Hong Kong is a fusion of the East and the West and a perfect blend of both the modern and traditional outlooks, thereby earning the fame of being called "Asia's world city". Hong Kong is a major financial hub, with a skyscraper studded skyline in the center and beautiful lush green surroundings on the outskirts. This vibrant city has something in it for everyone. For the shopaholics, it is a shopping paradise, with a presence of the world-renowned brands and the local markets selling local products, souvenirs, electronic goods, to name a few. Hong Kong has, over the years, established itself as a go-to destination for theme parks. The popularity of Disneyland and Ocean Park have grown exponentially over the years, with each introducing new attractions in a healthy competition with the other. And for photographers like us, you have the cityscapes, the long exposures by the harbor, the monasteries, the gardens, the busy streets and the list continues.
Partners in Crime: Riju and Antara
With only a day and a half in Hong Kong, we intended to make the most of the time in hand. We landed in Hong Kong late in the afternoon and after the immigration formalities, we took the Airport Express to the City. The views outside the train window were breathtaking. Hong Kong welcomes you with its breathtaking landscapes of the hills and the sea which gradually transform into the skyscrapers as you approach the city. We stayed in Wan Chai district, one of the busiest commercial areasin Hong Kong, so that it is easier to explore around.
After a quick freshening up and an early dinner, we headed towards a place called the "Golden Bauhinia Square" to witness "The Symphony of Lights", which is listed in the Guinness book of world records as the world's largest permanent light and sound show. Forty buildings on both sides of the Victoria Harbour participate in this light show. The coloured lights, the laser beams and the accompanying music celebrate the energy, the spirit and the diversity of Hong Kong. The show is free for the public and is based on five themes - Awakening, Energy, Heritage, Partnership and Celebration. In addition to the Golden Bauhinia Square, the show can also be witnessed from the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront outside the Hong Kong Cultural Centre or from the Red Sail Boat, an iconic boat belonging to Hong Kong. As luck would have it, we had landed on a cloudy day and were unable to get a clear view of the show through the dense clouds.
After witnessing the light show we spent some time clicking pictures of the statues in the Golden Bauhinia Square which are strategically built to form perfect props for selfies.
Once done we headed back to the hotel. The area in the vicinity was perfect for capturing light trails, cityscapes and most importantly the trams. After spending about half an hour on the streets we headed back to our room.
Next day we decided to part ways and explore Hong Kong as per individual interests. For me the first destination was the famous Tian Tan Buddha, popularly known as the Big Buddha statue at the Po Lin monastery. There are three options to reach the monastery. You could either take the Ngong Ping Cable Car or a bus from the Tung Chung station or catch a ferry from Central Pier 6. The Cable car route is closed until June' 2017 for cable replacement and hence I took the bus which takes around 45 minutes to reach the monastery. From the monastery, you need to climb 268 steps to reach the statue (and then 268 down again!). The statue itself is 34 metres in height and was erected in 1993 and since then the influx of tourists to the monastery increased manifold. The views from the top were just breathtaking. On one side, you have the Po Lin monastery and on the other you have the cloud covered hills. One can also witness a few other statues on the top, while offering prayers to the Big Buddha.
After admiring the beautiful surroundings from the top, I came down to explore the Po Lin Monastery. The monastery was crowded with both tourists and the devotees. At the entrance of the monastery, you have three small statues of Buddha. The devotees pour water on the statues, with a wooden spoon placed alongside the statues, for their wishes to be fulfilled. There are also designated places for the devotees to burn incense sticks.
The monastery also has a restaurant in its premises serving delicious local food and is highly recommended for everyone traveling there. There is an entire menu from which you can select various items which are categorized as General Meal, Deluxe Meal and Snacks. I had the snacks which included fried noodles, a sweet dish and a drink.
On the way out, I passed through the Ngong Ping village to board a bus back. My next destination was the Nan Lian Garden, located in Diamond Hill. Nan Lian Garden is spread over an area of about 35,000 square meters and built as per the Tang Dynasty style. Every object in the premises, be it the rocks, the trees, the monuments, is placed strategically as per the Tang dynasty guidelines. Does this not look like the place where they shot The Wolverine??
On the other hand, Riju decided to explore and document the signature architecture of the Hong Kong skyline. The sky high buildings, having a blend of old and the new, give Hong Kong architectures an unique touch and a treat for the photographers. He reckons it reminded him of Kolkata...I wonder!
After our separate photo tours, we returned back to the hotel, freshened up and went ahead to explore "The Peak" and the unique view of the Hong Kong skyline that it offers. Unfortunately, Lady Luck didn't appear to be on our side. Even on a partly sunny day, as soon as we reached the top of the peak (also called Victoria Peak, and this is the highest point of Hong Kong), the clouds seemed to descend on the mountains, reducing visibility to near zero! And there we were, tripod and camera in hand, swearing and cursing our luck! We were disappointed to not get a decent photo, but the walk amidst the clouds was something to cherish.
We took a taxi back to the hotel, had dinner at a nearby restaurant, and called it a day. We were too tired after the day's adventures to venture out any further. We did want to go out to "Temple Street" and actually had some time at hand, but our bodies gave up. Probably next time.....!
I did have plans of exploring the streets of Wan Chai the next day, but those plans didn't materialize due to the heavy rains (surprise surprise!). Even our flight, scheduled for the late afternoon, was delayed due to bad weather. Luckily, though, it was only a couple of hours. We soon boarded our flight and bid goodbye to the this short and eventful trip to Hong Kong.
So long until the next trip then!
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