Tasting The Spice Of South East Asia

dolphingirl47

In Search of the Tag Fairy
Joined
Dec 25, 2007
We have been up to Ngong Ping and the Po Lin Monastery on both of our previous visits to Hong Kong. However, there was something we had not got around to visiting, which is the Wisdom Path. This was the main reason for coming here that day. I took a few photos on the land belonging to the monastery. Normally there are water buffalo hanging out in this area, but we did not see any that day. The path to the Wisdom Path turned off just to the left of the Big Buddha. We were suddenly in uncharted territory. Initially we walked past the backstage areas of the monastery with the nursery and the greenhouses. Then there was very little for a while apart from greenery.













After a couple of minutes, we came past a bunch of derelict buildings. I assumed that this was part of the monastery. I was a little disappointed that this area has been left like this. The monastery appears to be quite wealthy and I could not see any reason why they were leaving an eyesore like this standing. I did some research after returning home and it actually has nothing to do with the monastery. What we had seen was the only tea plantation that Hong Kong used to have. This was founded by a British lawyer in 1947. He gave jobs to recently released prisoners and drug addicts. About 40 staff worked on the estate and most of the derelict buildings are former dormitories for the staff. The tea produced there was sold under the name Lotus Brand. In 1994, the original owner was diagnosed with a brain tumour and headed back to the UK. He handed over the business to one of his employees and friends. Initially the new owner tried to expand by adding a tea garden and a restaurant. However, this closed down in 2014. It is hard to believe that this has only stood empty for just over 5 years. It looked like it had been abandoned decades ago.











The path to the Wisdom Path turned off at the far end of this area. There were signposts to the local youth hostel and another smaller monastery pointing off in the opposite direction. We however ended up in a jungle and it was here that I fed the first of the many mosquitoes that used me as a buffet during our trip to Southeast Asia. Interesting enough, although the bites itched plenty, I had no allergic reaction. This was the same throughout this trip. I am starting to wonder if I am not allergic to mosquito bites, but actually to pesticides or other substances that they are contaminated with in Europe. While we were in this jungle, the path also got quite steep in places. After about 10 minutes we got to a clearing. The Wisdom Path was on our left and ahead of us was a statue of a phoenix and further along, Lantau Peak.



At the beginning of the Wisdom Path, there was a little pavilion explaining about the Wisdom Path and the person behind it. I had been under the impression that the Wisdom Path is part of Po Lin Monastery, but this is not the case. Back in 2002, Sinologist Professor Jao Tsung-I donated an original calligraphy of the Heart Sutra to the people of Hong Kong. He wanted to have the calligraphy transformed into an outdoor, large-scale carving. His wish was granted and in 2005, the Wisdom Path was completed. The Wisdom Path consists of 38 wooden columns arranged in a figure of 8 along a hillside. 37 of those columns have a different verse of the Heart Sutra carved into them, but the one at the highest point has been left empty. The area covering the Wisdom Path is pretty steep. As we cannot read what is on the columns anyway and even if we could, it would have no meaning to us, we did not go very far. There were some rocks near the first few columns and we just that down and enjoyed the stunning scenery and the serenity of our surroundings. We may have made a tactical error not going any further as apparently from the highest point, there are stunning views over the South China Sea and reservoir. Still we loved what we saw and were glad we came. This felt like a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong.









We must have been there for a good hour when a rather noisy big family arrived at the clearing and the kids were chasing each other and making a lot of noise. We decided it was time to return to civilisation. Funny enough, it felt much quicker to get back to Po Lin than the way out had taken us. From the path near the monastery, I had a great perspective of the Big Buddha and also the monastery itself. During the past two visits, I had tried and failed to get a good angle on the Big Buddha, but this time round, I got the kind of photo I had been hoping for. I also loved the photo that I managed to take of Po Lin from this perspective even though there was a great big lorry in the way.









We then headed into the monastery itself. Graham decided to wait for me at one of the picnic tables, but I went inside. I have always been absolutely captivated by the beauty of Po Lin Monastery and I could not imagine being in Hong Kong and not visiting. Of course, it turned out that compared to some of the other temples we saw later during this trip, Po Lin is merely a poor relation. However, this place will always have a special place in my heart. I wandered around for a while enjoying the beauty of the buildings and soaking up the atmosphere. I took some photos and then I went back to Graham. We started to walk back toward the cable car.


























