Next up on the list was Lantau Island, the largest of the Outlying Islands, twice the size of Hong Kong Island and famous for its high peaks, wild landscapes, great beaches and the airport. Over the years the area has been heavy development in the shape of Disneyland and a cable car to Ngong Ping monastery.
I joined a hiking group of who were going to hike the Dragon’s back in Shek-O. It was voted the Best Urban Hiking Trail in Asia by Time (Asia edition) in 2004. Just a short hop from the bustle of Hong Kong East, it provides stunning views of Shek O, Tai Long Wan, Stanley, Tai Tam and the South China Sea.
The “Dragon’s Back” refers to the portion of the walk on the south side of Hong Kong Island which is atop a high mountain ridge and offers spectacular beach and water views on both sides. The views were quite stunning to be honest, I was used to seeing skyscrapers and commercial buildings everywhere. But here in Lantau and especially on the ridges, you can barely see any skyscrapers around. Just magnificent views of the mountain tops around you.
Sadly I can’t tell you the exact directions since I followed Ming, an avid local hiker who says this is her favorite trail. One that she’s done uncountable times in different weather conditions and even at night. The general plan was to hike the Dragon’s Back and end up at the Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin monastery.
I’ve heard that the Tian Tan Buddha was major tourist attraction, but I’ve never actually visited it so I figured this was a good opportunity to check it out. But before getting there we stopped by the Po Lin monastery for a quick peek and bite to eat. There was a small shop/restaurant next to the monastery selling all kinds of pastries and cakes and other foods. We got ourself some soy bean custard (tau fu fa), which was really good here according to Ming.
Afterwards we went up to the Buddha statue itself, it’s the largest, seated, outdoor bronze Buddha statue in the world. The statue was alright to see I guess, I wasn’t really that impressed and awed like I was before. I guess now I can say I’ve been here at least. BRAGGING RIGHTS!
On our way back, we walked through the themed village of Ngong Ping 360 which was part of the attraction and attached to the cable car that brought tourists up here. Everything seemed so made here for tourists that it wasn’t really new. They even had people performing dance and shows on the street, just like how they do in theme parks. Rather odd to see actually, but I guess the other tourists liked it.
A few days later, I got on the boat and made my way to Lamma Island. I’ve been here once before but that was probably nearly 9 years ago. Lamma Island has a very different pace of life to nearby Hong Kong island. There are no cars on the island, and all apartments must be built with a maximum 700 square feet per floor. People tend to come and live here for an alternative lifestyle rather than modern living which makes it great for relaxation.
Lamma island is not a place full of tourist attractions, but rather for peace and relaxation. There are however plenty of restaurants, beaches and hiking trails. And that’s exactly what we did! There are 2 ports on the island and a pretty nice walking trail between the 2 so we just decided to walk from one port to the other.
The trail itself wasn’t hard at all since everything was paved, at night you see a few people jogging or walking their dog. The view was pretty nice and just the serenity of the lack of cars was simply amazing. To me it was a great place to live if I was in Hong Kong I think. Just traffic alone would drive me crazy in Hong Kong, but I’m sure there are other places in HK that have a good balance between greenery and city life.
As we arrived at the other port it was already nightfall and we had just missed the ferry, so we decided to have seafood for dinner as it was pretty famous on Lamma island. There are tons of seafood restaurants near the pier so you just pick your favorite one and their set menus and you’re good to go.
I’m really glad that I decided to experience Hong Kong in a different way from how I used to. I actually put in the effort to learn more about Hong Kong and not just come here just for the food and shopping. I went out and discovered that Hong Kong in fact has so much more to offer, you just have to try not to get distracted by all the flashy lights and neon signs. I do have familial reason to come back to Hong Kong but I’m sure I won’t frown upon the idea anymore of going back to Hong Kong (again) in the future.