New Heights at Lantau IslandThere are a few Must Do's on every tourists' Hong Kong itineraries: eating and shopping in Mongkok, viewing the HK skyline at Tsim Sha Tsui, and riding the cable car to Victoria Peak. Most visitors to the travel hub often stay in the main people hubs of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. There is never a shortage of places to visit and things to eat where the land is small but people are plenty.
Then there are those who venture out to a less populated, but still highly visited, Lantau Island 大嶼山. It's biggest attractions are without a doubt Disneyland and "Big Buddha" at Ngong Ping. Since it would have been less fun to visit Disney when I would be the only one excited, seeing the Tian Tian Buddha atop Lantau Island was an obvious choice at the time.
The MRT ride from Mongkok to the Tung Chung Cable Car Terminal takes around 1 hour; the cable car ride up to Ngong Ping is about 25 minutes. Even though I can handle riding a standard cable car, the cabins with the glass bottoms are really intimidating. The fear of falling through, no matter how unlikely, bested me of the experience. Plus. my Aunt could bearly stand the normal metal bottom cabin ride. Forget about the crystal clear one!
*As of this post, the cable car service is actually temporarily halted for repairs. Their website says it should be back in June 2017. The other way to get up to Ngong Ping Village would be via public bus, hiking, or maybe even by taxi. When service returns, it is best to plan ahead for the cable car and order online. The lines for day-of purchases can be over an hour wait.
If heights aren't a problem, I would definitely recommend taking the cable car during the day. The views of Hong Kong from up above and in the middle of the open water is something else entirely. Typical cable car routes ascend over mountains alone. I think that was the first time I was in one that floated above the waters as well as mountains. It was interesting being able to see little figures climb their way up Lantau Peak from up above whenever the cabin traveled closer to land.
Ngong Ping Village is not the highest point on Lantau Island. It is the dispersion site for all tourists who reach the themed village. A teahouse, 360 multimedia attractions, and chain restaurants are the first to greet visitors. A little further up the path will lead to the historical and cultural points of the area: Tian Tian "Big" Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery. A separate steeper path, even further upwards, will lead to the somewhat secluded Wisdom Path where giant wooden pillars create an infinity symbol. Despite being someone who isn't religious and can't read the Chinese characters inscribed on the columns, it was still humbling to be in the presence of. Compared to the main attractions a little ways away, the area where the Wisdom Path are was quieter and contemplative.
Visiting the sites at the top of Lantau Island felt like a never ending trek up. Half-hour cable car, up. 268 steps to the Buddha, up. 15-minute walk to the Wisdom Path, up. The reward? Definitely the views of everything below. I didn't manage to climb up the tippy-top of the hill where the Wisdom Path columns were, but I think the panoramic scenery would have been even better.
Mountain water tofu pudding 山水豆腐花 is a staple, I found, at the top of mountain trails in Southern China. Well of the two that I went to; Lantau Peak and Baiyun Mountain. The stalls that sell these aren't glitzy. Plastic tables and stools are the norm. Handwritten and hand-painted signs add to its charm. Water from the mountains is supposed to be better, in some way. The tofu fa sits in deep wooden buckets waiting for the next customer before it is scooped and served.
I forgot if the lady gave me the bowls with the sweetener already added or if I was able to add it myself. The simple syrup and sugar used in Guangzhou and Hong Kong felt different from any time I have ever had in New York City. The syrup tasted a tinge spicy, perhaps due to ginger. The sugar had a distinct orangey-brown hue; the tastes weren't any different but it visually was more intriguing. The tofu was very soft and smooth. It was the best treat on a hot humid day. Don't go for the cookie cutter shops near the cable car terminal. Look for the little food stands near the Big Buddha instead!