Today’s excursion was over to Lantau Island, one of Hong Kong’s largest islands, to see the “Big Buddha”, a large freestanding statue of the Buddha and a tourist draw. I last visited it some 20 years ago with my father, and much has changed. Access is now easy: the subway line extends from out our front door in Tsimshatsui, Kowloon all the way to Tung Chung on Lantau (not far from the airport). That ride was pretty cool too- got to see some of the New Territories area of Hong Kong, where much of the population lives. Clumps of alien-looking apartment towers (think “Blade Runner” but with better weather) grow between steep slopes, connected by tarmac ribbons of road.
We got to Tung Chung, and got to ride on a 7km long cable car ride over the mountains to the south side of the island, where the Buddha lives. So what used to be a real pilgrimage to see the Buddha (it was hard to get to) is now a subway ride and cable car ride away. The views of the airport were spectacular, and the trails cutting along the ridges we flew over reminded me of the great hiking we enjoyed back in the day. The Buddha himself did not disappoint – there is a new “traditional” village below him where modern shops are found (Starbucks and Subway are omnipresent), and the site itself was nicely done. A.J. was his usual reverent self (“wasup Buddha?”) and Charlie took photos for her blog too.
After spending some time at the Big Buddha, we took a cab ride over to Silvermine Bay (Mui Wo) and met up with fellow business school classmate (and Section K) alum, Cathy Cole. She and her husband Mike have lived there for 6 years, and have a 5 year old daughter who we didn’t get a chance to meet. She graciously took some time out of her day to visit with us, watching our kids turn cartwheels on the beach and play in the sand while giving us an overview of the expat life in Hong Kong’s “suburbs”. Mui Wo is a quiet little town only a short ferry away from bustling downtown, and seemed like a great spot to raise a family. Cathy’s also embarking on her own entrepreneurial path, assisting start-ups with mainly marketing-related activities. Hearing her describe it confirmed that there are few places in the world like Hong Kong for business – the energy and activity are off the charts.
The ferry ride back to Central brought home another aspect of Hong Kong that’s different from what I remembered: the pollution is dramatically worse. The general haze in the air, even on an otherwise nice day, has really dampened the views around the area. It’s unfortunate, but locals are starting to get more and more concerned about the environmental. Hopefully that translates into some improvement somehow.
Finally, I want to wish my father a happy birthday! 68 years young today. Perhaps a beer tonight at the Golden Crown in his honor is in order.