Hong Kong: Day 3
Our first destination of the day was a monastery, the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. It was built by an old man in his retirement in the 50s, on the side of a steep hill on the edge of Kowloon. Despite the name the monastery actually has almost 13,000 Buddha statues of various sizes from the tiny to ones larger than a human!
It was a short journey by MTR to the bottom of the hill where the monastery is situated. Going up was awful. The humidity was through the roof. It had rained earlier (as it often does in Hong Kong) and the humidity had been bad enough in the city, but now on the hillside, which is covered with dense forest it was almost unbearable. The path was quite steep making it feel even worse! The path is lined with Buddha statues, each looking unique and many are rather comical. We were soaking with sweat but this was still quite a sight!
At the top are a few colourful looking buildings. This was a nice monastery. It was almost totally deserted, giving us plenty of peace and quiet. Surrounding all the open areas are more Buddha statues. Inside the main temple there were multiple Buddha stele with ting images of the Buddha carves into the stone.
We climbed a little further up to the shrines at the top. Thankfully, one of the shrines had a door and air conditioning inside. It took us over 15 minutes to cool off and for the sweat to mostly dry. We ventured out again for a few minutes to look at the waterfall and yet more Buddha statues before getting back to the air conditioned shrine. It was interesting here to see the contrast between the quiet and peaceful hillside and the edge of the city below us.
After cooling off we made our way back to the bottom of the hillside and into a shopping centre to cool off yet again. Getting around Hong Kong was really not pleasant today! Kate Hudson would be happy to note that there was an IKEA here, we didn’t venture in though.
Our next destination on this hot, sticky and muggy day was a park, smashing really! We took the MTR to within 200m of the entrance to the park. Inside the park, called the Nan Lian Garden is a very popular vegetarian restaurant, where we planned to eat lunch. It sits under an artificial waterfall and sitting in the restaurant you can look out through the waterfall over the park. This sounded very good but on arrival it didn’t live up to its hype. The menu was 6 pages of how to cook the same mushrooms a hundred different ways. Eugh! I don’t like mushrooms and there were only about 3 dishes on the whole menu which didn’t have mushrooms. We left!
We had a 45 minute detour into the shopping centre next to the park, where we ate lunch. It rained while we were inside, which was great because after lunch the humidity had dropped just enough that we could walk without dripping in sweat.
The park was nice enough. It has lots of little trees and rocks and the paths around it are amazingly clean and in pristine condition. If it wasn’t for the heat and ridiculous humidity this would have been an excellent place to wander.
Attached to the park is the Chi Lin Nunnery. We looked around quickly but with very little to see we soon left. Also, the rain was now evaporating and the humidity was rapidly climbing to the level where it felt exactly the same as a shower cubicle just after turning the water off from a boiling hot shower!
Back on the MTR we headed over to Hong Kong Island and across to the eastern end by Lei Yue Mun. We were going to the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence. It basically ran through the history of armed forces in Hong Kong, from the 14th century to now. It was interesting and definitely worth the visit. It filled in some gaps from the history museum and gave more detail to certain aspects (obviously in the warfare and army areas). The museum is mostly underground, but above ground on top of the hill it was clear why the British had built a fort here. It had a perfect view into Victoria Harbour and is next to the narrow channel which allows access to the harbour from the east.
It was a little after 4pm when we were finished in the museum and we decided to go up Victoria Peak. That way we could see the view in the daylight, then watch the sunset over Hong Kong and see the city by night. The sun sets at 7pm at this time of year so we had plenty of time. So we went looking for the terminus of the tram to take us most of the length of the island to Central. We thought this would be a short ride, I guessed between 5-10 minutes and Annemarie expected 15 minutes or so. The journey took just over an hour! But it was a good experience. The trams are incredibly narrow and wobble a bit when they get going. But they don’t go very fast, they stop VERY often and they have to obey red lights. Luckily we weren’t in a rush and were able to enjoy the experience. Hong Kongers call them Ding Dings on account of their bell, surprisingly due to our rather cautious driver we barely heard the famous sound.
At the bottom of the peak is the station of the Peak Tram. Slightly unsurprisingly there was a queue. A bloody long queue hundreds of people long! Oops! Maybe we should have thought about this properly. One of the best views of Hong Kong, about 90 minutes before sunset… Oh well, we’ll come back another day when it’s quieter. We decided that with most things closing soon we’d go back to the apartment.