Monday, November 30, 2009

Hong Kong Trip '09: [PART 2] Big Buddha (天坛大佛)

Hong Kong Trip '09
Part 2
Big Buddha (天坛大佛)
No trip to Hong Kong is complete without a visit to the Big Buddha, at Lantau Island, Ngong Ping. The world's largest bronze Buddha statue stands at 34 metres tall and weighs 250 tonnes, empowered in December 1993.

[On board the Ngong Ping 360]
Getting to the Big BuddhaVisitors is not too difficult. It can be reached by bus or taxi, travelling first to Mui Wo (also known as "Silvermine Bay") via ferry from the Outlying Islands piers in Central (pier No. 6) or the easier way is via MTR to Tung Chung station (Tung Chung Line; this line will intersect with the Disney Line). Visitors may then travel to and from the Buddha via the following bus routes: Mui Wo ↔ Ngong Ping — NLB No. 2 or Tung Chung ↔ Ngong Ping — NLB No. 23. However, the lengthy bus rides round the mountains are only good for those who do not have motion sickness.
The easiest and fastest way is definitely the cable car. The Ngong Ping 260 ferries passengers to-&-fro Tung Chung to Ngong Ping.

The cable car leaves the station at Ngong Ping and makes a turn at one of the station on one peak.

I definitely felt my feet turn jelly when the cable car takes us about the mountains.
Before long, the Big Buddha was already in sight.

[Big Buddha]
Seeing the Big Buddha or 天坛大佛 statue at the top of the 268 steps is definitely a sight to behold. The statue is sits on a lotus throne on top of a three-platform altar. Within the platform altar, are three halls: The Hall of Universe, Hall of Benevolent Merit, and The Hall of Remembrance. The halls contains historical Buddhist artefacts and scriptures, while a relic of Gautama Buddha is housed in the topmost hall. Visiting the Big Buddha statue is free-of-charge, however, entering these halls require the purchase of a vegetarian meal ticket at the base of the long stairs. At the base of the Big Buddha statue, there are statues of six heavenly devas making offerings to Buddha.

The Big Buddha has his right hand raised which signifies the removal of affliction. His left hand rests on his lap in a gesture of giving dhana. The Buddha faces north, which is unique among the great Buddha statues, as all others face south.

[Po Lin Monastery]
From the Big Buddha, a short walk will take you to Po Lin Monastery. In one of the small temple, there are statues of Laughing Buddha, bodhisattva and guardian devas.

[Po Lin Monastery Main Hall]
The main hall enshrines statues of Sakyamuni Buddha, Dipamkarara Buddha and Maitreya Buddha.

[Vegetarian Meal at Po Lin Monastery]
Since we purchased the Vegetarian Meal tickets to visit the halls at the Big Buddha, we were entitled to have the vegetarian meal at Po Lin Monastery. Only at the cafeteria, that we realized that it was not the vegetarian vermicelli that I was recommended. The recommended vegetarian vermicelli is served outside the dining hall. Our meal tickets are meant for a sit down lunch at the main dining hall.

I definitely enjoyed the food but I felt rather uneasy when they served us the same portion as any other tables with four or six people. The quantity was just too much for two of us, and we had to waste food. That is definitely the last thing I would do in a temple. After the heavy lunch, I could not help stuff some desserts sold outside the dining hall.

[Back on the Ngong Ping 360 back to Tung Chung]
This concludes Part 2 of our Hong Kong Trip.
Next, we will go catch some stars!

Photography & Editing by William Tan 2009
Documented using Nikon D200 with Tamron 18-270 VC and Panasonic LUMIX-LX3

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Hong Kong Trip '09: [PART 1] From SIN to Kowloon

Hong Kong Trip '09
Part 1
From SIN to Kowloon

These photographs from my Hong Kong seemed to slip out from my blog. The trip which took place in March this year was possible thanks to my wife who was there for a work trip. I simply tagged along. Prior to this trip to Hong Kong, I have never fancied the "买东西,吃东西" (Shop n' Dine) that advertises tourism in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, I just had to purchase an air ticket and 2 days accommodation to set off for a 5 days trip. The rest of the accommodation were paid for. Furthermore, I get my chance to visit my bro, Mak, in his homeland. It would also be a great idea to check out Hong Kong by person, instead of just seeing it in Hong Kong-made movies and TV serials.

[Butterfly Garden, Singapore Changi International Airport Terminal 3]
Since Fio was designated to fly Singapore Airlines (SQ), we got our first to visit the new Singapore Changi International Airport Terminal 3. T3 was definitely spanking new with a fancy sun roof that makes the whole terminal so much full of life! Since T3 is the newest international terminal addition to the existing two, it has to be different from them. The T3 transit area has a butterfly garden that is definitely worth visit! If you have the creeps for these insects, you have better not enter, as these lovely butterflies will not hesitate to 'interact' with the visitors. With so many species of butterflies at the butterfly garden, I could not help resist click a few shutters.

[Accommodation in HK]
This accommodation that we booked was recommended by Claris, Fio's colleague. Starting from HKD$270 (S$54) up, this is a budget boutique hostel/hotel which is a cheap place to rest the feet and catch the winks. We definitely did not expect to be staying the smallest accommodation ever in our entire life! That is expected for that price and accommodation in HK is very expensive, with hotels easily starting at S$100 up.

