After the first week on Hong Kong island, we discovered there was more too see in the surrounding islands. Macau is one of the biggest attractions, mainly for its gambling. There’s Lantau island, famed for its giant Buddha and monastery. This you can get to by bus or by cable car. Some stunning view from above, make the cable car price worth it. For £18.50 return, you have a 360 degree view of the mountains, covered in thick forest. The experience is ruined slightly by the compulsory photo at the start of the cable car and the kitsch ‘village’ at the end, but none the less a good trip. The monastery and Buddha are also worth the mush around them. The height of it, the effort it takes to climb, the natural peace at the top of the hill and the sheer size of the statue command respect and admiration. With neither of us being religious, we took a stroll round and then made our way through the levels of the monastery.
Beyond the sights of Lantau island, Lamma island is another great place to get away. The island is small, car free, picturesque and only 15minutes away on a ferry. The village is small, with a few shops, grocers, and places to eat. The locals drive small motorised carts, narrow enough to get through the village, but
big enough to move through the pedestrians. We walked out the top end of the village and into greenery, across the island to the beach on the other side. Paradise! Fine sand, sun, shady trees, a small ice cream vendor and the South China Sea. By this time, the sun is high and sweat is forming a small waterfall down your back, so James and I were quick to jump into the sea. My experience of sea water is an overexcited foot in, then the inevitable spine shivering cold, then a quick recoil with a stifled squeal. Lamma island proved me wrong. It was warm (actually warm), clear, shallow and calm. We were far from the skyscrapers and crowd of Hong Kong.
Despite the masses of culture here, music, art and passion are not at the top of the city’s priorty list. There is a Hong Kong Museum of History, Science Museum and Maritime Museum that are worth a visit. Make of those what you will, it makes a change from the rest of the city (and all museums are free on Wednesdays). In terms of Chinese tradition, i’m sure it’s there, but business and money takes up that space. There are bars, full of Australian or American businessmen. And there is art, but it’s only for your display cabinet. The light pollution isn’t from late night dancers in the street below, it’s from the 24hr Starbucks and the neon street signs. Integration is with phones and Pokemon go, rather than smiles across the tram or chatter to the shopkeeper.
Right in the middle of the metropolis, is Hong Kong Park, and a little further up Hong Kong Zoological and Biological Gardens, which are a similar bliss to Lamma island. With the immersive greenery and range of exotic plants it feels like a greenhouse, but the park has one of those in it too. It also has a range of fountains, lakes, residential flamingos and an aviary.
On paper, Hong Kong has it all. In practice, it lacks a bit of spice, a certain je ne said quois that money can’t buy. Let’s not be hasty, it’s got a lot to offer but you have to find it.