Slow Boat to (a Special Administrative Region of) China

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Hong Kong’s a busy place. Everyone knows that. Even people who have no real concept of Hong Kong as a place will imagine it as busy. People, buses, taxis, neon lights… It’s odd how neon lights are synonymous with ‘busyness’ but don’t actually contribute any kind of physical presence on the street. Anyway…

Up in the far east of Hong Kong, however, deep in the wilds of Sai Kung Country Park, you can take a journey that is the direct antithesis of a city centre bus ride. A detox journey. The ferry from Wong Shek to Ma Liu Shui. It departs twice a day, with six stops in a total journey time of nearly 2 hours. Hong Kong is a small place. There aren’t many journeys that take 2 hours here without delivering you back to where you started.

But this tub chugs along, so slow that you think it must be intentional, a wilful test of Hong Kongers’ patience….

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Past distant Sharp Peak, to Tap Mun, almost to China, then back round in to Tolo Harbour. It stops at solitary piers and apparently deserted villages. The captain sounds his horn, last call, but nobody is there. There is genuinely nothing to do on board except sit back and watch everything go by. You notice that the mountains are layered in the haze, like a kid’s pop-up book. While sitting on board, alongside perhaps ten passengers in total, I began to wonder why this service is still running when it clearly hasn’t been required since the 1950s. Maybe the authorities don’t realise that it is still running. In that case, I hope they never do…

DSC_0281 DSC_0278Finally we meander in to Ma Liu Shui, near Sha Tin. There are roads, and tower blocks, and various other signs of civilisation. Because this is Hong Kong, we can then jump straight on to a taxi and shoot back in to the city’s neon belly.

 

The Big Buddha and Tai O

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Living in Hong Kong means that, as time goes by, you stop doing the touristy stuff. But when you get visitors, as I did recently, you’re forced out of bed and out in to the wider world of giant Buddhas and rickety fishing villages. Both of these sights are found on Lantau, Hong Kong biggest island.

5 BIG Buddha facts: it’s 34 meters tall and was THE biggest, seated, outdoor Buddha in the world. Until 2000. When another one was built. It’s one of the 5 biggest Buddhas (seated, standing, reclining, dancing or otherwise) in China. There are 268 steps leading up to it. It was completed in 1993. And, on a clear day, it can be seen from all the way over in Macau! Yes, this blog raids Wikipedia so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

From there it’s just a short bus trip to Tai O, a little village built on stilts over an inlet. Until the ’60s it was only accessible by foot or by boat. It’s about as remote as you can get in Hong Kong, and it’s a lovely place to spend an afternoon.

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