I quickly had a look at a jewellery shop in Ngong Ping Village. As we were travelling on my birthday, Graham had not got me a present, but had told me I could pick something out on holiday. What I really wanted was a pendant with a Chinese dragon. Unfortunately, there was nothing of this kind at this shop. We pushed on towards the tea house. We ended up sitting at the same table we had sat at the last two visits. Normally I have Oolong tea there. They make a special roasted Oolong tea, which is delicious. Graham had this. I decided to try their Jasmine tea, which was also delicious. Graham likes their pineapple cake and decided to order some. I had no intention to have any food, but when Graham was told that they had no pineapple cake and was offered some walnut cake instead, I changed my mind. I love walnut cake. However, we both were in for a disappointed. The so-called walnut cake was a rather dry and somewhat tasteless cookie.



While we were waiting for the tea to arrive, I browsed in the attached shop. I was given some peony white tea to try and I was hooked. I ended up bringing back two different kinds of this tea, one being a young tea and the other one is aged. So far, I have just tried the young tea and I love it. Once I had made my purchase, I re-joined Graham. We enjoyed our tea and then headed back to the cable car. We ended up having a cabin to ourselves again.
 

dolphingirl47

In Search of the Tag Fairy
Joined
Dec 25, 2007
When we arrived back into Tung Chung, it was only early afternoon. We decided to explore Discovery Bay as there are buses between the two points. We had a little bother finding where the bus was going from. They are currently rebuilding the transport interchange at Tung Chung and buses are going from all kinds of different places. Eventually we found the temporary bus station where the buses from Discovery Bay are leaving from. We did not have to wait long for a bus to arrive. Unfortunately, this one was full to the rafters. We decided to wait for the next one. Fortunately, this one had plenty of space. The journey took about 20 minutes.

Discovery Bay was recommended to us when Graham asked a local contact for good beaches in Hong Kong. Essentially Discovery Bay is one huge gated community. Private cars and taxis are not permitted to enter the area. There are a few exceptions like emergency services and traffic linked to the local business. Residents use golf carts to get around. It reminded me a bit of Catalina. Discovery Bay is an upmarket residential area, which also has a golf course, its own marina plus the largest oceanfront alfresco dining area in Hong Kong. They also have a manmade beach. The area looked absolutely gorgeous on photos. I think it would be an amazing place to live, but we found that it has very limited appeal for tourists. I was craving proper Cantonese food so we figured we would spend some time swimming in the sea and then have dinner in Discovery Bay before returning to our Disney bubble. This is not quite how it worked out. When we got off the bus, we cut through a shopping centre and across a huge public square. The beach was essentially just the other side of the square separated from this by a small park. I noticed that although there were plenty of people on the beach, there was a distinct absence of people in the water. I took this as a warning. I also had one look at the sand, which looked rather coarse and suddenly the beach no longer seemed so appealing. I absolutely love swimming in the sea, but I hate having sand stuck to my feet. I decided to give this a pass. Graham could not resist having a paddle. I kept his stuff and sat down on the stairs leading from the park to the beach. I could see Graham from where I was sitting. As he seemed to take forever to get into the water, I decided that I had made the right decision to sit this one out. He did not stay long in the water either and pronounced it freezing.







It was still a bit early for dinner, but we decided to check out the possibilities. That was a big disappointment as well. There were multiple French, Spanish, Italian and Mexican places. There was a Lebanese restaurant, a Thai restaurant, some “Irish” pubs, a Korean restaurant and a couple of Indian restaurants. There were also chains like McDonalds, Subway and Pizza Express. The only homegrown outlet was Pacific Coffee, which is Hong Kong’s answer to Starbucks. That was not what I had hoped for. We walked down to the marina and watched the ferries come and go for a while to give Graham the chance to finish the drying off process. There was nowhere to get changed and he had put his dry clothes over the wet swimming shorts. Once he was reasonably dry, we headed back towards the bus. We cut through the shopping centre again and there was a Chinese restaurant there, but that was not due to open until 19:30. Neither of us had any wish to hang around that long. We stopped by a chemist where I got some magical stuff to put on my bites. The stuff I got is all natural with various essential oils, but it is more effective than the steroid cream that I have been prescribed in the past. Then we headed to the bus station.

There was a bus service to Sunny Bay MTR station. We did not have to wait long either for a bus to come and there was plenty of space. The bus journey took a few extra minutes, but this meant that we did not have to change to another bus, but could get straight on the resort line at Sunny Bay. When we arrived at Disneyland station, we did not have to wait long for the bus back to our hotel either.

