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Week 8 - Lantau

Eighth entry of my year in HK. Trip to Lantau Island, which contains HK's airport, Big Buddha and Disneyland Resort.

sunny 33 °C
View Bham->Dam->HK on David Zhao's travel map.

Posted on 20th September 2020

Huge thanks to Dr and Mrs Holliday for awarding me the Nick Holliday Travel Scholarship, in memory of their son Nick who was a geography teacher at KES. He was an avid traveller, explorer and climber, and died tragically in a climbing accident doing what he loved. The Scholarship helps fund the travels of KES students who aspire to travel, which I am sure Nick would be very proud of.

At the time of writing school has been open for three days, though only for K1, K2 and Year 1 (K1 and K2 are the two reception years in HK). Only taught the Year 1-5 children of teachers living onsite from 24th August up until that point. Quite a sad return for the kids, who were strictly not allowed to take off their masks unless eating or drinking, and told to social distance even at break times. Also must have been intimidating for them to see six members of staff standing at the doors equipped with temperature-scanning guns and stacks of health declaration forms upon arrival. Not the most welcoming arrival, though unfortunately how it has to be, with each child having their temperature checked upon entry. Upsetting to see teachers enforce social distancing amongst the Year 1s when literally all they want to do is play with each other. Tomorrow the Year 6s are coming back, though boarding for them only starts Tuesday evening; the other years start the following Tuesday. Our role as a Gap Tutor is to act as a mentor for pupils in Year 6-8, so it is exciting and relieving to finally start the job we signed up for, and a good sign that things seem to be going well in HK in terms of COVID.
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Health declaration form and temperature testing gun used on entering children

Standard of private healthcare in HK is ridiculously good. Still haven't fully recovered from my ankle ligament injury in January so had to see a GP to get a physio referral. Private healthcare system is so efficient that I saw my GP in the morning, and after he decided I needed an MRI scan he booked one for me in the afternoon on the same day; I was seriously amazed. GP and medical imaging centre were in Central which is composed solely of high-rise buildings, in which a company occupies each floor. In this case, the imaging centre where I had my MRI was on floor 7, whilst there was a cinema on floor 3. There were shopping retailers and restaurants in the building too, all independent of each other. As I had five hours between my GP appointment and my scan I went and saw Mulan, which all political conflicts aside I really enjoyed.
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Varied list of companies in Entertainment Building, Central, and the fancy cinema four floors below the place where I had my MRI

Private hospitals are amazing physically too. They're built as modern high-rise buildings which is weird - they literally have 20 floors - and the interior is similar to that of an expensive hotel. One in Tsuen Wan (I had to go with Mr. I-Run-Into-Walls to get his casts taken off) has a red carpet by the entrance, classy leather sofas in the waiting room and a very fancy elevator with gold railings and a marble floor. Strange to think somebody has invested a substantial sum of money into making a hospital look nice; I'd have thought the majority of a hospital's revenue would go into medical equipment and supplies. Think about how much money they must receive in order to be able to afford renovations of that quality and still have top-class equipment; the physio room had a machine that wouldn't look out of place in a spaceship as well as top-of-the-range gym equipment.
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Exterior and interior (lobby) of Adventist Hospital, Tsuen Wan, and the physio room

Happy to have found an abundance of cheap restaurants serving high-quality food in Tsuen Wan, given how expensive food (or just everything in general) is in HK. Restaurant called Dumpling House serves big bowls of fried/boiled dumplings for £5. Sushi restaurants typically cost around £40 a head for a filling meal, but in Tsuen Wan a place called Sushi Takeout sells a big tray of varied sushi - more than you can eat - for £15. Tsuen Wan will definitely become our go-to place for affordable Asian food. Staff only speak Mandarin as it is a very traditional area, which explains why prices are lower than more western commercial areas.
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Dumpling House counter, their food, and Sushi Takeaway set

Saw some buildings under construction in Tsuen Wan. Found it very interesting how they used bamboo as the support structures, rather than metal pipes like in England. Interesting how the workers put complete faith in bamboo sticks - very light and hollow - to hold up the frames of large expensive buildings, though it clearly seems to work. Just instinctively seems like metal supports are much more secure than light wood, even with the knowledge of how strong bamboo is; it just intuitively looks flimsy. Amazing how even with HK's tremendous technological advances, they still resort to traditional methods for construction supports; a very 'don't fix what isn't broken' approach.
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Construction work using bamboo as support beams

