When we think of Hong Kong, the images that come to mind are skyscrapers, people, and air pollution.
So you can imagine our surprise when we explored outside the downtown core to discover that there is a lot of green on the islands.
When it comes to the air pollution, the people of Hong Kong blame China.
When the wind blows in the wrong direction, all the smog from the mainland drifts across to Hong Kong and this upsets them very much.
But, there's not a lot that can be done about that except get out of town! And that's exactly what we did.
Taking a taxi out to Lantau Island, we caught a cable car to the mountain village of Ngong Ping.
The Cable Car is a fun adventure that soars through the air for 5.7 km over rolling hills of green trees above Tung Chung Bay. The ride takes 25 minutes to complete and offers a pleasant bird's eye view of the area.
You can pay a little extra to secure the Ngong Ping 260 Crystal Cabin. It has a glass floor that lets you feel the height and excitement.
The queues are long so if you don't want to wait, this is probably the car for you as it puts you at the front of the line! You can also enjoy queue free service if you book a private cable car.
We had our own tour guide so that also bumped us to the front of the line which is totally worth it.
Prices are: HK $3,500 per standard cabin/ HK $4500 per Crystal Cabin.
We arrived at the top and were greeted by the picturesque village of Ngong Ping.
They call it the spiritual home of the Tian Tan Buddha but it feels more like an amusement park or themed village up here.
The TV and movie entertainment zone is so prevalent that I asked our guide if Hong Kong's movie studios were close by. He said no, and that this is just an attraction.
The Tian Tan Buddha
There are a lot of attractions up here that can be fun for a family outing. Like the multimedia presentation following the path to Buddha's enlightenment.
But the real attraction is the Tian Tan Buddha himself. It is a giant seated bronze Buddha statue that is a staggering site to witness. If you arrive early you can beat the crowds and take in all its splendour.
We felt very lucky while walking around the Po Lin Monastery to witness Monks in the yard chanting.
It was fascinating to listen to them, even if we had no idea what they were saying. As quickly as it started, it was over and they peeled away single file into the back workings of the monastery leaving us to explore on our own.
Tai O Village
Once we saw all the sights at Ngong Ping, we caught a local bus down the mountain to the village of Tai O. Tai O is a traditional fishing village located on the South China Sea.
Fishing is a fading profession in Hong Kong as the younger generation moves to the city so I wonder how much longer this village will be in operation.
Here you can walk the streets taking in the many stalls selling dried fish. There's a lot of dried fish on display here and we wonder how many people actually buy from these vendors.
Its the villages stilt houses that are the star attraction. Built because of the tides, the stilt houses create a community intertwined with one another making for a picturesque setting.
We visited a local family in one of their traditional houses where we learned how to separate and dry goose eggs, and how to make traditional congee. It took a lot of work to make this mushy porridge made out of grinding beans by hand.
We were surprised how spacious their houses are. They go on and on in the back and because the weather us quite mild year round, there is a lot of open space. The open concept probably works well for winter storms and typhoons as the wind can blow right through..
It was then onto the boat in search of the pink dolphin. You can catch a boat ride at any time of the day to take you out to the bay to search for these rare beauties. You don't have to make an appointment, once the boat is full, it takes off.
The journey starts with a ride down the channel to admire the stilt houses before going out to open waters. Were told that they hadn't spotted dolphins for a few days so we didn't have our hopes up, but within minutes of getting out of the channel we spotted them jumping in the sea. They move quickly and it was nearly impossible to snap a shot of them. So we don't have any proof that we actually saw them. But we did! Honestly.
What we were really impressed with was how the boat didn't chase the dolphins. They kept their distance and stayed away. I was expecting the captain to point the boat towards them and make a b-line to them once they were spotted, but instead he moved closer, but stayed far enough away so as not to disturb them. Sure, it didn't make for the best photographs, but we were happy to see that they were left to enjoy their lives in peace.
A Great Duo Day
Both Ngong Ping and Tai O can be visited on the same day. They are not far from each other. Once you take the cable car up to Ngong Ping it's just a short walk to the parking lot to catch a local bus down to the village where you can eat lunch and do some shopping before catching the local bus back to the city.
Our day at Tai O and Ngong Ping was excellent. It's a great way to get out of the Hong Kong and see a little bit more a traditional village. It felt like stepping back in the past as time stands still in Tai O. The culture feels that is it is quickly disappearing though so you may want to get there soon. It's sad to see the fishing industry die a slow death in Hong Kong, but we can understand why the youth are wanting to go to the city in search of a better life.
Who knows, maybe in a few years time, they'll be coming back to their roots to seek tranquility once again. We all know how living in the rat race can take its toll on us all. I think Tai O Village has a long life ahead of it still.
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