Hong Kong is absolutely out of this world. However, the fact that I am saying this is sort of ignorant, since in the two days that I have been here, I have left the confines of the city for more far flung places that couldn't be more different from the chaos of Hong Kong.
Today, I went with a small group of other travelers to a village on an island that lies just to the west of the city and island of Hong Kong. We met at the central piers and boarded a ferry for Lantau Island with the intention of visiting a fishing village called Tai O. Upon arrival in Lantau, we boarded a bus that weaved us through the mountainous terrain that is Lantau Island past pristine beaches with unparalleled views of the South China Sea. After the hour long ride was over we were on the far west of the island where Tai O is located. And as one will soon see, it is like no place else.
Tai O is famous for its community of houses that are built on stilts above where the sea meets the land. One does not arrive immediately where the houses are located. We made our way through the part of town that is totally "landlocked" and through the market which smelled strongly of all the dried fish and other sea creatures that hang in nearly every stall. On the other side was this amazing surprise.
The community of stilt houses is fairly large and boardwalks create a labyrinth within it. Where these boardwalks lead is anyone's guess and with the open air nature of the homes, we had to be careful to not accidentally walk unknowingly into someone's "living room". We failed miserably. We looked like the tourists we were but at the same time, I was grateful that two of our group who are Cantonese speakers could chat it up as though they were long time neighbors, greatly distracting from any unintended disrespect or ignorance. We carried on.
A better way to see the stilt houses was from the boat tour's provided in town. At HK$20(about US$2.50)there was no passing it up. This manner of transportation showed the vast differences in the construction of the houses. The above and below examples are extreme, but nonetheless are an amazing display of how differently most of the world lives. I do believe it takes years to build up the layers on these houses. No fancy cookie cutter homes that are built in six months here. These are all ancient originals.
Wow. After passing the afternoon in Tai O, it was on to another site on the island. Lantau Island is home to the Big Buddha. I do believe it is one of the largest statues of Buddha that exists and after wondering how old it was, I consulted the guide book expecting it to date back to like 900AD or something. Nope, in 1993 it was unveiled. No bother, it is a beautiful site regardless of its lack of historical importance.
Being that we arrived as the site was nearing its close, we did not spend much time at the Big Buddha. We climbed the 260 stairs to enjoy the views of the sea and surrounding islands and to stand in awe of a true work of art. I have seen many man made wonders in my travels, but I have never seen a statue with such big ear lobes.
I have been in Hong Kong for about forty-eight hours now. The above story is just one of those days. I feel like I have been here for a week. As soon as I exited the subway for the first time and walked down the packed streets of Causeway Bay neighborhood where I am staying, I knew I was in for a real treat, a real life changer. As I continue to tap the depths of this great city and its surrounding areas, I know I will be falling in love with it. Hopelessly in love. . .