While Graham got showered and changed, I was going through the menu of all the resort restaurants. In the end I decided on Dragon Wind, which is at Explorer’s Lodge. Every morning for breakfast and at lunchtime on weekends and public holidays, they offer an international buffet with similar offerings to Chef Mickey’s. However, in the evening, this turns into an a la carte Chinese restaurant. I had pretty low expectations, but this was as good as I was going to get. When Graham was ready, we headed over there. Let’s say, I was positively surprised.

This was a very pretty space and the service was great. The food was amazing. In the US Disney resorts, this would be classified as signature restaurant. We both had some water. Graham had a beer and I had a pot of Osmanthus and rose tea. This was the herbal version of Osmanthus tea, meaning that it consisted of just Osmanthus flowers rather than having tealeaves added and there was not a teabag in sight. This was the real stuff and very tasty. They brought out some prawn crackers with our drinks. Graham had steamed pork patty with water chestnut and salted fish. This turned out to be very similar to something we had tried in a farmer’s restaurant near Guilin, which we absolutely loved. I had sweet and sour pork. This was as good as the one I had in Guilin. We both had a bowl of steamed rice. The portions were huge, and the food was absolutely amazing. We both agreed that this was the best food we had at a Disney restaurant anywhere in the world. When I had looked at the menu, I saw a dessert platter for two that I really liked the look of, but the portions are so big that I did not have any room for dessert.





Once we finished dinner, we had a quick look at the gift shop. I saw something I liked, but as I could only get the merchandise discount at the park, I did not buy it. I wanted to check out first if it was available in the park. We then walked back to our hotel. I checked my emails and posted my photo of the day on Facebook. We then got ready for bed and I think I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
 

tiggrbaby

<font color=deeppink><marquee>We must work harder
Joined
Jun 26, 2004
How nice that you were able to get your own private cable car! Was that a clear bottom?

Your pictures from your hike and the monastery were lovely!
 
  • dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Joined
    Dec 25, 2007
    Day 4

    This ended up being a very unusual day for me. Those of you who have read my trip reports for a while know that I like to cram as much as I possibly can. However, between my pass being blocked out on the weekend, us having covered plenty of ground on our previous visit and us figuring that if something should kick off, it would most likely be on the weekend, we had made no plans for this day. We had originally considered having a beach day, but after the disappointment with the beach at Discovery Bay, we scrapped this idea. This turned out to be the only day of the holiday that I had a proper lie in. I was awake before the crack of dawn again and checked in online. I read for a bit, but my eyes started to feel heavy after about an hour and I went back to sleep. When I woke up again, it was 9:30. We got up, took turns having a shower and got dressed. Then we headed out.

    Fortunately, I had taken my bag with my phone as Graham had mentioned that characters hang out at the hotel in the morning. As soon as we came out of the lift, we bumped into Goofy wearing his travelling outfit. There was nobody else around and Goofy spent a good 5 minutes with me. Eventually we said goodbye and Goofy went on his travels while we headed for the pool.








    Initially, we had the pool to ourselves. I love the pool there. It is a really good size. It was also a nice temperature that was neither too hot nor too cold. I swam laps for a bit and then checked out the water slide, which is a lot of fun. It reminded me of the slide at Kidani Village in Florida. I then went back to swimming laps. The pool started to fill up slowly, but by the time it started to get busy, we were done anyway. We sat down on loungers for a bit to dry off. Once we were no longer dripping, we headed back to the room. We rinsed off the chlorine and then headed for lunch.









    When we got down to Chef Mickey’s, there seemed to be a lot of people waiting. I started to wonder if they would be able to fit us in. However, they had not started to let people in yet and it looked a lot busier than it was. We had no issues getting a table. I could not tell you if I preferred breakfast or lunch. I loved them both for different reasons. There was a good selection of different foods and everything was delicious. As is always the case with character meals, this is not a cheap meal. However, we got a 25% discount with my annual pass. They also included a range of non-alcoholic drinks making this pretty good value. I absolutely loved the watermelon juice. I just wish that they had bigger glasses. They were tiny. Graham definitely took the healthier approach. His first plate consisted of salad and peel and eat shrimp. I had a slice of vegetable pizza, assorted dim sum, roast beef, breaded pork, roti and chicken curry. The chicken curry was amazing. For his second plate, Graham had some of this, roast lamb, roast beef and vegetables. I had some more of the chicken curry, with rice, roti, poppadom and a lentil curry. I also had spotted Nuremberg sausage and just had to try this out of morbid curiosity. It was not at all authentic, but still tasty.

