Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday, January 31st, University and Tung Chung


The hotel we’ve been staying at is quite distant from the airport.  And our flight tomorrow morning to Cambodia is an early one.  So we decided to move to one which is over on Lantau Island, right next to it.  We checked out this morning, left our luggage there, and took the subway to the University.  It’s a beautiful set of three campuses built into a large hillside.  Because it’s nearly the Chinese New Year, there’s not many students around.  But we did find a student union, and listened to a great jazz rendition of “All of me”.  It was very strange to hear a 1950’s classic coming from some young Chinese musicians.

We hiked down a trail from the campus to the subway station, and returned to our hotel to pick up our luggage.  The hotel shuttle took us to the Kowloon subway station, and we took a subway route directly out to the Lantau Island town of Tung Chung. 

The last night here will probably be low key.  There’s a big shopping center next door to the hotel, and we’ll find a restaurant there.  Our meals have been pretty much the kind of food you’d expect.  Breakfasts have been among the best we’ve ever had at a hotel.  I’m enjoying having a chef on hand to prepare any kind of omlet, and then a buffet filled with six entrees, lots of vegetables, fruit, and cereals.  But it takes getting to lunch and dinner to actually eat anything which feels asian, and it’s still not that different from what you can get at a good Chinese restaurant in SF.   We’ll report more on food when we get to the countryside’s on our tours.

For a link to the few photos for today, click on: Monday's Photos


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday, January 30, Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery, Kowloon


Thanks to Lonely Planet online, we found a terrific day trip destination only seven metro stations, and a couple of blocks from our hotel.  It's the combination Nan Lian Gsrden and Chi Lin Nunnery, near the Diamond Hill Metro, on the other side of Hollywood Plaza, in Kowloon.  The Garden, a 3.5 hectare, Tang Dynasty (618-907AD) design, is landscaped with large, unusually smooth sedimentary rocks from Guangxi Province which were first excavated in 1998. Thousands of trees including Buddhist Pine, Cypress, Black Pine, Orange Jasmine, Chinese Hackberry, India Laurel Fig and Elm have been planted, and timber structures in Tang architectural style have been built including the gold-plated Pavilion of Absolute Perfection, terraces, verandas, halls, bridges and black lintel gate at the garden entrance.  

The Chi Lin Nunnery, a 33,000 square meter complex, is the largest wooden structure in the world built without nails.   It contains a nunnery, temple halls, visitor hostels, and a vegeterian restaurant (beneath a waterfall).     We were given an added bonus, as Cheung Pak Yue's Bamboo Carvings were on display.  As no photographs are allowed, you're going to have to take our word that it is truly hard to imagine such intricate and exact etchings and cuts could be done on the surface and depths of bamboo segments.  An art practiced for at leas seven hundred years in China has not diminished in the quality of its products.  Yue's skill, and his accompanying commentary in the titles of his work, provides an interesting insight into the Chinese social and familial worlds of the 1300s.

Tonight, we're going back out for a walk through a night market near our hotel, and we're going to try to catch what we've heard is a spectacular light show at 8pm on the Hong Kong waterfront.  We saw the one at the Eiffel Tower on our trip to France, so we'll let you know if this one tops it.  

To view all of the photos taken today, click on: Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saturday, January 29th, Lantau Island.


What has only 88,000 people living on it, is bigger than Hong Kong Island, and everyone who's been to Hong Kong since 1998 has visited it?  Lantau Island is the home of the HK Airport, has the longest suspension bridge carrying cars and trains in the world, and also boasts the largest sitting Budha in the world sitting on top of one of its mountains.

Since China wouldn't include it in the treaty which gave the British control of Hong Kong in 1842, it remained undeveloped until the territories were reclaimed by China in 1997.  Now, Hong Kong is trying to provide their nearly seven million residents with a relatively unspoiled open space park, funded by an airport, a Disney Resort, and an awesome skyway cablecar to the island's inland.

After a full day on the Island, we returned to Kowloon, had dinner at a very upscale YMCA, and saw China's first rock musical (The Monkey King) at the Kowloon Cultural Center.  It was two and a half hours of excellent surreal story-telling, dance, martial arts, gymnastics, big drums, and rock.

Here's a link to the complete album of photos for today: Lantau Island


Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday, January 29th, Kowloon to Hong Kong


Taking the city tour when you first get to a big new place is a smart idea.  It provides you not only with a good sense of the major tourist spots, but is an orientation to the bus and other public transportation routes to use later.  So we took the morning boat to see the coasts of Kowloon and Hong Kong on beautiful Chinese ferry.  After lunch at a dim sum restaurant in the Chinese Cultural Center, we traveled by bus under the bay to Hong Kong and visited Victoria Peak, a jewelry factory (seems to be required on these kinds of tours), drove through Repulse Bay, and ended in Stanley's Marketplace.

We are also signed up for a half-day tour tomorrow, which takes us to many more places, and should assist us to put a plan together for the use of our multi-modal transit pass for the next three days.  We're also going to a rock musical tomorrow evening at the City Hall, and to watch the light show on the Bay at dusk.

It's off to dinner on the top floor of our hotel tonight.  We're actually tired from all this touring.

Here's the link to the complete set of photos: Kowloon-Hong Kong Photos.