Anyway, we made our way to the train station and bought tickets at the electronic kiosk. I was really impressed with this system – you just punch the screen on the name of the station where you want to end up and it will automatically calculate your route and fare. Dave had spent some time researching the train system map last night so he knew where we should transfer. Walking through the station and in the cars we couldn’t help but be amazed at how clean everything is! Not one piece of litter anywhere and everything smells really clean. There are workers constantly cleaning up, wiping things down, all the time. I think I like it here!
We headed to the station that’s also next to Hong Kong Disney to head to Lantau Island to see the Big Buddha. Once we left the train station we walked by a large outlet mall (took all my willpower not to even LOOK inside) and straight to the ticket booth to buy tickets for the cable car that takes you to the island. They have several gimmicks – you can pay up for a cable car with a glass bottom, for example. We just purchased the plain old regular cable car ticket and thought we’d do the rest ourselves. The ride on the car was about 30 minutes and covered quite a bit. Again, a worker cleaned out and wiped down the car before we got in which was nice. There were some locals in the car with us headed to work that provided much of the entertainment. It was a beautiful sight to see the airport and then the islands and water on the way. Before we exited the car you could see the Big Buddha (that’s where he got his name I’m guessing) which was very cool.
After disembarking, you walk along a pathway through restaurants and shops en route to the big guy. I guess the path to enlightenment is lined with souvenir stores? We stopped and had some granola bars we’d packed while Dave checked email at a Starbucks. We then headed up to the statue which is really quite remarkable – the largest bronzed Buddha statue ever. It was a bit of a hike up to the top which felt good after yesterday’s long flight. Once at the top, the views were pretty great of the water and islands. After descending we took a look around but we weren’t that interested in the monastery that’s nearby so we decided to head back.
The cable car ride back down was nice because it wasn’t crowded so we had our own private car. The views were a bit better because some of the haze was starting to lift. Once we landed back in the station we stopped at the information desk in the outlet mall for a map of Hong Kong and asked for directions to the Ladies Market. It’s supposedly the largest outdoor market so of course we were interested. When we headed back to the train station to purchase tickets, none of the kiosks would accept our smallest bill. So we went back to a store we’d seen along the way, Mannings, and bought some bottled water for change. Now we were in business and could get tickets for the train and be on our way. This train was very crowded with all locals although Dave said it’s not as crowded as we’ll see in Japan. My question is what are all these people doing shopping at an outlet mall at 1pm on a Thursday?!
We found the ladies market easily and I was really impressed with the quality of goods to be found. Tory Burch and Marc Jacobs, eat your heart out. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t purchase anything knowing I’d have to carry it around for another 3 months. Really makes you think about what you absolutely need! Dave did negotiate for a pair of sunglasses as he purposely didn’t bring his nice pair. At least it wasn’t a total waste! We decided to walk back to our hostel but were hungry for lunch. So we started walking and found a little Chinese place that looked good. The staff was so friendly and we ate delicious noodle soups for $100HK which is like $10-12 I think. During our meal one of the gentlemen who ran the place came over and asked where we’re from. We got to talking and learned he used to live in San Jose, CA which explains his good English. He took our map and highlighted a few places he said we should be sure to see. The good thing is that we already saw the Big Buddha and the ladies market, both of which he recommended.
After lunch we headed back to the hostel to relax and do some emailing. Unfortunately, the internet in the hostel is still down and has been since this morning. They said it’s some general connection problem and they’ve called to fix it. Makes it difficult for us to make plans though!
We were able to connect (via old fashioned phone since the internet is still down!) with a friend from Dave’s school who is studying at HKU this semester. We thought we’d go to this place for dim sum which we heard was one of the good things to eat here. Dave and I left the hostel and took the train to meet up with Jon, not realizing it was the end of a still very busy rush hour. Gobs and gobs of people everywhere! Thank goodness we only had two stops to go on one line and then met up with Jon to walk a few blocks to the restaurant. We got a bit turned around which was fine because we hadn’t been to the Central area of HK yet and we got a nice tour. Once we found the restaurant we learned that dim sum is only served earlier in the day, only until about 4pm. Oops! At dinner they serve traditional Chinese (Cantonese) dishes. We shared crispy chicken (do you see the whole head in the picture?), roasted goose and noodles with shrimp and broccoli. I was dying for some green vegetables, there don’t seem to be a lot here. Everything was delicious except neither Dave nor I tried the chicken head. Jon gave it a go and said it wasn’t bad – I’ll take his word for it! Jon also suggested that we pick up some packets of tissues because no restaurants give napkins (luckily I happen to have a few with me as we all know I always do!). Jon also gave us some great recommendations for our second full day here.
It was a lovely evening so Jon walked us to Victoria Harbor to see the skyline at night. Unfortunately, he had more work to do for school so we said goodbye and took the Star Ferry across the harbor to Kowloon where we’re staying. It was beautiful to see the whole skyline on the water at night. I’m really starting to understand the three main parts to HK now - Launtau Island (also where the airport is), Hong Kong Island and Kowloon which is part of the mainland. The train (the MTR) connects them all very efficiently. The weather has been interesting, mostly misty and hazy from the water and humid. It’s sometimes very cool when the wind blows but when you’re walking and the air is still it gets warm. We have a/c in our room which is nice that we don’t have to keep the windows open and it’s a little less humid. Looks like we’re early to bed again to plan our adventures tomorrow!
We woke up a few times pretty early from the time change but I managed to sleep until 8am when the alarm rang. The good news is that the bathroom has it's own hot water heater that you turn on 15 minutes before you want to shower. The bad news is that it only holds enough hot water for Dave to shower and for me to have a half-shower (or for me to take three quarters of a shower and Dave to not take one at all). Let’s hope I don’t see anyone I know as I’m going to be looking and smelling pretty ripe soon! And to answer some comments we had about the size of the bathroom – yes, you do have to sit on the toilet or in the sink to shower! By the time we managed to look presentable it was well after 9am. We stopped at a 7-11 for some juice and a little sweet bread for a quick breakfast on the way to the train station. We’ve noticed there are an abundance of the following stores/restaurants in Hong Kong: McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King, 7-11 and Starbucks.