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    Once I had finished my second plate, Sous Chef Donald had come out. I went to see him. Then I got some dessert. Graham was brave and tried the bread and butter putting, which he said was pretty tasty, I had some of the mini desserts: red apple mousse, Mickey shortbread, chestnut cake and a mini lemon roll with a white chocolate alien from Toy Story. We both had a Minnie bar, which is strawberry and vanilla ice cream. When we were ready to leave, Chef Mickey came out. I went to see him on the way out.





     

    dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Joined
    Dec 25, 2007
    After lunch, we went back to the room for some downtime and to digest the food. Graham had a nap and I read for a bit. Around 15:00, we headed out again. I wanted to have a closer look at Explorer’s Lodge. This time we walked along the seafront, which is a very pretty walk. I was very surprised that people had pitched tents in the grounds of our hotel and also in the grounds of Explorer’s Lodge. I somehow think that this would be severely frowned upon in the Disney resorts outside Asia.









    One thing I wanted to see at Explorer’s Lodge is the four themed gardens - Kevin Garden, Little Squirt Garden, Hathi Jr. Garden and Rafiki Garden. Themed gardens is overstating things just a touch. The only garden that had some kind of recognisable theme was the Hathi Jr. Garden, which had some Asian touches. I really expected better from Disney. This is a real shame as the rest of the hotel is gorgeous and fully themed. It very much reminds me of Animal Kingdom Lodge. I think they may have seen the error of their ways as in the part of the website that used to have a feature about the gardens, it now has a feature and a map of an exploration trail.









    We checked out the area where the restaurants are and then went to the pool. Graham had checked out the pool there on the day we arrived and reported that the water there was quite a bit cooler than in our hotel. I had brought my swimsuit, but as I had a swim in the morning, I was not sure if I could be bothered. I found myself a lounger by the pool. However, in the end, I could not resist dipping my toe in and the water was lovely and warm. I got my swimsuit and headed for the changing room. The pool there is a funny shape and it was pretty busy so not a lot of swimming was done. I did however find a spot where the warm water comes into the pool and I just hung out there. Once it started to get a bit cooler, we got out of the water. We went back to the loungers to drip dry. The pool area had started to empty out and there were suddenly all kinds of interesting birds. It was a lot of fun birdwatching from the comfort of a sun lounger.








    Once the sun started to fade, we headed inside the hotel. I wanted to take photos of the character trunks in the lobby and also of the Christmas tree. Then we headed back to our hotel along the road. I really like both the Disneyland Hotel and Explorer’s Lodge, but came to the conclusion that the Hollywood Hotel is my favourite of the three. It is also the cheapest so this is a win win situation.






















    When we got back to the room, we got showered the third time that day and had some more downtime. I was reading for a while, but at some stage we both dropped off. We woke up again just before 21:00 and decided to grab something to eat at the Studio Lounge. We both went with the “build your own sampler”. Graham had three dishes - chicken wings, beef and chicken satay and spicy chips with cheese sauce. I thought two dishes was plenty for me, so I had the chicken satay and spicy chips with cheese sauce. This definitely hit the spot as did the Margarita I had. Graham seemed to enjoy his Tsing Tao beer as well.





    Once we finished our food and drink, we paid and headed back to the room. I checked the MTR website to see if there were any disruptions or station closures that would affect our plans for the next day. All seemed well. We got ready for bed and settled down for the night.
     

    tiggrbaby

    <font color=deeppink><marquee>We must work harder
    Joined
    Jun 26, 2004
    What a lovely day! So nice that you were able to enjoy all the resorts. The trunks were adorable!
     
  • jedijill

    Chiefs fan living in Bronco country
    Joined
    Jan 17, 2005
    Caught back up again. The Wisdom Trail looked beautiful. Those Disney hotels are gorgeous! Hong Kong is moving up my list!

    Jill in CO
     

    dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Joined
    Dec 25, 2007
    What a lovely day! So nice that you were able to enjoy all the resorts. The trunks were adorable!
    I loved those trunks and when I spotted a Duffy plush in Mickey's trunk, this put a big smile on my face.

    Caught back up again. The Wisdom Trail looked beautiful. Those Disney hotels are gorgeous! Hong Kong is moving up my list!

    Jill in CO
    I am so glad that we made the effort to check out the Wisdom Trail. This is just stunningly beautiful.

    Hong Kong Disneyland is definitely worth a visit. It is the smallest of the parks I have visited, but it has a unique charm.