Went to Lantau Island on Sunday, where many of HK's main tourist attractions are: Disneyland, Big Buddha and Ngong Ping Cable Car. Disneyland actually opened on Saturday after nearly two months closed, though we didn't go. Instead we took the Ngong Ping Cable Car to the top of a mountain, where the Big Buddha - the second largest bronze Buddha statue in the world - is located. Whilst HK has a bustling congested city, Lantau island is very remote and peaceful; saw lots of people cycling around and the air quality is very good. Comprised of beautiful beaches, though with more plastic than ideal, and stunning mountain ranges as well as plenty of traditional Chinese 'paifang' buildings. It is the complete opposite to the parts of HK we have explored so far, which have been the nightlife hubs in the city centre. Honestly such a beautiful island. Our cable car had a glass floor which allowed us to see below, where there was rainforest-style landscape and waterfalls. Route is around 5km long, which gave us half an hour of taking in the peaceful nature scene about us.
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View from the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car, Lantau Island

Cable car stopped at the mountain peak. There's a tourist village at the top with souvenir shops and restaurants serving westernised Chinese food. However deeper into the village are traditional Chinese buildings, as well as the Big Buddha. Path leading from the tourist village to the Buddha was beautiful: twelve stone soldiers called the 'Divine Generals' stood along the path, whilst the style of stone flooring was unique. In the background was a monastery, with traditional 'paifang' style roof, and further behind that was another mountain peak that rose above the one we were stood on. Passed under a huge 'paifang' gate that looked ancient though still in very good condition. Made of white stone with Chinese characters written in gold at the top of the pillars, whilst stone dragons stood guard at the base of them. Even the stairs leading up to the Buddha were beautiful, with carvings engraved into the railings and lantern-shaped ornaments on the stair posts. The Buddha was immense in size and incredibly detailed. Many people came to pray before the Buddha; seems it is also a religious site as well as a tourist attraction.
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Path leading to the Buddha with Divine Generals along the sides, huge 'paifang' gate, and the stairs leading up to the Big Buddha

Po Lin Monastery was a five minute walk from the Buddha so we went there afterwards. Sacred site so no photos of the interior allowed but the exterior was amazing, with a similar structure to the temple at the top of the huge flight of stairs in Kung Fu Panda. Primarily red and gold - symbolic of good luck and prosperity in China - though also touches of blue, green and violet to make it quite compelling. Can't get over how detailed it is, with golden dragon engravings and golden lanterns spread across the tiles. One of the most beautiful things I've ever seen up close: the physical detail, the vivid yet calm colour and general satisfaction you get from how perfectly designed it is create a genuine sense of awe.
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Po Lin Monastery, Lantau

Finished our memorable trip in Tai O fishing village, still on Lantau but at sea-level. Very traditional, with no flashy western restaurants but authentic street food and self-constructed buildings suspended above the water by wooden beams. Interesting how the houses didn't have gardens, porches, driveways etc. but rather a ladder going straight down to the water, and a fishing boat moored alongside the ladder. No pavements; the residents literally go straight from their home into their fishing boat and out to sea, or to the land-based settlement that is modest in comparison to the glamours of Central. Really is such a huge variation in lifestyle in HK. Bought grilled fresh cuttlefish which was absolutely delicious, and went on a boat trip out to sea to try and see the pink dolphins that HK is home to. Picturesque views on the boat - went at the best time of day at sunset - but unfortunately no dolphins.
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Tai O fishing village and sunset from the boat

Got a ferry back to Tuen Mun afterwards and saw the city backlighted by the sunset which was astonishing. Just one of the many islands that form HK, each offering a slightly different taste of traditional Chinese culture (e.g.) Lamma Island and Cheung Chau. Will have explored all of them thoroughly come the end of the year.
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HK skyline at sunset seen from the boat

Dave

Posted by David Zhao 04:20 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged lantau

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