Although we were both exhausted after a long first day, we didn’t manage to sleep through the night again, waking around 3:00am. Turning your clock around 12 hours is a difficult thing to do and waking up super early makes for very long days. Suffice to say we decided to stop tossing and turning around 4:00am so we had plenty of time to review the day prior, shower, pack up our luggage and find a cab. We left around 7:00am to go to the Kowloon side to meet Karen and Geoff at their hotel, the Marco Polo. After leaving our luggage with their hotel concierge, we were ready to go for the day.
We had decided to take a walk around the hotel area as it was incredibly decorated with gigantic Christmas ornaments. There were numerous displays that we had seen the previous day however in the afternoon they had been very crowded with people. At this hour, there were very few people around and we could get some great shots of the beautiful displays.
Our meeting place for our tour was at the Peninsula Hotel that was also done up spectacularly with a huge Christmas tree and decorations all over the lobby. Maggie had told us the day prior that the Chinese people love Christmas for the splendour and the music so the merchants and hotels in Hong Kong do Christmas in a large way.
We boarded the bus, transferred back to Central side and waited for the Lantau ferry. It took us approximately 30 minutes to cross to the island. Lantau Island is the largest island in Hong Kong (twice the size of Hong Kong Island) however there are only 45,000 people living there compared to 1.4 million on Hong Kong Island. It is mostly mountainous with a huge freshwater reservoir. It has mainly been home to fisherman and their families who live on stilt homes in fishing villages spread across the island. When Hong Kong developed their new airport on the island, the island became more populated to support the airport. Since that time several other large projects have been built on the island including Hong Kong Disney World and the Ngong Ping 360 cable car. Also of note is that Lantau Island houses 6 different prisons ranging from correctional institutions to maximum security facilities.
Our first stop on our tour was at Upper Cheung Sha Beach. This was a stunning beach with absolutely no one on it. Our guide told us that cars are very limited on the island. There are few permits issued to residents and for people to enjoy the beach they would have to take a public bus to get there. For many, they would rather go to a beach closer to their neighbourhood then spend time trying to get to the nicer beaches in this area. We quite enjoyed it and wished the tour had included some time to relax surrounded by such beauty.
Our next stop was at the Tai O fishing village and market. This village is more than 3 centuries old. Our tour guide took us on a stroll through the market to show us the cured and salted products that are produced there. Many kinds of fish and seafood were available in dried formats and a speciality of the area is shrimp paste. We boarded a tourist boat that motored down the canal showing us the houses that are held up by stilts. It is amazing to see these homes perched precariously on narrow stilts. Our guide told us the mountains fortunately protect the village from severe winds and storms. Otherwise, it looked as though they could blow over without much force.
We were given some free time to wander the market and watch the fish trading. Women down in their boats at water level, are cleaning and prepping the fresh catch of the day. Customers call down from above on the bridges to inquire about the product they would like to purchase. Once a price is agreed upon, a bucket is sent up to collect the money and lowered down to the merchant in her boat. She measures out the fish or seafood and attaches the bag to a rope that is hauled up to the customer. It was amazing to watch such a unique way of shopping that you can tell has been taking place for many years.
Back on the bus we were transported to Tian Tan Buddha that is a major centre of Buddhism in Hong Kong. Fortunately, our bus dropped us off at the top level so we could explore the Big Buddha without having to walk up the 256 steps! We explored the three floors inside the Buddha where there are incredible murals painted on the walls, a hall of remembrance where plaques are displayed from donors to the building of the Buddha and in a very tiny vase are a portion of the cremated remains of Buddha.
Once you step outside we were truly impressed by the sheer size of the bronze covered Buddha who measures 34 metres tall and weighs over 250 metric tons. The Buddha is sitting on top of a lotus flower with one hand raised and one hand in his lap. This signifies generosity and protection.
On the platform sit six Divas offering flowers, incense, lamp, ointment, fruit and music to the Buddha. Each is very beautiful and makes the surrounding area a lovely place to sit and contemplate the wonderful philosophies of Buddhism.
We slowly started our descent down the steps stopping frequently to look up at the majestic statue and attempt photos at varying angles since the sun was behind the statue – making picture taking a challenge.
At the bottom, we met the rest of the group and proceeded to the Po Lin Monastery to have a wonderful vegan lunch. We were served bean curds in lemon sauce, broccoli & pepper and bean stir fry, rice, spring rolls, tofu soup, fried buns and fried wontons. Everything was delicious and we were appreciative of the large lunch after our busy morning of walking.
After lunch we wandered the grounds of the Monastery admiring the elaborate pagodas and temples. While we were there, we found there was a Festival taking place. It was to honour people that had died by accident. This festival takes place for 7 days and includes prayers, chanting and a time of remembrance. We watched quietly as monks proceeded through various chants which were melodic and soothing to watch.
We were to meet the group at the Ngong Ping cable car for boarding. While walking to the cable car you must cross through a large shopping concourse. This was something we were now used to since there seems to be shopping at every opportunity in Hong Kong. We stopped only to purchase a small Buddha magnet for our fridge at home from one of the small stalls, bypassing the larger stores selling brand name items of all kinds. While walking towards the shopping centre, we passed several water buffalo that had made their way down from the hills. This is an animal you see often on Lantau where they roam wild.
We passed through the queue quickly, boarded the cable car and were immediately awed by the surrounding views. The ride is 5.7 kms long and has two stations that turn the direction of the cable up to 60 degrees during the ride.
We waved goodbye to the Big Buddha and glided past the airport, the South China sea, through valleys and above large areas of residential buildings surrounding the Tung Chung Bay. After 25 minutes, we disembarked back on Hong Kong Island and boarded the bus back to the Marco Polo hotel. The traffic was terrible leaving us concerned for our arrival time to the ship. However, we made it back and proceeded to make our way to the cruise ship terminal.
Of per the usual, we walked through an extremely chaotic shopping mall filled with children’s clothing to access the cruise terminal. Never have we experienced anything like it. But this is Hong Kong and they shop everywhere!
We quickly boarded the Azamara Journey to find we had been upgraded to a balcony stateroom - #7031. This was a very pleasant surprise. After a quick peek at the cabin, we headed to the guest relations and the excursion desk to discuss internet, an excursion we had questions about and then off to Prime C where we booked our specialty dining package. We never waited in line at any of these services and were able to complete our requests quickly and efficiently.
Dining on Azamara is open seating. So, we had decided to meet at 6:30pm for dinner in the main dining room. We had a wonderful prime rib dinner and enjoyed our server and the incredible views around us.
The ship was not scheduled to depart until 8:30pm so we went up on deck to enjoy the view of the harbour with the lit-up buildings. Hong Kong always has many lights on their skyline but during the holidays, they also add Christmas images that make it even more interesting.
When we started our departure from port, we took some wine and sat on our balcony watching the skyline twinkle with the bright lights. After unpacking and getting settled, we said goodnight and goodbye to Hong Kong and drifted off to sleep as we sailed out to the sea.
Adventures in South East Asia - Hong Kong Part 1 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Hong Kong Part 2 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 2 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 3 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 4 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 5 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 6 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 7 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 8 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 9 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 10 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 11 - click here
Sharing Our Travel Dreams
Sharing our personal experiences onboard and on the road, along with tips and insight for creating memorable vacations.