That’s how I felt on my first few days in Hong Kong. I was naive to think that being in Hong Kong would be similar to being in New York City. WRONG!
Hong Kong is made up of many islands, with the most famous ones being Hong Kong Island (pictured above), Kowloon and Lantau Island (where the airport is). I like to describe Hong Kong Island as a mesh of Times Square (NYC), Las Vegas and Bombay: crazy, colorful flashing lights, swarms of people everywhere at any given time, hundred story skyscrapers practically on top of each other, steep hilly terrain, all situated overlooking the water.
To be completely honest, I wasn’t super fond of Hong Kong the first few days of my trip. It was just too much. Trying to get anywhere or do anything always seemed like such a big ordeal and took forever. Luckily two things changed my mind about the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong: 1) a trip to Lantau Island to Ngong Ping and 2) an escape to Stanley on the opposite side of Hong Kong Island (it felt like being on the relaxed coast of San Diego and a world away from the other side of the island with all the skyscrapers and flashing lights: future post on this to come).
On day 3 of my trip, I took the train from Hong Kong Island to Lantau Island with one goal in mind; to stand before the majestic and very large statue called “Big Buddha” (the official name is Tian Tan Buddha). I have seen this iconic statue on travel shows, travel blog sites and pictures of friends and I couldn’t wait to finally experience the wonder of taking those steps up to Big Buddha and have my own picture with him.
So you know, making your way to see the Big Buddha is a time-consuming feat (as most amazing wonders around the world are). Once you arrive at Lantau Island by train (which again, is easy to do after you figure out the train system, but just allow yourself some time), you can easily walk to the cable car station, wait in some long lines and then take the cable car up to the area called ‘The Village Of Ngong Ping’. From there it is a walk through the traditional Chinese village and shopping area while you make your way to the bottom of the steps of the Big Buddha (it’s sort of like Disneyland where everything looks close on the map but takes you half an hour to walk there). When you are finally standing at the base and looking up at Big Buddha, it seems like a world away to reach the top. But, taking the steps up wasn’t actually that bad. Maybe it was because I was stopping so frequently to take a million pictures (yes, I’m one of “those” types of travelers…always wanting the perfect picture). When you take my somewhat lengthy approach to the steps, anyone can do it!
After my enjoyable early afternoon with Big Buddha, I decided to walk around and see what The Village of Ngong Ping had to offer. I stumbled upon a beautiful Buddhist Monastery (Po Lin Monastery) that is definitely worth checking out and a nice little serene escape. Around the corner from the monastery I found the most unexpected hidden treasure; an all-vegetarian cafe! I was SO not expecting that. (But, if you really think about it, it makes sense since many Buddhists practice some form of vegetarianism.)
I stood wide-eyed looking at all the possible food options as this was the first time during my stay in Hong Kong that I knew everything was in fact vegetarian (a lot of the traditional food I had come across so far on this trip didn’t have ingredients listed or I could not communicate with those at the food stalls, so I sadly was not very adventurous with my culinary choices. I was never really sure what was actually vegetarian). I ended up with the vegetable stir-fried noodles which were delicious and totally hit the spot. There were other fun looking items and dessert that I thought I would maybe come back for, but the noodles were filling on their own.
In the end, I had such a great day and got to cross off yet another dream from my list of iconic travel sites: Big Buddha on Lantau Island. I also discovered some great vegetarian eats when I wasn’t even looking for it. Ok, Hong Kong, I like you now. We are cool.