    Corinna
     

    dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Joined
    Dec 25, 2007
    Sorry that I have not been on here in ages. As most of you know, I am a travel agent and things have been even crazier as usual as this is the peak time for cruises out of Asia. I have a few instalments ready to go and will post the next one shortly.

    Corinna
     

    dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Joined
    Dec 25, 2007
    Day 5

    I was awake for a bit in the middle of the night again, but after reading for a bit, I went back to sleep until just before 7. Graham was awake as well. We got up and ready. I checked again if there were any station closures that way affect us and also checked if there was any trouble to be expected. Since we had arrived, all the issues apart from some petty vandalism that may or may not have been linked to the protests, was concentrated on a university in Kowloon. This was still the case and it looked like this could come to an end as well. There was nothing in the MTR service updates or the news that concerned me. I quickly plotted our route and then we headed out.

    We did make a little detour. Where we were headed that day is about as rural as it gets in Hong Kong. I had spotted the day before that there were baskets containing bottles of mosquito repellent on the umbrellas by the pool for everyone to use. After I was feeding the local mosquito population on the Saturday, I had no intention becoming dinner again. We went down to the pool to spray some on all of our skin that was not covered by clothes. Then we headed to the bus stop. A bus was just leaving as we came down the hill. We sat down on a bench and noticed that there was mosquito repellent at the bus stop, too. Had we known this; we would have made that bus. Still, we were not on any timetable and the next bus arrived only about 5 minutes later.

    From this point onwards, everything worked like clockwork. We had to use 5 different MTR lines to get to our destination and we stayed on each of them only for a short while. The shortest stretch was one stop and the longest was 4 stops. The resort line pulled in as we came down the stairs to the platform and at all but the last interchange station either the connecting train was waiting for us or was just pulling in. We were also lucky that with the exception of the first and the last interchange, the platform was just opposite. When we made the last change, this was a bit of a hike changing from one of the underground MTR lines to the over ground East Rail Line. On the way, we had a quick bathroom stop. When we got to the new platform, we had about a 10-minute wait before our train pulled in. Even though we were only on that train for two stops, we covered the most distance on this stretch as the stations on the East Rail Line are further apart.

    Our destination that morning was Sha Tin in the New Territories. Sha Tin is the town with the highest population in the New Territories. Originally a market town, it is nowadays absolutely packed with shopping centres. Parts of this town are also famous for their street food. Sha Tin also made the news as this was one of the first places where the ongoing protests turned violent. The close proximity of a number of universities probably had something to do with this. Fortunately, all was quiet when we were there. Sha Tin had not seen any protests since the end of September and the next time things kicked off there was just before Christmas.

    We were not there for the shopping, the food or to look for trouble. We had a specific destination in mind - the 10000 Buddhas Monastery. Having said that, before we started our way up the mountain, we needed some food. There was a bakery at the station, and I decided to see if they had some pineapple buns. Pineapple buns do not contain pineapple. They are a plain sweet bun with a topping that is similar to the dough sugar cookies are made of. The way the topping looks on the finished product is said to resemble the outside of a pineapple. Personally, I don’t really get this, but the topping is definitely looking very unique. In the bakery, they had buns that had this kind of topping, but they were bigger than the pineapple buns I had before and an oval shape rather than round. They also came with all kinds of different fillings. They were called Polo Buns. I got us a bun with a sweet coconut filling each and they were absolutely delicious. When I was on the train on the way back, I Googled Polo Buns and it turned out that I had got my wish to have a pineapple bun after all. Apparently, Polo is Cantonese for pineapple.

    I had read in a number of different places that the 10000 Buddhas Monastery is a bit of hidden gem and the photos I had seen while doing my research definitely looked tempting. We decided to check this out on this trip. Hidden is the operative word here. There are no signposts to the 10000 Buddhas Monastery anywhere in Sha Tin. The reason given for this varies. One version refers to a major landslide in 1997 in which one of the caretakers was killed when her house was completely covered by the mudslide. The 10000 Buddhas Monastery did not fully reopen until 2000. In 1998 the Department for Civil Engineering published to independent reports stating that the upkeep of the hillside overlooking the monastery was inadequate. Another version states that works started in 2007 to install signposts directing people to the 10000 Buddhas Monastery. This version states that this work was suspended when the building department asked the Hong Kong Tourism Board not to promote the monastery as they had concerns about some of the building work. I am sure the truth is a mix of those two theories. Fact is, they have done a good job. Unless you know where the 10000 Buddhas Monastery is or have good instructions on how to find it, you would never know it is there. Fortunately, I had access to the later. What does not help either is the fact that nearby are the Po Fook Hill Ancestral Halls. Po Fook Hill Ancestral Halls is Hong Kong’s largest crematorium and cemetery. There are a number of temples, a pagoda, shrines and ponds within its grounds. By all accounts, this looks quite pretty, but apparently, they are getting a steady stream of people that are very disappointed that they cannot find the buddhas.

