Big Asian Adventure v.2: Hong Kong And Macau

Sonado Square in Macau

Visiting Tian Tan Buddha 

Today and tomorrow, we’ll be touring Hong Kong and Macau. And today is Tian Tan Buddha day! It was indeed a long metro day and we were a little concerned about lines when we learned Easter Monday is a public holiday in Hong Kong, but all went well. 


Lantau Island

Tian Tan Buddha is way out on an island called Lantau; it’s a massive Buddha that sits atop a hill with a bagilliondy stairs. When you get off the metro, it’s like a whole bizarre development out there. Random buildings and shops, a post office, etc., but it makes me wonder if the locals use the facilities and, if so, where they all live. Because there aren’t that many homes out that way and, where there are homes, they’re like… far away through some tropical jungle on the water’s edge.

Jeff & The Falun Gong

So, we get there, and you’ve got this central area. A random guy started talking to Jeff and handed him a brochure in the middle of this plaza. (This is what happens when Jeff is unsupervised for a few minutes.) Turns out this brochure was for some kind of religion called Falun Dafa, or Falun Gong.

He actually saved the brochure! “Saved,” as in… he just pulled it out for me to reference in the hotel. And there were what must’ve been hundreds of banners and posters posted in the immediate area protesting this exact… “religion.” But they were all calling it a cult and talking about how people died, how there was a self-immolation protest and Tianamen Square, etc. They say they’ve been tortured and persecuted. Anyhow, this is how it starts, Jeff! Walk away… He says he was just so excited the guy was so nice to him.

Falun Gong at Lantau Island

I’m tempted to Google how to spell “Tiananmen” correctly and I feel like I heard about this case of an American girl jailed here after self-immolating in protest and surviving it. (I actually think she belonged to the same group that handed Jeff that brochure.) All of this is to say… I think I’ll hold off Googling that for now. You know the whole… Google/China thing, right? Yeah…

The Tian Tan Buddha Cable Car

From this plaza area, you have to take a twenty-minute cable car ride to the Tian Tan Buddha village. I thought I’d be totally fine with this, but it’s ridiculously high and super long, so I had a little anxiety brewing. The whole thing is over crazy hills with jungle-ish landscape down below. And it was really windy. I couldn’t figure out whether I loved the wind because it provided a nice breeze on a stupid humid day, or hated it because it made the cable car sway way up in the air.

Lantau Island from a cable car

We’d later wonder the nationality of this other couple in our cable car. Jeff said “couple,” and I replied, “I thought they were father/daughter.” Jeff had said that’s what he thought, too, until some of their photos started getting a little weird. Lol. I was just focused on breathing and acting like we weren’t hundreds of feet in the air about to plummet to our deaths.

Big Buddha Village

One thing is for certain—they’ve commercialized the shit out of Buddha in this little village. There’s a Starbucks, a Subway, some more local restaurants, gift shops, etc. It’s set up like an IKEA, where you have to walk through everything to get to the end result. When you get out, there are a bunch of signs to not feed the cattle. Noted, and not a problem. 

There’s actually a bunch of stuff up there besides just Tian Tan Buddha. They’ve got the warrior statues lining the street on the way, some museum or temple with 10,000 Buddhas, and you can do a bunch of hikes as well. You can see people hiking while in the cable car and this is amazing to me because it’s remote. That’s a long ass hike, people.

Hiking Big Buddha

We only did the Buddha. That was enough for us. 268 stairs to get up and get a good look at him. The thing about the stairs for me is it wasn’t so much the number of stairs that killed me, it was the humidity. Buddha is gigantic once you get up there. You can walk around him and even inside him.

The walk up to Tian Tan Buddha in Hong Kong

We were standing on one of the Buddha balconies and a massive bug flew into my mouth. It was large enough that I literally dug in my mouth and grabbed it to get it out. You’re not allowed to spit, so… Jeff, of course, let me know that this is how mosquito-borne illnesses start—when people eat them. So, thank you for that, Hubs.

