Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Big Buddha

Lantau Island is our island. The island where we live in th town of Discovery Bay, the island where the airport is located, and which most people of Hong Kong consider the "country". 90% of it is not inhabitanted. There are small traditional fishing villages along is site of the huge new airport, but still. People come to Lantau island to go to the beaches, go boating, hike, and visit the Big Buddha. So, yesterday, we decided to visit him, too. You take the bus from our flat to the town of Tung Chung about 15 minutes away. Then you walk to the cable car area, buy tickets, and get on the cable car. My family opted for a glass bottomed one...because it would be most terrifying to the mother. There really were stunning views, but I really didn't like the trip in the cable car at all.

Always a line....

Lizzy took all the Flat SandHillians from my sister's class


He's not really scared...just trying to make it more terrifying for me.

They spent much of the long cable car ride flat on the floor watching the hikers on the trail below.

The international airport on Lantau island. Steve flies out of here.


Lots of steps to the top...

We came down from Big Buddha and rested a bit, then went to the monastery nearby.
Frankly, this place is a tourist trap, but we saw a few worshippers and they do use the temple for ceremonies.

The inside of the temple. Very shiny and golden.

Inside one of the side rooms

This was an interesting trip for us. The Big Buddha isn't new. It was built in 1993. The Po Lin monastery was built in 1906 and the Buddha statue is an extension of it. We only saw a couple monks, but they do still live there. This is the largest Buddha in this part of the world and many Buddhist folks go to it as a sort of pilgrimage now.


The Peak

Monday October 5, Steve was home from work and we decided to do our Friday field trip on Monday instead. The typhoon warnings had been taken down and though it was overcast with an occasional sprinkle, the day seemed fine for an outing. We decided on the Big Buddha on Lantau Island. Steve has never done it and the kids were all excited about riding a cable car up the mountain. Actually they were mostly excited to see me scared witless while riding the cable car up the mountain...such wonderful children. They joked about it all morning as we were getting ready, eating, and riding the bus over to Tung Chung. We got to Tung Chung at lunch time and couldnt agree on a restaurant for lunch. We searched the mall for a food court and finding none...opted for take out from a couple places. Noodles for some and McDonalds for others. We finished up in time to join the cheque for the cable cars only to find out the cars were shut down due to winds up the mountain. I'm not saying the kids jinxed themselves with disrespect to their mother...but makes you wonder!

So instead, we decided to go up The Peak on Hong Kong island. The Peak or Victori Peak is the highest point on Hong Kong island and was traditionally a place that important and high ranking colonial officials lived or vacationed. Most of them elected to be carried up the mountain.

Yes, seriously... and until 1947 only expatriates were allowed to live in the Peak residential area. No wonder they kicked the British out.

We took the MTR (train) to central and walked up to the tram station. We passed St. John's Episcopal cathedral and grounds. It is a beautiful church with a long history in HK.
Tomb of a soldier who died fighting Japan when HK was invaded.
Walk up to the tram station

We elected to ride the Peak tram up the mountain, since walking it takes Steve over an hour and it was already late in the afternoon.

Web photo of the Peak Tram

We thought it would be faster and easier for Lizzy. We were wrong about the faster portion.

Crowd waiting to get on the tram. See the crush all the way back to the entrance. It took us about 40 minutes to get to this point. And once we got into this mess, there was no turning back!

On the tram.


At the top, there is a very touristy area with a mall, several restaurants and a huge gift store. There is also a path around the peak that is much less traveled. It does indeed have stunning views of Hong Kong and is an easy hike of about a mile and a half.


Discvoery Bay in the distance from the Peak.


