Last month I went to Sri Lanka for a friends wedding. Flying to and from Sri Lanka there was a day lay over in Hong Kong each way – arriving early in the morning and leaving late at night. There was no way I wanted to spend around 15 hours sitting in an airport, and I was in another country and I wanted to explore! I did some googling, asked some friends, and made a short list of things I wanted to see. I tried to be conservative, as I wasn’t sure how long things would take, so on the way over, Victoria Peak, on the way back, Tian Tan Buddha, with whatever food and extra sight seeing I could fit in!
Day 1: Victoria Peak
Arriving at the airport at 5am, we were already tired after a difficult flight. I had take some drowsy motion sickness tablets to help me sleep on the plane for the first time, but they just made me drowsy and cranky, unable to sleep solidly and unable to wake fully, so arriving at the airport I already wasn’t feeling tops. I found a place to charge my phone and surprise, Hong Kong airport has free wifi! Winner! This meant I was able to find out more details about how to get around Hong Kong, where to go, and it’s all so easy.
We hopped on the airport train over to central station, everything is easy to follow and most things have English as well anyway, making it incredibly easy to get around. With it still being so early in the morning, we walked around the city and headed for a peak at Hong Kong Park, before making our way to the tram line. The tram ride was amazing, it was incredibly steep, and I was amazed at the sheer size of the buildings, hundreds of stories high, accentuating the ridiculous angle of the tram line climbing the mountain. Not a single photo captured this, no matter how hard I tried!
It was cool at the top, a little humid, but we had a lovely view of the sunrise. We were there so early that nothing was open, so we walked around the mountain, getting more and more wonderful views of the city. I had no idea how green Hong Kong was. All the buildings were nestled into the mountain side, towering into the sky, but still looked like little matchsticks compared to the mountains and the harbour. Someone had mentioned that Hong Kong was 75% green space, and that was beautiful. It was serene standing above the city watching the boats moving up and down the harbour. A great place.
We headed down to central, caught the ferry across the harbour to Kowloon, walking up and down the waterfront, relaxing in the sun, and perusing the shops for some delicious dumplings and buns. As I am a worry wort about missing planes, we headed back to the airport very very early, allowing time for a few restless naps. I was definitely in love with Hong Kong at that point and very excited to have another day there on the return flight.
Day 2: Tian Tan Buddha
It was another long day before arriving in Hong Kong on the return journey, barely any sleep on the flight, but I was determined to get out there! Another pause in the airport to charge the phone and search some tips and details for transport. A friend gave me a list of places to try to see, all of which wouldn’t occur in a single day (especially as we had arrived later than expected due to delays), so I chose one option with the potential to see other things if time permitted.
Tian Tan Buddha. Many people had raved about it, and that the gondola ride to the summit was picture perfect. We headed over to the gondola on the bus (what awesome double decker buses!) and my goodness what a line! I had read reviews mentioning lines, but this was intense. Even after buying the ticket, there was a line on the other side of the ticket booth. This made it a little less worthwhile to be honest, not quite worth the cost, and in hindsight we had looked up trails to walk up the mountain and should have done that instead! There were a couple of trails up and if we had of left when we first turned up, we would have well and truly beaten the gondola up the hill!
That aside, the mountain was covered in a heavy clouds – again, in hindsight we probably could have chosen a better activity for the day than a cloud covered mountain, but it was still worth the experience.
We couldn’t see the Buddha, at his feet we could only see a giant shadow. This different perspective on the Buddha offered up a unique experience. The mood was eerie, everyone was quiet and great reverence was felt. It was surreal. The Wisdom Path especially touched me. There weren’t many people at the top, at least not at the Wisdom Path, so I was able to walk around the paths alone, connecting with my thoughts. It would have been scenically beautiful in the sunlight, but was even more touching in the mist.
We headed back, ate some hot corn and weird but delicious cuttlefish dumplings before heading back to the gondola line. I decided I would run down the path, as I would probably get to the bottom before the gondola did, and I was desperate for more time in these gorgeous mountains. I started jogging along the path, a very uneven cemented rock surface, when the skies opened up. It started raining, lots of lightning and thunder, and I suddenly started worrying that I wouldn’t make it back to my plane on time, that I might get lost or take a lot longer than I thought to get to the bottom, my mind was racing! I headed back to the gondola, which had been shut down, and was popped on a bus to the bottom.
As the bus drove down the hill, the clouds moved and finally, from a distance, we saw the Buddha. It’s size was definitely under appreciated in the clouds, but it was towering over the mountains as we drove through some crazy rain to get back to the bottom.
This little trip took up most of our time. We wanted to get back to the airport, still a bit earlier than required, but we wanted to try to nap. I had some more amazing food on the way back, and a second day in Hong Kong was definitely not enough to satiate me! I will be going back for sure, there is so much more I want to see, to do, and I can’t wait for the next chance to meet Hong Kong again.