Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Hong Kong: Temples and Gardens

There are lots of things to say about Hong Kong.  Like, all the free wifi all over the city.  Lots of public parks had free wireless access, but since we didn't have a converter for my iPod charger I couldn't make very much use of it.  But it's nice that it's there!  And shopping! Hong Kong has more shopping than anyone could want, from the cheap stuff at markets to the high end shopping centres.  In fact, pretty much every train station is also a shopping mall.  We were more keen on the markets, though we were a little surprised to find a sex toy section in the Temple Street Night Markets.  But we didn't buy much, sex toys or other souvenirs, because we were at the start of our trip and were smugly travelling lightly, with nothing but backpacks. 

From sex toys to religion... I don't have a transition for this, because (as you can see) Hong Kong is a giant mix-up of everything you could want to do, see, experience, and as a result my stories about it are also a mix-up.

Hong Kong had loads of temples, and the thing I found interesting was that while they were centred on one of the three main religions (Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism), most had space for all three religions within their walls.

Tin Hau temple in Kowloon - the reason the photo looks hazy is because of all the incense smoke.

Temple of 10,000 Buddhas.  This place... we had read really good things about it on the internet before we left Australia.  The directions to get there seemed pretty straight forward.  We got the train, and got off at the right station, and looked for signs, but managed, somehow, to go out the wrong exit.  We found ourselves walking around Sha Tin, which is in Hong Kong's New Territories, for about an hour.  The New Territories is the mainland China part of Hong Kong, and it felt very Chinese -- in contrast to most of the city, which just felt like a city.  It was an interesting walk, but when we eventually found where we needed to go, it turned out to be about 3 minutes from the train station.  Der.
And, in the end, the temple didn't really live up to the hype.  Most of the temple was storage for cremated remains, so it felt a bit funny to be touristing while people were visiting dead relatives.  But the Buddhas were pretty.
Outside the temple were these friendly cats.
Nan Lian Garden, outside the Chi Lin Nunnery.  This was a gorgeous gem in the city - a traditional Tang Dynasty garden that was all about meditation and contemplation.  There were rules forbidding "frolicking" and posing for photos in "costumes" like graduation gowns or wedding dresses.
Behind that waterfall was the Chi Lin Vegetarian Tea House, where we ate lunch.  It was really lovely looking out the window and seeing water falling over the glass.
The view from the steps of the Chi Lin Nunnery over its internal gardens, with the city-scape in the background.
At the Man Mo Temple, in SoHo, these massive coils of incense provided a smoky atmosphere but left tourists at risk of ashy heads.
Hong Kong doesn't seem to discriminate, though - we also found this mosque.
And this Christian Church.  We just happened to pass on a Sunday, so we stopped to watch the complex car parking situation that was going on.  Most cars got to the bottom of the hill, at the red and white road block that you can just see in the bottom centre of the photo, and were diverted into a parking garage.  But the flash, very expensive cars, were allowed up the hill, where they attempted 37-point turns (give or take) to squeeze into a very crowded parking lot.  All so they didn't have to walk up the hill before church.
On our last day we went to Lantau Island and spent a few hours marvelling at the Big Buddha.  This 34m tall bronze Buddha was a popular tourist destination, for good reason.
Just as interesting as walking up to the statue was poking through the Po Lin Monastery at the base of the giant Buddha.

 Waiting for the bus to go back down the hill, we made friends with this Temple Cow.

These temples were much needed pockets of serenity in the midst of a crazy-big city, so we spent lots of time in them.  Not to mention that almost all had veggie restaurants attached to them...


Millie said...

what a great place to visit. the photos are fabulous. Thank you Theresa for the great view.

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