I’ve filtered out a few more of my very-late-now Hong Kong photos, and dumped a set from my trip to Lantau Island on Flickr.
The trip to Lantau was great, starting with another reminder of how backwards Toronto’s public transit system is; the trip was fast, fast and simple, all public transit and a cable car ride, in clean, air-conditioned comfort.
Did you know that subways don’t necessarily have to be filthy, decaying cold-war relics that can’t slow to a stop without screaming like a gut-shot banshee? That public transit doesn’t have to smell like a wet dog? It doesn’t need to be like that, and it’s amazing what a difference it makes. This town needs an Octopus Card in the worst way.
Big Buddha at Lantau is a cable car ride away from one end of the Hong Kong subway system, and while I claim no broad experience in the field it’s definitely the longest cable car ride I’ve ever been on, about half an hour, and the views are spectacular and occasionally a little bit terrifying. I hope you’re OK with wide-open spaces and heights, if you’re going to take this ride, because you’re going to get those two things in spades.
It’s probably the best view of the immense Hong Kong International Airport that your casual tourist is likely to get, and gives you a sense of the immense scope of that project when you realize that’s all reclaimed land. Then the ride goes over a long series of hills and valleys, every one making you think that OK, that’s enough, this must be the last one before you cross the ridge and see the cars trailing away over the next hill again.
There’s a path that runs the length of the ride. You can follow it winding away beneath you, and if I ever go back to Lantau, I’m going to do that hike on foot.
The approach to the Buddha his own bad self is impressive, and only gets more impressive the closer you get to it. He’s on his own little summit, surrounded by some very nicely-crafted statues of supplicants bringing various gifts, and when you’ve climbed the up to see him, he only gets more impressive. Oddly, the gates they have to keep the tourists in the right lineups all have swastikas on them; it was a traditional Buddhist symbol long before the Nazis got hold of it, of course, but still a little jarring to those of us raised on a steady diet of Allied-propaganda history classes.
Apparently that’s two hundred and fifty tons of Buddha right there.
The rest of the town around it is a little touristy. There’s a both a Shaolin monastery and a Starbucks within two hundred meters of it, which I’m sure is indicative of something or symbolic of something else, but that mostly just makes me a little sad. And there were no swastika-barriers in front of either of them, which also made me a little sad, but at least the mental image of Ninja Monk Nazis lining up to get their caffeine fix at Der Staarbuckener was amusing.
But it occurred to me that, way back before the tourists, the cable car ride and the Big Buddha, this must have been a beautiful, secluded place. Take away all that convenience and this is the absolute middle of nowhere, an isolated outpost hidden in the mountains on the uninhabited part of the island, a significant ordeal to even get to, much less actually live there.
But I suppose that modulo “all that convenience”, a lot of the world is like that.