Tian Tan Buddha in Hong Kong

Not Visiting Tai O Fishing Village

Went down to see if we couldn’t catch a taxi or the bus to Tai O, a little fishing village on the island. It was just after 11 and we’d just missed the bus; the next one would be leaving in an hour. Grabbed some lunch and debated whether we had it in us to basically do a whole ‘nother tour that would likely be a couple hours, plus additional time to make our way back to Kowloon.

Read a blog article over lunch about how the village isn’t really a quaint village maintaining its way of life, rather just downright impoverished people with lots of tourists gawking at them. Ultimately, we decided against it, both because of the reported number of tourists, but also because we were tired and it was so. damn. hot. out. We have another, similar island visit later, so it won’t be the last opportunity we have to see a fishing village with houses on stilts.

A Sign On Our Foreheads

Fortunately, on the cable car ride back, there were some folks from the UK. We started some conversation and I was able to not think about how high we were and how windy it was for twenty minutes. Of course they asked us about Trump. Sigh. They asked if we (the US, I guess) was surprised at his win, and we emphasized that yes, yes we were. He’d lost the popular vote by three million. A lot of non-Americans don’t actually seem to know this when we travel and don’t realize we have the Electoral College.

We joked that it seemed an excellent time to travel to China, all things considered. They joked that they felt like they can’t travel anywhere in Europe given Brexit; they feel like idiots in their own rite. Talked about that a little. I’ve yet to meet that many English in my travels who seem to support Brexit. I figure the divide is likely similar to the divide in the US re: Trump—rural versus the city folk.

Tsim Sha Sui Cuisine

Made our way back to Tsim Sha Sui (our neighborhood in Kowloon), which is actually pronounced “Shim Sha Shwee.” Say that five times fast. Had to do a 7-11 snack run and stopped by a rando Starbucks for me. Jeff loves trying local snacks, so it’s always a must. Stopped to take a pic of a new, fun sign. Exquisitely detailed, this one.

"Pick up your dog poo" sign in Hong Kong

The thing about quick errands across the street is that, in some spots, you have to cross the road through the subway system halls, which makes the trip so much longer than it needs to be. And we were so tired. My muscles ached. I’d gotten some sun. Just all-around destroyed.

Winding Down For The Day

Got some AC back in the hotel room and took a nap for the afternoon, which ended up with Jeff sleeping through the night. The whole waking up at the crack of dawn thing that we do works really well here because you get out before peak humidity and are back right when it’s really cranking up. We rest for a bit and have the option of going back out later in the evening when it cools off. We just… didn’t today. Gives me time to write my blog posts!

Tomorrow, we’re taking a ferry to Macau just for the day before we fly out to Taipei. Hong Kong and Macau were easy to get in since they have different visa requirements than the rest of China. Was excited to get them both on the books.

We’re going to try and see the little Macau towns further south that a lot of people don’t go through, but seems like getting down there could be a bit sticky. Local buses, I dunno. I’ve done lots of metros and longer distance buses, but am not very adept at local buses. I’m sure we could figure it out, just not sure if I’ll want to. You know what, though—I’m on vacation. I do what I want! Until tomorrow…

Transfer Between Hong Kong And Macau 

Nope. Didn’t do the smaller towns after all. Maybe we’re just getting older and our usual, ambitious travel pace is too much now. Or maybe we’re just being more flexible with our day-to-day planning and, if we get there, we get there; if we don’t, we don’t.

There is that part of me that still wants to see everything since I’ll probably not be back anytime soon, but a newer part of me wants to move at a comfortable pace and relax a little, too. I still get to see stuff and experience stuff, right?

Trying to recall if anything of note occurred in the morning, but I really don’t think so. Got breakfast, packed up, headed to the ferry terminal. Immigration was super quick and our ferry ride to Macau was only an hour. Considering the size of the ferry (small) and the length of the ride (short), I thought the fancy folks paying for VIP treatment were being ripped off.

