Ngong Ping Village. Tian Tin Buddha. Po Lin Monastery. Skyrail.
Arriving at the Hongkong Int’l Airport was irate free, except for the very long queue in the Immigration which took us an hour, even with 6-counters open. It was long enough that our luggage carousel had already another set when we’re done. It took us another hour to have lunch, make some calls back home, deposited our luggage at the Airport and purchased an Octopus Card at the airport customer service, Hongkong’s (“HKG“) prepaid and refundable card used for public transport (the MTR and Bus) stores, groceries and fast foods. It’s a must if you go around HKG by foot and public transport, just like we did. It’s convenient, reliable and very efficient!
Upon arrival, went direct to Ngong Ping Village where the Tian Tin Buddha (also known “Po Lin Buddha”) and Po Lin Monastery are located. From the airport, we took the Bus going to Tung Chung and started swiping our Octopus card. Opposite the bus station in Tung Chung is the Skyrail, the station of the cable cars going straight to the Po Lin Buddha, all under HGK’s tourism project called Ngong Ping 360. Thanks to a stewardess of Cathay Pacific who was with us in the bus and gave us all the necessary directions. Unfortunately, I forgot her name but she was of big help.
The Skyrail underwent recent maintenance and just (re)opened for operation to the public several days before we arrived. They have a new attraction called the “crystal cabin” with transparent floor but we did not take it because aside from additional fee, we thought the ordinary cabin should be as good [see cabin fees here]. The cabins can accommodate up to 7-passengers and for a long 25-minutes ride overlooking Ngong Ping’s terrain, I came to realize why it’s called Ngong Ping 360. There are several ride packages but we took the one-way because we wanted to experience the bus on our return.
The ride is good. Cables are connected to towers like huge clothes line. At the middle, the ride is steady but when it goes up to the connecting towers, it becomes significantly slower which may make you worry especially on its first ascent because you may think there’s something wrong, then becomes considerably faster on its descent. It’s suppose to be like when I realized there is such a thing as the law of gravity! After indulging the 360 view of Ngong Ping, taking pictures, changing seating positions and making up stories of the passengers of the cars on the opposite cable, we realized we were near our destination when we caught a sight of the Buddha. So Big. So huge. So peacefully seated and so imposing in such high elevation.
From where we got off, a leisure walk in the promenade and along several shops led us to the foot going up to the Buddha. We then started our ascent to the 320-steps of marble and concrete, and started to me amazed on how huge and magnificent the Buddha is, considered as the world’s largest seated outdoor bronze Buddha!
After going around the several podiums of the Buddha taking pictures countless times, it was time to go down. We took the bus going back to Tung Chung and it was a long 45-minute ride on zig-zagging road which I did not enjoy because of motion sickness. Too bad. I should have imposed on a two-way ticket in the cable car! When we got off the bus, we rested (that’s what I wanted to think but in reality, the reason is for me to get settled!) at the nearby shopping mall, the Citigate Outlet.
It was already dark when we got back to the airport to take our luggage. To the hotel, we took the Airport Express, a service train of the airport for a separate fee, unlike the train that services only the Airport and got off at Kowloon Station in no time! Exhaustion setting in, we took a taxi to our hotel and ended paying HK$70, inclusive of the charge for “location” whatever that means. It should have been on HK$40, we were informed later. Our driver did nothing but to talk his tongue over his phone in his loudest all the time! Had we known better earlier, we should have taken the MTR instead, afterall we already had the Octopus card.
While in the taxi, we tried looking around for some signs of the Symphony of Lights show because it was already 8:00 PM. It is about that time that the show goes on. We have seen some ordinary moving neon and laser lights in some buildings, but it was so ordinary that we thought it was not the Symphony of Lights, well maybe not just yet.
Finally, we reached our hotel, Regal Kowloon in Mody Road, East Tsim Sha Tsui. After check-in and finally disembarking our load in the room, we went down to scout some place to dine. Thanks for a good hotel location, everything we wanted appears to have come so easy. Just across the park (Centennial Park) in front of the Hotel was a restaurant called Nara Thai. It was almost SRO so we took our queue from there that the food must really be good – and so it was!
After dinner to went back to the hotel. In HKG, Pinoy’s are everywhere. The entertainers in the hotel lobby restaurant are Pinoy’s. There should be no worries traveling HKG, most often, there’s a Pinoy somewhere. If there are none, there’s a lot westerners or the local Police who are always visible and working in stores and establishments who speak English, but not the true-blue Honkee’s, most often they do not know English.
Postcript: Before we left Manila, there are (other) Airport Fees to be paid. Not being part of an organized tour, sharing it may be of good help. In Manila, each passenger have to pay a Travel Tax of P1,750, less 50% for children with the corresponding (Rebate) Certificate from the Dep’t. of Foreign Affairs which must be secured before travel. In addition, a Terminal Fee of P600 per passenger, children or adult must also be paid. Upon return from HKG, you need not pay anything, hence no worries possible fees to be paid because the Fess should already be included in your return ticket.