    The access to the 10000 Buddhas Monastery is rather strange. After following the main road for a while, you have to turn down a small road that just looks like a service road leading to a parking structure. When you get to the parking structure, you just seem to be at a dead end. I knew that the access to the 10000 Buddhas Monastery was to the left of this, but again, this is not at all obvious. We had to climb over a small wall and there seemed to be nothing there, but a jungle. My instructions had stated that once you were on the path, there would be signs directing you to the 10000 Buddhas Monastery. They seemed to have disappeared and we were not quite sure which way we needed to turn. I left Graham at the end of the path while I went to see if I could figure this out. My instincts had guided me in the right direction and within a few meters I saw signs warning people of fake monks begging in this area. I had read about these signs before so knew I was in the right place. I went back to get Graham. Just as soon as we were past those signs, we saw the first buddha statues. We started our trek up the mountain.

    It takes 431 stairs or very steep ramp to get up to the monastery. Fortunately, the stairs are quite shallow. The stairs are also lined with 500 gold buddha statues. Each of them is unique. Apparently, there are usually monkeys in the area, but unfortunately, we did not see any. At regular intervals on the way, there are benches to have a rest. Me made good use of those. It did not take too long to get to the lower terrace. There is a small gift shop on the left as soon as you enter the lower terrace and we both a bottle of water for Graham and a can of sugarcane juice for me. I was introduced to this on our first visit to Hong Kong and it will never cease to amaze me how refreshing this is. We found a bench in the shade and rehydrated. Then we had a look around the lower terrace.










     
  • dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Joined
    Dec 25, 2007
    The kind people of Hong Kong seem to have a real passion for giving things names that are not in the least bit accurate. The 10000 Buddhas Monastery is another example of this. The only monks that you can sometimes find at the 10000 Buddhas Monastery are the fake monks the signs warned us about. There were not even any fake monks that day. The complex is managed by laypeople, but they definitely seem to be very dedicated.

    The 10000 Buddhas Monastery was founded in 1951 by The Reverend Yuet Kai, a lyre player and poet from Kumming in Mainland China, who had dedicated his life to Buddhism from the age of 19. It took 6 years to complete. Although he died 1965 at the age of 87 years, he is still present at the temple today. No, I don’t mean this in the spiritual sense. He is actually physically present. He was buried for 8 months on the hillside, before his body was exhumed. It was completely intact, so according to his wishes, his followers embalmed the body with Chinese lacquer, covered it in gold leaf and robes and placed it in the lotus position.in a glass case in front of the main altar in the main hall of the temple with the very poetic Chinese title “Diamond Indestructible Body of Yuexi.” The English version does not have quite the same ring about it. His followers claimed that the fact his body was completely intact after 8 months is a result of the seated lotus position, he was buried in. The press claimed that he was embalmed before being buried. I had read about this before our visit and just shook my head. In the end it was not half as creepy as I had thought. Even though I was fully aware of what is in that glass case and the signage left no doubt about this either, it just looked like another statue.



    However, I am getting ahead of myself. Once we had finished our drinks, we had a look around the lower terrace. There was quite a bit of ongoing construction near the gift shop, but none near the pagoda. You can go up the stairs in the pagoda, but we passed. Instead we admired it from the outside and had the look around the terrace. There were some stunning views over the valley. Unfortunately, the position of the sun made taking photos impossible. Between the main hall and the Pagoda, dotted around the terrace, are 18 life-size states that represent Buddhas most important students.


















    Once we had finished, exploring the terrace, I went to check out the main hall. Graham decided to sit this out. The outside of the main hall is very plain. It is just a plain square building painted red with some gold Chinese characters and a couple of Chinese dragons decorating the outside. From the outside, this is the least impressive temple I have seen before and after. I think a lot of people just pass this by as it looks so unimpressive. If I had not known that this was the main hall, I think I would have bypassed this as well. That would have been a crying shame. The inside of the main hall is breathtakingly beautiful. The place is positively dripping with gold and has some very impressive crystal chandeliers. The main hall is also known as the 10000 Buddhas Hall. The walls of the hall are lined with 12800 buddha statues. The statues are 12 inches tall, ceramic covered in gold and supposedly each statue has a different pose and expression. I did not count them, nor did I have a close enough look to check if they are really all unique. However, the overall effect of all those statues is absolutely stunning. I was thinking that this is another example of something else that is named not very accurately, but apparently the Cantonese word for 10000 also has a secondary meaning of a very large number. I can definitely attest to the fact that there is a very large number of buddhas in that hall.