A Little Spesh With The Macau Tunnels

Arrived in Macau and went to pick up our free hotel shuttle. Another route where to have to find the tunnels underneath the street to get where you’re going. We can navigate traveling almost any country, but for some reason, these f*cking tunnels give us a run for our money every time. And, after walking all over the arrivals hall outside, I think it’s fair to say I underestimated the heat in this part of the world. It is sweltering. I think it’s mid-nineties plus humidity. Anyway…

Grand Lisboa in Macau

Staying at The Grand Lisboa

Jeff wanted to visit the Grand Lisboa when we went to Macau and Wifey said—I’ll one-up that: Why don’t we stay there for a night? Hubby gets what hubby wants. So, here we are, with a 27th-floor view of Macau. There’s only one floor higher than us, though I think there may be some private suites further above.

Our room has a sitting area with a hallway leading to the bedroom portion. Windows along the entire side of the space. There’s a large screen TV with surround sound and multiple TVs in the bathroom. The toiletries are all Hermès, and you know I’m confiscating that shit.

The casino is everything you’d think it would be, too—gold, glitzy, glittering. There’s a three-star Michelin restaurant here, too. The thing is, I rarely pay outrageous costs to stay somewhere, and I don’t recall this room being ridiculously expensive. I’ll have to look it up. ($150 a night.)

Macau’s Fisherman’s Wharf

We unloaded all our stuff and went out on the town. The mix of glitz and poverty is the same in Hong Kong and Macau. Fancy buildings stacked right on top of very run down buildings. The storefronts here are lit up top to bottom with animated lettering.

Macau city streets

We walked over a mile to the Fishermen’s Wharf in the blazing heat. When we got there, we were beyond disappointed. The pictures showed some old archways and cool paved streets on a wharf, and a bunch of sources online recommended it, but when we got there, we saw it was all. fake. It belonged to one of the casinos close by and was basically a performance arena.

I can’t for the life of me, understand why people would recommend this place. We were hot, tired, and a little pissed off. Bottom line—if you ever go to Macau, skip the Fishermen’s Wharf. It’s total bullshit. Unless you like that sort of thing…

Fisherman's Wharf in Macau

Too Hot To Hoof It

Instead of hiking all the way back, we just grabbed a cab from a casino close by. The concierge at this place told us how to take the public bus to where we were going, but neither one of us wanted to deal with the hassle. He said it was cheaper than a taxi, but when we did the math, the taxi was only $6. I will gladly pay $6 than walk another mile (and then some) to get to our next sight in this heat.

Sonada Square & The Ruins of Saint Paul

Much happier with our other sights. We were dropped off at Sonada Square. A quaint little mix of Portuguese and Chinese, the architecture there is colorful and interesting. The pavement is a cool gray and white wavy design that leads you all the way up to the Ruins of Saint Paul, which sits atop a steep little hill. The walkway is lined with vendors of all kinds and the side alleys are bustling with life. Enjoyed our time roaming around there and were happy to find that the route back to our hotel was straightforward and not too far away.

Falling Asleep Under Casino lights

Got back and determined that, what was once “I got some sun,” is now “I’m just plain sunburnt.” Jeff and I have about twenty bottles of sunscreen at home. This is because we always either underestimate the sun on our travels, or plain forget to bring sunscreen. So stupid. Either way, it was so nice to sit down and cool off. It was late afternoon by then and the perfect time to start chilling out.

Fell asleep, but woke up specifically to see the lights outside and take some photos. I was a little bleary-eyed, but didn’t want to miss a good shot like I did the Hong Kong promenade. What’s also cool is our room has the famous Grand Lisboa lotus flower lights right outside it, too. Both Hong Kong and Macau are pretty impressive at night. 

Grand Lisboa Casino in Macau

I actually wish I had another day here to go see those towns further south that were on the list. It’s true—Hong Kong is a massive and impressive city, but I think Macau could have more of an authentic flavor to it. For all of the one day I’ve been here.

Everyone’s been really friendly, too, minus the periodic leers I’ve received from men. We read that bigger bosomed foreigners might illicit some giggles from the locals, but I don’t dress provocatively at all. I even stay away from standard cut V-necks. Either way, it’s been noticeable. It is what it is.

Tomorrow, we’ll be flying to Taipei for Volume 3 of our adventure. Let’s see what Taiwan has for us!

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