A new day, a new series of adventures awaited. I had a lot of ground to cover with the daily focus being landmarks on Lantau Island and the airport at Chek Lap Kok. But first thing’s first, breakfast.
Following another successful breakfast meal at the hotel, I walked to the ‘Olympic’ MTR Station and caught the train to ‘Tsing Yi’ Station, a major interchange on Tsing Yi Island and a busy hive of activity during the morning rush hour. From there, a short taxi ride landed me at the ‘Lantau Link’ Visitors Centre.
A short walk to the virtually empty viewing platform revealed the purpose of my visit, the impressive Tsing Ma Bridge, linking Tsing Yi Island to Lantau Island. The bridge’s main purpose, however, is to link Hong Kong to its international airport.
Hailing a taxi from the Lantau Link Visitors Centre is difficult due to its location. The time of day I was there as well as the fact that it was a weekday did not help either. Therefore, I had to overcome my initial misgivings and experiences in other cities, and decided to use Uber.
It was the first of many trips I have made in Hong Kong due to the poor taxi service I have encountered while there. For similar reasons, Uber is very popular in Hong Kong and proved to be a worthy alternative to the local urban red taxis. Since the local taxis are cheap, Uber is also cheap, compared to other major cities. A friendly young guy in a clean and convenient car arrived several minutes later.
My destination was the Hong Kong International Airport, a landmark in its own right, consistently ranked as one of the best airports in the world. With the necessary permit in place, I set up my camera, capturing the morning activity inside the terminal and surrounding area. Since my schedule was tight, I left after a fairly short period of time with the intention of returning later. I hailed a Lantau Island blue taxi and headed to the Tung Chung Station.
By far the cable car is the better experience, a 25+ minute ride with amazing views of Lantau Island which ends at the culturally themed tourist attraction of Ngong Ping Village. Unfortunately, the cable car was closed for maintenance. That left the bus as the most economic option to get to the monastery. It took just under an hour to get to the Ngong Ping Village bus depot. Once there, it was a short walk to the Po Lin Monastery grounds.
By the time I arrived at the Monastery, the outside temperature was around 30 degrees Celsius. The clear blue sky and sun’s rays raised the temperature even more. Seeking shelter under a shaded tree or building was a blessed relief for myself and the camera equipment.
The hot weather did not detract from the beauty of the monastery, nor the ambiance of the place. The various halls of the monastery are impressive and very well maintained. It is considered to be an important Buddhist centre in Hong Kong.
In 1993, the monastery built the Tian Tan Buddha, aka’ ‘The Big Buddha’, a 34 meter and 250 metric ton statue. Not only does the impressive statue attract many tourists but also many Buddhist pilgrims from across the world.
Climbing the steep stairs to the top of the Buddha statue on this hot day was challenging but that didn’t stop the MANY visitors of all ages from doing so. The view from the top is breathtaking and is a prime spot for taking photos (and in my case, filming).
Another cool feature of the monastery grounds were the free roaming cows who garnered lots of tourist attention. The demand for selfies with the cows was high. The cows did not seem to mind.
The Ngong Ping Village had the vibe of a Disney style amusement park, sans the rides. There are shops that sell trinkets / souvenirs and restaurants, providing instant local comfort food. Apparently, there are street shows / performers as well but I did not stay long enough to see them. The day was passing by and I still had to film other places while there was still light outside. Since I was pressed for time, I hailed a blue taxi. While making its way back to the airport, I took a nap.
I reserved my second visit of the day to the airport, mainly for filming from the official viewing area, known as the ‘Skydeck’. It is accessed from terminal two’s Aviation Discovery Centre. The ‘Skydeck’ provided excellent views of the airport grounds, including incoming and departing flights from both runways.
There were several aviation photography enthusiasts. Some boasted impressive cameras with large telescopic lenses. Others with more modest gear. All were clicking away while the endless stream of jets landed or took off from the airport. I joined the party.
The timing could not have been better since I was there before, during and after sunset. Satisfied with the footage captured, I bid farewell to the ‘Skydeck’ and caught the MTR airport express en route to Hong Kong Station. After a ‘fuel stop’ at the good (but over-hyped in my opinion) ‘Tim Ho Wan’ restaurant in the station, I took to the streets of Central for some Friday night ‘action’.
Where does one go on a Friday night in Hong Kong to capture the celebration of the upcoming weekend? Well, you go to Lan Kwai Fong of course! Locally known as ‘LKF’, the area is awash with people spilling out of the bars / restaurants and onto the streets. The sound of music and chatter are constant, volume levels are set to maximum. Alcohol is consumed by the truck load. Everyone is happy. Since I was ‘on the job’, I did not partake in the festivities directly. But I was in the thick of it, documenting it via the camera lens.
I continued to SoHo, capturing some of the nightlife there as well. 3 days of constant walking and filming had started to take a toll on my feet. Jet lag was also a constant nuisance. I was physically drained for the day. All I wanted to do is to climb into my hotel room bed as quickly as possible.
This is when my ‘honeymoon’ period with the local urban red taxis came to an end. The first taxi driver flat out refused to take me to my hotel. The second taxi driver at least pointed me towards a taxi that was willing to cross the harbour and take me back to the Kowloon side.
I later discovered that one of the most annoying things taxi drivers do in Hong Kong is to refuse to take customers across the harbour at night, especially on weekends, and especially if you are a foreigner / tourist who does not speak Cantonese or Mandarin. This very poor service practice was a complete opposite to the other superb transportation options in Hong Kong.
When I finally got back to my hotel room, I was tired, grumpy and with sore feet. The hot rain shower took care of the sore feet and grumpiness. The bed took care of the rest.