Hong Kong, China

Initially we planned to use Hong Kong as a "base camp" to explore the surrounding areas -- Hong Kong itself, Macau and perhaps Zhuhai. But due to the then ongoing protests, we changed our plan: we shortened our stay to three days and only stayed around the airport. During our first stay (before we went to Cambodia), we stayed at a hotel connected to the Citygate Outlets, a posh and expensive, if uncharacteristic, shopping mall.

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Citygate Outlets

Holiday decorations at Citygate Outlets

On our second stint (after we came back from Cambodia and before we came home), we made our only excursion in Hong Kong -- to Po Lin Monastery and the Big Buddha. This is a place we have been to before, last time in 2004, but this time we took the Ngong Ping 360 cable car which was not completed last time we were here. I have taken quite a few cable car rides in the world, I must say this is one of the more impressive ones -- the route would make a near-90 degree turn, double crossing a narrow strait between Lantau Island and the artificial island of Chek Lap Kok (where the airport is). The view is quite nice as the car ascended.

Cable Car

Cable Car

We picked the "crystal cabin" which has a glass bottom, through which we could see the mountain slopes of Lantau.

Through the floor of the cable car

We also caught a glimpse of the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge.

Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge

The cable car deposited us at Ngong Ping Village. This may have been a mountain village before, but now it is highly commercialized and purely catered to tourists.

Ngong Ping Village

We went to the complex where the Po Lin Monastery and the Tian Tan Big Buddha are, through the grand gateway or entrance.


The Big Buddha was in all his serenity. However, I always had mixed feelings about this place: on one hand, it is a nice setting with a network of trails into the mountains and the view is breathtaking. On the other hand, it is highly commercialized. For example, to visit the exhibition in the chamber just below the Big Buddha statue, you'd have to buy a vegetarian meal ticket. This is supposed to be a place for spiritual purification and enlightenment, but one has to wonder if the statue, the monastery and the Ngong Ping "Village" exist only as money-generating tourist traps.

Big Buddha

Big Buddha

A view of the Po Lin Monastery.

Po Lin Monastery

Po Lin Monastery

Gold-gilded Buddha statues in the monastery.

Buddha Statues

However, the mountain setting is lovely. We walked along the trails around the monastery and saw some birds, including several Pallas's Leaf Warbler, including a pair in the courtyard of the monastery itself. I can imagine that, in the future on our transit through Hong Kong, we may visit this place again just for the trails (the statues and monastery are no longer of interest to me).

Pallas's Leaf Warbler

Pallas's Leaf Warbler

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