Rubber tree plant


This was beautiful and worth the trip. However, we all agreed we will walk up next time. And probably walk back down, too. By far the scariest part of the trip was the mini bus trip down the mountain! It's a bus that holds about 15-17 people, they are usually well worn and the drivers in Hong Kong go fast anyway. We climbed on though since it was the only bus going our way and it was beginning to rain by then. That bus hurtled down the mountain, going around these hairpin turns. We all grabbed for seat belts, but of course they didn't work. My prayers were interrupted by our driver honking at the slow taxi in front of him. I was so grateful for that taxi!! They drive on the other side of the road in England. I'm still not used to it and and it makes feel as though a crash is imminent every second anyway. I'm in a seat holding Lizzy on my lap trying not to think about the status of the brakes on this bus, the wet roads, and the driver is up there yelling and honking. We got off at his first stop even though he could have taken us farther! He kept yelling at us, "Next stop! next stop!" We just thanked him and left. I almost kissed the ground.

We took the ferry home and collapsed! That's what we get for taking a Friday field trip on a Monday!


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Scout outing, Typhoon, and a flood.


We experienced our first typhoon last week. It was frankly very uneventful. Lots of rain and wind, leaves and palm branches everywhere, but nothing stopped. We still had scouts. We still had bus service. We still had electricity and Internet. It was pretty nice!!

Lizzy and I had a Beaver scout outing on Saturday to the scout headquarters in Kowloon. Kowloon is the largest area on the peninsula attached to mainland China but still part of Hong Kong. It is a fairly short MTR ride away from here. First, we took a bus to Sunny Bay then got on the MTR and rode about 12 minutes to get the Austin stop, then walked about a block to the place. As with everything in HK, the scout headquarters is part of a large building that houses lots of other businesses or services, too. Scout HQ is floors 8-11 of a building in which 1-7 is a hotel and a restaurant. Other businesses have offices on floors 12 to 21. It takes a little getting used to...everything is vertical!

Inside the HQ is office space for each of the scout executives who run a district of scouts in HK. Ours is the 29th and he is English speaking. Several others are also English speaking, but the majority speak Mandarin or Cantonese depending on their district. There is also a large scout shop and a scouting museum.

Scout museum entrance

HK scouting through the years of uniforms

A display about Lord Baden-Powell, founder of Boy Scouts.

Lizzys Beaver scout group. All scouts here in HK is co-ed.

The scout shop

I was able to purchase uniforms for Paul and Sam while I was here. I wa dreading this purchase, since U.S. Boy Scout uniforms are so expensive. I thought for sure HK uniforms would be way more... Instead I was pleasantly surprised to find my end cost for two shorts, 1 pair long pants, two shirts, two pairs socks, two belts, and two berets...$75. Seriously, I paid $45 for one pair of scout pants before we left the U.S.! AND they make long thin pants tailor made for Paul. I almost got back in line to buy more!

Lizzy and I made it home in the rain, but we actually only walked in a little sprinkle twice the whole time we were gone. Covered bus stops, covered walkways, underground walking streets are everywhere, so we only walked outside for a block and that was covered. I was relieved to make it home, though and Steve and I sat up late that night enjoying the rain and quiet.

About 10:30pm, Paul came rushing downstairs and said,"I don't want to panic anyone, but my room and John's is flooding." We rushed upstairs to find about an inch of water flowing in their rooms and into the hallway. The terrace that runs along the front of all the 2nd floor bedrooms is long and thin and has a small drain in one corner....which was stopped up by leaves and debris. Steve opened the door to the terrace, water rushed inside. He stepped out onto the terrace and was standing in about a foot of water. For a minute or two I couldn't think of how to even begin on this much water...with more flowing in every second. Then I grabbed Paul's curtains off the floor and saw his back terrace. I yelled for them to grab brooms, opened the back terrace door and we began sweeping water out the other door. It was insane really. Water was about 3-4 inches deep, flowing over our feet as we swept. Steve was bailing it off the front terrace as fast as he could, but rain was pouring in. Finally he could see the problem, fixed it and the terrace began draining. As water stopped flowing in, we were able to sweep most of it out, then mop up the rest with towels, mops and everything else we could find. Took till about midnight to get things dried up enough to go to bed....I did six loads do laundry the next day. And John and Paul spent the day drying out the things that were still in boxes in their rooms during the flood.


Way at the end is the tiny corner drain...there's a pipe going into it draining something somewhere inside. What a horrible design for a rainy tropical apartment terrace!!! No other drain holes anywhere. So now we know....when typhoons come...clean the drains!