Hong Kong; Lantau Island

Sunday was a "rest day" in theory, but I went to Stanley for swimming.

Stanley was the only major area on Hong Kong Island that I hadn't cycled the day before and I wanted to see it.

There are two beaches and I managed to go to the one I didn't want to go to. Signs talk about protecting your valuables but as there are no lockers, good luck with that! A nice couple explained that it was safe, so I left my wallet and phone and everything under a towel and headed off. (With all the prisons on the island, what were the prisoners guilty of? Tax evasion?)

I got in a number of laps and wore myself out as usual. Lunch was at some cafe along seaside area that's obviously a big main tourist trap, but whatever. I went to the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, an obvious tourist destination, and learned about Chinese sailing history and the more recent history of Hong Kong itself and things like container shipping modernization, etc.

There was a fundraiser outside where people attempt to "fly" from a pier over the water on homemade wings, but they all pretty much flew like rocks. So I suppose the draw was to see them wreck their aircraft. I took a couple of videos out on some rocks (breakwater). Kind of seemed like a waste, but I guess it was for the kids so that makes it okay.

I went out for an afternoon swim at a different beach but ended up hopelessly lost.

Ending up back in town, I wandered around the market, which was closing up about 7PM or so. Still, there were a number of restaurants still open. I ended up in a high-end Chinese place that looked somewhat out of the warring-states period, with dark wood and medieval. This being Monday and the off season, only a few customers were present. I ordered a number of dishes and was told I was ordering too much, and suggested to substitute my noodle dish, but ended up hungry at the end of the meal which isn't great.

Next day I was getting up around 6AM for the ferry to Lantau Island. Again, not a lot of traffic before 7AM, and even the first ferry wasn't until about 7:30AM.

I expected it to be a nice difficult ride, but it turned out to be a very difficult ride. The morning part was great, since it was quite cool and almost no cars were around. I rode to the "Big Buddha", part of Po Lin Monastery. A group of old ladies were walking part of the road up and needed directions, so I tried to help them, though I spoke no Chinese. Anyway, they were going the right way–which was uphill–but seemed confused. (I took some pictures with them later.)

I arrived before the gondola started bringing the masses up. There wasn't much to do but walk around. There was some Buddhist chanting on the PA system, which was too loud and bad quality. I wandered into the temple, clad in bicycle shorts etc., and was told not to enter the ceremony area. The place was kind of shabby and according to the signage they were soliciting donations to build some new buildings. Already a new gate was being constructed.

There's a ton of incense getting burned it seemed, so much that there are huge areas set aside, containing just metal racks for holding incense sticks.

As the sign explained, no meat or alcohol was permitted in the temple area. And having bought a ticket to enter the museum of the Big Buddha, I was entitled to a vegetarian snack. They give you three or so gelatin and mochi cakes, with a plate of noodles for your snack, plus a drink.

Post breakfast, made my way to Tai-O, on the west, the "Venice of Hong Kong." It was a steep and huge descent from about the top of the island to sea level. Tai-O is a village, in the Hong Kong sense, meaning not a lot of tall buildings, but they're all buildings packed in cheek and jowl. There's no cars to get around, and no roads wide enough for a car anyway. It seems everyone either walks or bikes with carts from house to road.

It's called "Venice" but mostly a lot of buildings on pilings, canoes and a handful of draw bridges, some manually operated with ropes or chains. I think to be called Venice you'd have to have floating buildings, at least. It does have a tourist draw, as there were a few white tourists walking around. Normal people would take a bus, I guess.

According to Crazy Guy on a Bike who talked about riding the island, there's a trail from Tai-o to the next town west, but I discover it's really a hiking trail with lots of stairs, not even suitable for mountain biking, I would think. (Can mountain bikers ride up stairs?) Still, carrying a 20lb bicycle isn't too big of a deal for a mile or so.

I get to the Sham Wai, which is a hamlet but at least there's a restaurant, run by an octogenarian couple (or older?) who isn't serving much from the menu but instant ramen with some add-in meat. Still, I'm hungry and need the sodium. Then I realize I had dropped my map of the island out of the back pocket of my jersey.

I spend about an hour hiking back along the trail, but all I see are discarded tissues from some littering hikers. I really was concerned not having the map to get from Sham Wai to Tung Chung, since it was all little trails. Anyway, I make it back to town and attempt anyway to figure out the trails in the jungle.

The trail is all concrete, no stairs, and about 4' wide, so not an issue for riding, though still a bit steep for my compact double gearing, so I walk the bike at some points. And although it's a "trail", it's really just a walking path, as there's plenty of houses to either side much of the way. (And no road access to these houses, so I assume it's this path that's used to bring goods in.)

Tung Chung is subway accessible to the mainland, so it's basically been built up to contain about 30-40 or so mega apartment buildings. It overlooks the airport, which was built on reclaimed land. And although its maybe home to 250,000 people, there's just one little two lane road out of there, back into the rest of the island.

Now this little road is quite steep, and signs explain the grade is about 1:8 to 1:6, which is roughly 13% to %17 for about 2-3 miles. Killer hill! Stalling before the end, I walk up the last 100 feet, hopping off my bike, walking, and praying not to cramp up, especially for the descent. And it's no trouble: The descent is amazing, especially with the road surface as smooth as it was, and with no traffic, I could hit some pretty high speeds and curve some nice turns.

But even back to the south side, there's still many steep hills to beat. I make it to Poi beach and take a refreshing swim, though it's getting on to evening and it's quite cool. The beach is occupied by children (foreigners) from the states (based on their accents) and they're doing some sort of group games, like you'd do at Summer Camp. When I'm out about 100 yards, and nobody else is around, I worry briefly my legs are going to cramp up and I'm going to drown, like in the movies. But there's no issue, minus that I had no towel with me.

I make it back to the ferry area and consider dinner. There's nothing really open, and the ferry had just arrived so I head back to town. From the ferry, I get to enjoy an amazing sunset overlooking the city. I try taking pictures but they are so-so.

It's rush hour, and dark, in Hong Kong and not a great time to be riding a bike. I make it to a tram station, then see what other riders are doing, which is riding their bicycles, following the tram line. I make it back to Wan Chai no problem this way. Then it's a shower, dinner–I'm starving!

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About eliasross

Blogging before the word "blog" was invented.
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