Last year was an incredible year of traveling for me. Considering I am a full-time analyst, I was surprisingly able to squeeze some of my days off into some soulful places within geographical reach, that is Southeast Asia. Overwhelming destinations I had never dreamt of visiting before. The first of these trips was to familiar and culturous Hong Kong.
If we acknowledge that the two activities most of Asian visitors – including me – have in mind when visiting Hong Kong are shopping and eating, I felt like performing a miracle when I unexpectedly managed some sightseeing! It was on my second day in Hong Kong when suddenly, as if being possessed by some form of magical energy, I found myself ducking for the MTR underground and later hopping on the 5.7 kilometer-long clear-glass cable car trip to Lantau Islands to visit one of the latest sensations in Hong Kong: the Tian Tan Buddha, also known as the Big Buddha.
Once I reached the arrival highland area of Ngong Ping, a the cable car’s upper station, I found a small and charming custom-made entertaining village waiting for me, with restaurants and souvenir shops along the walkway leading to the Big Buddha. Walking up nearly 300 steps to the statue was almost effortless. After having paid respect to the statue, I circled around its base three times as part of my Buddhist ritual. This allowed me time to think and reflect on my thought to what I wished to do for the rest of the year: resolutions, motivations, interests, the list went on and on. The trip was definitely worthwhile and spiritual, and it only took half of my day.
On the way back, I almost missed a hidden spot directly opposite the Buddha, the Po Lin Monastery, which boasts several prominent architectural structures. This monastery offered a perfect touch to the end of my visit to the Big Buddha as it is vibrant and has a sacred, colorful and iconographical interior based on Buddhism’s narratives. The restaurant with a vegetarian menu was quite practical, serving the perfect recipes for pilgrims.
The following day, I decided to further pursue my sightseeing mission and checked out the old China Town area, where the sacred and traditional Man Mo Chinese temple is located. I could not possibly pass on a great opportunity for good photos. The temple was full of joss sticks curled into circular shapes hanging from the ceiling, which gave out a strong and enchanting scent. After that, I strode along on a China Town curvy lane, passing several antiques shop, unexpected urban restaurants and hip coffee shops. Yes, right in the traditional Soho area of Hong Kong!
I continued walking down from the Soho slope and I somehow arrived at Charter Road in the Central Area, where I splashed my wallet with a little guilty consciousness. I kept striding and turned to parallel Connaught Road; this lane leads to the financial district, and this allowed me the opportunity to check out some sky-high Feng Shui-designed buildings.
However, on the way there along Pedder Street I couldn’t help noticing an attractively white, elegant and classical building with lion statues in front of the entrance. The dark glass windows made it even more intriguing and so I went in. The light inside the building was dim and I was startled by a big shining crystal chandelier as well as walls painted with historical pictures of men playing sports. It was then that I realized I was inside Central’s Pedder Building at the Abercrombie & Fitch retail store! Not that it was not on my list of places to visit, as advised by a friend back home, but I had sky-high buildings in mind so I quickly moved on with my mission.
One of the buildings I had in mind was the Lippo Center, which truly lives up to its reputation of being a cultural landmark of Hong Kong: it simply and majestically stood out from the surrounding buildings. The two buildings at the Lippo Center, dubbed the Koala Tree as they look like koalas hugging a tree, were designed by USA architect Paul Rudolph who relieved the traditional severity of skyscrapers with his clusters of obtruding windows. Impressive.
Having been to Hong Kong countless number of times before but mainly to shop and eat, I admit that this time what impressed me most was the cultural part, one that I had never experienced before: from Lantau Island to temple visits, from walking along old streets to observing the local traditional lifestyle. So long, culturous Hong Kong.