Sunday, August 28, 2005

Dave's Travelogue, Episode the Second

This was August 8, 2005, while Dave was still in Hong Kong, waiting for his Visa to be approved.

I read in my guidebook that giving out namecards (business cards) was important and
somewhat ceremonial in Hong Kong. This explains the confusion when I failed to have
one when applying for my mainland visa. The person helping me had to call someone
to see what to do. I have some business cards at home, but they are from when
my title, phone number, and department was different. Dave the Barbarian.

Sunday I decided to see sites on Lantau island (the closest island) instead of traveling to
Hong Kong island. I first went to see Po Lin (Precious Lotus) Monastery, where they
have the largest seated, outdoor, bronze Buddha in the world. I also decided on shorts
and short sleeves, unlike Saturday.

The Hotel provides a bus to Tung Chung bus/rail station, past the kind of bridges, bays,
high rises, and vegetation that I always imagined Hawaii must have. The bus station
is built into a mall. From there I must get on local bus 23 to Po Lin.

Bus 23 takes me over the island, which is considerably less civilized than all I have seen
so far. Even for a me, the roads seem impossibly narrow and winding. If you are
not going up a steep, curvy hill, then you are going down a steep, curvy hill. I was worried
about our brakes. Half of it is single lane, with convex mirrors to allow you stop and
let the other vehicle go past. Most of the vehicles are buses. This is some of the most
populated area in the world.

There are many staircases built into the sides of the hills, allowing foot traffic to take
shortcuts. Many hillsides are covered with a lumpy coating of concrete, punctured with
weep holes, to prevent landslides.

There are apparently larger Buddhas elsewhere, but at 26.4 meters, this was big enough
for me. He is seated on top of a hill overlooking the monastery, with 260 steps
leading up the hill. Very pretty hills and valleys, but shrouded in mist.

You must buy a ticket to get inside the museum, which is what Buddha sits on. Inside
there are several large murals of important events in Buddha’s life, but no cameras allowed.

The monastery is pretty, with probably as many believers as tourists walking around.
There is much incense burning, in various incense pots. The buildings have relief carvings on the walls of celestial beings and dragons.

I decided to get adventurous, and got on the bus to the fishing village Tai O. It looked a lot
like the poor Mexican villages you see in Hollywood movies. Buildings labeled restaurants
did not inspire me to eat. I walked up the market street, looking at all the trinkets and
dried seafood for sale. I didn’t recognize many of the dried foods, which looked like torn
bits of rawhide, in shades of yellow and tan. There were some live eels and fish also.

Back at the bus station, I tried to escape the mall to see the local fort before my bus to
the hotel was due, but the security guard did not know what a “fort” was, so I settled
for a McChicken and a McFlurry. Hey, I have five months in China, I don’t have to eat
local food every meal.

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