We’re in Hong Kong.
We spent the first few days rushing around. We have to see the Big Buddha at the Po Lin monastery! So we did. Took the metro to the end of the line, bought tickets on an amazing cable car, took the pictures, climbed the steps, and there we were.
Cable car to Po Lin Monastery
We paid extra for the glass-bottomed car
The largest outdoor Buddha in the world is made of bronze and weighs more than a jumbo jet
Climbing the stairs to the Buddha behind some monks from Thailand. We chatted with them on the way up. They were very friendly and one spoke English.
We went shopping, we saw markets, we rode the subway, we rode ferries. All amazing. And exhausting. And we got very tired and crabby.
But it wasn’t until the third day here that we finally slowed down, decided to let things come as they will.
We’re staying in a friend’s apartment while they visit family in the US. We’re on one of Hong Kong’s outlying islands, Lamma Island, a half-hour ferry ride from Central Hong Kong. And I’ve slowly begun to wrap my mind around this place. Instead of being a problem, half an hour ferry ride plus fifteen minutes walk, it’s actually pretty cool.
It’s like Lopez Island (in the San Juans, for those of you not from the Pacific Northwest). Fishing villages, guest houses, hanging around. Unlike Lopez, there are no cars. Everything moves at the speed of people on foot or bike. The main street of the village we’re staying in, Yung Shue Wan, is a footpath. It’s about ten feet wide. Narrow little shopfronts sell groceries, or handmade handbags, or noodles, or seafood, or Annie’s Organic Mac and Cheese at an obscene price to homesick Westerners. There’s an amazing public beach about fifteen minutes away, by foot.
Main Street, Yung Shue Wan, Lamma Island (note the lack of cars)
And Hong Kong, in all its busy, crazy, commercial glory, is half an hour away.
I think we’ve landed on our feet.
We had lots of crazy busy plans to go to Beijing on the train. But the reality is that even being here at all is more money than we should be spending. Getting to Beijing means visas for four (not cheap), and train tickets. It’s 24 hours each way on the train, and one of the directions didn’t have a private sleeper car for four, which meant we’d be sharing our sleeping car with strangers. I’m a pretty adventurous soul, but I have my limits, and 24 hours of family togetherness with two strangers is more than I’m willing to do. Flying doubles the cost. We left the Chinese travel agency feeling a little bewildered, and sure we should have done a better job of planning this expedition. We’re not seeing the Great Wall. Not this trip anyway.
I took my son to the beach yesterday. We walked down Lamma Island’s Family Trail—the paved main thoroughfare on a car-free island, and we swam in a little protected bay. He learned to body-surf. I sat in the sand and watched Chinese families play, and felt myself begin to unwind.
We have a long time. More than three weeks. Unheard of by American standards.
The Great Wall will still be there. So will the whole rest of the freaking world. We don’t have to see it all in three weeks.