The room is equipped with a queen-sized bed and an L-shaped walkway which soon got cluttered by our luggage. The room has an LCD TV! I suspect the only reason is the lack of space to install a much cheaper box TV.

Shot from the corner of the room where the LCD TV was, you can see the on suite bathroom/toilet just beside the bed. The room is equipped all the essential sanitary amenities. The hotel occupies the fourth and fifth storey of this walk-up shop-house apartment. Our room is on the fifth storey.

The levels are connected by two lifts that bring people to the second level. Why second level and not ground floor?

Old-skool lift buttons! Bet you haven't seen them in Singapore. If you are expecting a digital display on the lift control panel, you are wrong.

Such lifts can only be seen in very old HK TV serials. Modern TV serials are usually shot in newer apartments. I get this nostalgic feeling when traveling in this tin can lift.

The lift bring us to the second level, a small desk at the corner is a meant for the night guard, an elderly man.

Around the corner is a staircase leading from street level to the second level. Immediately above the stairs is a clinic, which we never had a chance to see it operate.

On to the street level, everything seems to disappear among the bustling city lighted up by billboards and shop-houses. Yes, we did had a tough time finding the hotel and even the taxi driver has no clue. There are many of such small staircases every few metres along the row of shop-houses. These staircases lead to the apartments that are above these shop-houses. In the more sleazy streets, most likely you will find "love hotels" up these staircases. Luckily, our accommodation is located on Nathan Road (
弥敦道), immediately above the Mongkok (旺角) MTR station. We were just a minute walk to an MTR entrance. The location was fabulous, with just Langham Place across Nathan Road, with Sai Yeung Choi Street (西洋菜街; electronics and cameras) and Fa Yuen Street (花園街; food and fashion), Ladies' Street on Tung Choi Street (女人街, 通菜街; street bazaar of cheap buys largely dedicated to ladies, hence earning its alias) just behind our accommodation.

[Hing Kee Restaurant]
My bro, Mak and partner, Amy, brought us to dinner at Hing Kee Restaurant along Temple Street. Hing Kee is not only a local favourite but also one that is recommended on tourist guides. However, Hing Kee might not be the love at first sight. It is an old-skool shophouse with lots of tables scattered before its store front on the street pavement and spilling over onto the road. Something unique of restaurants and cafeteria in HK is that the kitchen is usually visible at the front of store, instead being hidden away in the rear. I can see the chef whips out their favourite dishes in an otherwise clock-work motion. At night, temple street turns into a street bazaar and food paradise. My hosts decided to show me the true blue way to the dining choices and habits of average Hong Kong-ers. So I decided to let my hosts entertain me. The must-trys at Hing Kee has got to be to Oyster Cake and Claypot Rice.

Shrimp Cake and Oyster Cake are the store's best sellers. This dish is just like the Singapore's fried oysters in egg. The ones at Hing Kee deserves two thumbs up.

Claypot Rice at Hing Kee's are not as fancy as the Singapore incarnation of the same. There are less ingredients but trust me, mix it right and it is fabulous! I had my bro show me how it is done!

Spring onion with chicken and some greens to complete the dinner.
Hing Kee Restaurant
19, Temple Street, Yau Ma Tei
5:30 p.m .till 1 a.m.

[On the Fa Yuen Street]
Fa Yuen Street (花園街) in the morning is definitely a contrast to the evening. On Fa Yuen Street, you can find a few fashion stores and more eateries. In the morning, you will see eateries packed with locals, savoring their local favorites while the working class packs a quite bite to-go.

We saw many locals queuing up at a traditional bakery picking up their breakfast-to-go. We decided to take a peek and got ourselves a local traditional confectionery, the Polo Bun (菠萝包) or pineapple bun.

Seriously, the Polo Bun definitely does not have any pineapple in it. I guess it is due to its appearance.

[Mido Cafe]
Mido Cafe (美都餐室) is another cha can teng (茶餐庭; cafeteria) that is listed on the HK tourist's guide. Mido Cafe along with Hing Kee are located on Temple Street. Since we were there, we decided to pop in and try out their store's favorite. Mido Cafe has an old-skool setting that you will always see on HK TV serials. The lady boss who sits behind the counter promptly walked over to chat, instead of stopping us from consuming our Polo Bun, she even hurried us to eat it while its hot. We also got to know from her some recommendations for good dim sum at Mongkok, but we could only grasp 50% of her cantonese.

I definitely had to order the Spare Ribs Baked Rice.
This store favourite, is an oven-baked dish of sweet and sour spare ribs sitting on a bed of fried rice and eggs, topped with a special homemade sauce concocted from fresh milk. Not cheese baked rice can compare itself to this! Heavenly! No wonder it is said to be a favourite dish of famous Hong Kong actor/director, Stephen Chow, who starred in movies such Kung Fu, CJ7, Fight Back to School, Journey to the West.

Mido Cafe (美都餐室)
63, Temple Street, Yau Ma Tei

This sums up Part 1 of our Hong Kong Trip.
I came with not much anticipation for the shop and dine, but the dining was sure making me start loving Hong Kong!
Coming up next, I would be going to a Hong Kong attraction where I got to meet my "greatest teacher"!
Stay tuned!

Photography & Editing by William Tan 2009
Documented using Nikon D200 with Tamron 18-270 VC and Panasonic LUMIX-LX3