is also fantastic.|
|Activities||9||I highly recommend Lamma if you want to bicycle over hilly trails and admire coastal scenery. I also highly recommend making a visit to Buddha.|
|Coolness||10||Very kool to discover this new side of Hong Kong.|
The Hong Kong Tourist Association at http://www.hkta.org
Tokyo to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific 505 at 6pm to 9:30pm
Hong Kong to Tokyo on Cathay Pacific 508 at 4:20pm to 9:25pm
Tara purchased her airline ticket through No1 Travel in Shibuya, Tokyo