Friday, October 4, 2013

Hong Kong: Lantau Island Gondola

Back in 2010 we made a circle tour of Lantau Island, visiting the Big Buddha and eating lunch in the monastery. After visiting Hong Kong Disneyland in the same general area, we connected from the Disneyland Express to the MRT and rode to the Tung Ching station, the next and final stop of the line, depositing us very close to the Ngong Ping Cable Car, the "visually spectacular 5.7km bi-cable ropeway."

As we did three years ago, we paid extra for the "Crystal Cabin," the gondola cars with the glass floor. That had saved us a lot of waiting in line. This time there were almost as many people in that queue as in the regular line, and it seems only about one in three cars have glass bottoms.

When we got to the front of the line, we surprised the attendant by asking to ride in a regular cabin, which we enjoyed all to ourselves on the ride up.

One of the interesting things about this gondola is that it crosses Tung Chung Bay to Airport Island. There is an "angle station" there and the cars turn about 60 degrees left for the ascent. There is one more angle station near the top. It's a quite spectacular 3 1/2 mile 25-minute ride.

Eventually the Big Buddha, the world's largest seated Buddha, comes into sight.
Once off the gondola, we see that the little commercial area that had been under construction on our previous visit is now thronged with tourists. We realize again that we've arrived in Hong Kong during  a Chinese holiday, National Day, an auspicious time for autumn travel that actually stretches from its October 1 day in 2013 into an entire week.

We walk just far enough to get a better photo of the Buddha and then resignedly line up to ride the gondola back down.
This time we share a glass-bottom cabin with a young couple and a family of three. We offer to take a photo of the family sitting across from us and that breaks the ice. Their son, Michael, only nine years old, speaks amazingly good English and is full of self-confidence. Pretty soon we're all taking photos of each other and even the shy young couple ask to have a photo with us.

They are all from one of the nearest large Mainland cities, Shenzhen. With a total population of around 10 million, it's no wonder some of them have ventured to Hong Kong for their holiday. Is it possible we're the first Americans these folks have ever spoken too? They are certainly friendly.

Just before we arrive a couple of dragon boats pass underneath, out practicing no doubt. Somehow seeing them below seems to be auspicious as we admire the sun through the mist.

From there it's a ride on the MTR and a bus (a challenge to find the right one) to us back to our hotel. Fortunately, helpful fellow passengers make sure we get off at the right stop.

 The Crowd Restaurant? Hong Kong is one big crowd.

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