Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: The Portuguese Connection (2012)

Lantau, old and new

We had arranged a wake-up call for 0700, as our sightseeing plan for today was a fairly ambitious one. The breakfast offering in the Executive Lounge was good. As on the previous evening we were seated by staff, who were also responsible for serving beverages and toast. The scrambled eggs from the buffet were especially notable for their delicious creaminess.

The plan was to use the relatively new cable car system on Lantau to visit Po Lin monastery and the 'Big Buddha', then explore the other side of the island - still largely unspoiled - by more conventional public transport. The cable car system was to be a new experience for Bruce. I had made the trip before but didn't mind doing it again, and a short diversion to the traditional fishing village of Tai O would ensure that at least one part of the itinerary would be new for me as well. We were ready to put our plans into action shortly after nine.

We walked the short distance to Admiralty Station, took the red line to Lai King and changed there for Tung Chung. Many passengers left the train at Sunny Bay to connect onto the Disneyland shuttle, but there was still a huge queue for the cable cars at Tung Chung: it took all of 90 minutes from arrival to the point of boarding a cable car. Fortunately they didn't load our car to the full capacity of ten people; we shared with two families of three and this was reasonably comfortable. The views were obviously not at their best due to the hazy conditions, but it was still an enjoyable ride.

ABOVE: Cable car journey from Tung Chung to Ngong Ping

On arrival at the upper terminal, we walked through the new tourist village of Ngong Ping to the much more traditional setting of Po Lin Buddhist monastery, a place that I had visited several times by one means of transport or another. There were many people around even this early in the day, and also considerable numbers of dogs. The largest temple building was closed for renovation work, but everything else was spectacular as usual.

ABOVE: Po Lin Monastery, home of Lantau's famous 'Big Buddha'
Inside the main temple
RIGHT: Ugh, not again! Can't you
play anything else on that thing?

Our monastery visit complete, we checked the timetable for the bus service to Tai O and found that we had just missed one. Rather than waste precious time standing around for half an hour, we jumped in a cab and found that with two people sharing the cost, it was almost as cheap as the bus. Tai O turned out to be more interesting than genuinely pretty. On the same island that now played host to one of the largest and most sophisticated airports in the world, it was interesting to look around this unspoiled example of the traditional Lantau way of life.

Lunch proved to be a memorable experience in more ways than one! As there were no restaurants in the village aimed principally at westerners, we had little option but to choose one patronised by local people. I was less than happy with what I could see of the dish-washing arrangements, but the food was genuinely very nice and I obviously survived to tell the tale. Having lived in Hong Kong for a period as a child and having eaten in many similar places, Bruce was highly amused by my lack of exposure to traditional practices!

The Lantau fishing village of Tai O

We then took a bus along the largely coastal route to Silvermine Bay and the ferry port of Mui Wo, passing many of Lantau's beaches en route. From there we took a ferry back to Central. By a quirk of the timetable, it was one of the few remaining conventional vessels rather than a modern fast ferry. I thought it made a pleasant change to enjoy the more stately passage between the islands.

Return journey from Mui Wo to Central on conventional ferry
Xin Ying
Back on Hong Kong Island, we returned to the hotel via the IFC shopping mall which, like so many others, was already showing all the trappings of the forthcoming festive season.

After an opportunity to freshen up and change, we had a drink and a few nibbles in the Executive Lounge before heading out to dinner.
ABOVE: International Finance Centre mall ABOVE: Gaylord Indian Restaurant

Having discovered it on the ever-helpful Chowhound website, Bruce had made a reservation at a Kowloon-based Indian restaurant by the name of Gaylord. Having already had a Chinese meal at lunchtime, there seemed to be no harm in trying an alternative taste of Asia for dinner. Almost unbelievably - except that I knew I'd done it before in the incredible maze that Hong Kong's streets can sometimes be - we managed to get ourselves lost, despite being only minutes away from Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station. Thankfully, we eventually got our bearings and turned up at the restaurant only five minutes late. It was clearly a popular place and our dinner proved to be a nice change from the local cuisine.

Monday 19 Nov

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