    Once I had finished looking around, I went to find Graham. We were considering for a moment or two if we should head to the upper terrace. It takes further 69 stairs to get there and those stairs were a lot steeper than the ones leading from Sha Tin to the monastery. We came to the conclusion that as we were here, we might as well. I think once upon the time, this was the more beautiful of the two terraces. However, when we visited there was not a great deal there. There were a couple of houses and the Amitabha Hall. Apart from this, there were just building fences and you could see some derelict buildings peeking out behind them. They are trying hard to fortify the hillside to prevent the buildings from sliding down the hill, but unfortunately, I think they are fighting a losing battle.







    The Amitabha Hall was again very impressive. There another huge amount of buddhas in this hall, but this time in the shape of gold plaques. This hall has two floors and centrepiece is a huge statue of the Amitabha Buddha. Although I preferred the Hall of the 10000 Buddhas, this was still very beautiful and there was a certain serenity in this place. I found out later that this was no ordinary temple, but a columbarium. It was this space that got the 10000 Buddhas Monastery into a lot of hot water in 2010. At that time, he 10000 Buddhas Monastery was one of 52 private columbarium operators to be involved in a dispute with the Government of Hong Kong, who implicated them of "violating planning rules and land leases”. They were in good company as Po Lin and a number of other high-profile temples were also caught up in this. The way this was handled makes me smile as this showed the kind of common-sense practicality that seems to be so common in Chinese culture. The Hong Kong government drew up a blacklist of the effected operators. Other than that, no action was taken. They did not even stop them marketing their columbarium. I suppose they knew full well that although they were illegal and in breach of all kinds of regulations, they are actually solving a major headache for the government.





    Even though I did really like the Amitabha Hall, I did not really feel this warranted the effort climbing 69 very steep stairs. I did however soon change my mind when I came across an amazing view. As I came down the stairs, the pagoda was framed between some ancient looking trees and a group of Buddhas. It also had some mountains in the background. The resulting photo was worth the climb.



    When we got back to the lower terrace, me made our way back to Sha Tin. This was a lot quicker and easier than I had expected. Around the halfway mark, Graham asked if I wanted a rest, but I was fine, and we pushed on. There was an ulterior motive behind that decision. There is a branch of Heytea at the local shopping mall. Heytea is something we came across at Disneytown at Shanghai Disneyland in 2018. There is a lot of hype around this chain. They specialise in cheese tea. I know this does not sound particularly appetising, but curiosity got the better of me and I had to find out what all the fuss was about. Well, I was absolutely blown away by this. I had chosen a Jasmine green tea as my base, which was topped with a mix of cream cheese, milk and just a sprinkling of salt to balance the flavours. The topping reminded me of cheesecake and the richness of this was balanced perfectly with the fragrant and refreshing tea. I was instantly hooked. I was delighted when I realised that I could combine our visit to the 10000 Buddhas Monastery with getting a cup of cheese tea.

    Unfortunately, even the best plans do not always work out. The shopping mall we were looking for, New Town Plaza, consists of multiple phases. This was the first little irritation. Just after turning back into the main road through Sha Tin, we saw a building that had the New Town Plaza logo on it. We headed inside. I knew that Heytea is located in phase one of New Town Plaza but had no clue as to the layout. Graham went to the bathroom and I went to the information desk. I found out that phase one was a completely different building that was not linked to the building we were in. I was advised to head back to the station and look for exit A, which would then take me to the right building. As soon as we were on the station concourse, I saw the familiar Heytea logo on some windows. The access to phase one of New Town Plaza was actually inside the station. This shopping mall is a complete rabbit warren with multiple levels and all kinds of twists and turns. There was also no sign of a store directory either in paper format or on screens. I had absolutely no idea where we needed to go. Fortunately, they have a great website and I noticed that we were on the right level and just around the corner from where we wanted to be. Unfortunately, when we got there, all we found was closed shutters. I quickly double-checked the unit number and we were definitely in the right place. I was not going to get my cheese tea that day.
     

    dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Joined
    Dec 25, 2007
    We were ready for some lunch, but New Town Plaza is a rather upscale mall, and this is also reflected in the choice of dining options. We decided that we may as well push on to our next destination, Diamond Hill, which is a bit more down to earth. There is also a huge shopping mall called Plaza Hollywood right by the station and we hoped that this would have a food court. This decision turned out to be a tactical error. The trip back was very smooth and with only one change required to get to Diamond Hill, this did not take very long. Unfortunately, we initially took the wrong exit and landed in the middle of a building site. After backtracking, we found the right exit and the shopping mall Plaza Hollywood. In fact, there were escalators to the shopping mall before you even exited the station. What we never did find was a food court or much may the way of eating options for that matter. All we could find were a couple of kiosks selling popcorn and ice cream. We decided to give up.

    The reason we had come to Diamond Hill was to visit Nan Lian Gardens and Chi Lin Nunnery. This had been one of the highlights of our visit to Hong Kong for me the previous year and I definitely wanted to go back. Graham’s knees had objected to all the stairs they had to climb in the morning and although Nan Lian Gardens are not too big, there was still a fairly substantial bit of walking involved. He decided to head back to the hotel. I was a little torn. Part of me wanted to go back with him, but part of me wanted to press on with the original plan. I knew that this would be my last chance to visit Nan Lian Gardens and Chi Lin Nunnery this trip. With no clear plans on when we would return, I was afraid that I would regret if I had got so close and not visited. I said goodbye to Graham and headed up the short flight of stairs that leads up to Nan Lian Gardens.



    Hindsight is always a beautiful thing. With hindsight, I would probably have been better of going back to the hotel with Graham. I would have spared myself a big disappointment. The first warning sign should have been that as I entered, the area seemed to be completely empty. I could not see another soul anywhere. When we were there the previous year, it was not exactly overrun either. It is a bit of the beaten track and not well publicised. It did not take long for me to realise that all is not well. Paths were blocked off and detour signs were everywhere. The parts of the garden that were accessible where not an unmitigated joy either. Large parts of the gardens were hidden behind building fences. The moat by the golden pavilion had been drained as had the various ponds. The waterfalls and the mill had been turned off. At a careful estimate, only about one third of the gardens were accessible and most of that was still affected by the building work. There were only three areas that did not seem to be affected at all - the architectural museum by the entrance, the pavilion with changing exhibitions and ironically the gift shop.





    I had read a couple of days earlier that there is a tea house at Nan Lian Gardens. I am not sure how this escaped us the previous year especially as I had been bemoaning the fact that decent tea that does not come out of a tea bag is hard to come by in Hong Kong. My plan had always been to check out this tea house. Considering the state, the gardens were in on this visit, I was not optimistic that I would find this tea house and if I did, that it would be open. I was overjoyed when I saw a sign saying, “Access for customers of the tea house only”. I headed in that direction, but before I could get very far, I was intercepted by a security guard. She asked me if I was heading to the tea house, which I confirmed. She then asked me if I was planning on drinking tea. I found this a bit odd as surely that is what one does at a tea house. Again, I confirmed this. She then told me to wait. She headed off to speak to somebody with a clipboard, spoke to somebody else and then went back to the guy with the clipboard. I stood around there for about 10 minutes without anybody telling me what the issue was or me getting any closer to the tea house. I have to admit, at this stage I walked off in a huff. I had the distinct feeling that some racial profiling had been going on. I don’t think they could get their head around that a white woman may appreciate a good Chinese tea. Fact is that I probably drink as much Chinese tea as they do. I also have developed a taste for premium teas and tend to spend a good chunk of money on tea when I visit China or Hong Kong.

    I pushed on towards the bridge leading to Chi Lin Nunnery. There was more life there and this visit did not disappoint. I spent a good half an hour enjoying the courtyards and looking at the various halls. There are also plaques outside each hall explaining what you can see and what the purpose of everything is. I thoroughly enjoyed this visit.





    Once I had seen everything at Chi Lin Nunnery, I headed back to the station. There I finally got my tea. There was a kiosk selling milk tea just next to the entrance of the station. I chose a Jasmine milk tea and had the largest size they did. This hit the spot. Then I headed back to the hotel. The journey was very smooth again. When I checked my emails, I noticed that I had received an email prompting me to check in for our flight to Singapore. I did not need to be asked twice. I managed to snag to seats right at the back of the plane where there are only two seats by the window. I was very happy with this.

    When I changed onto the resort line, I suddenly realised that I had not taken any photos of the train. Fortunately, I realised this before I got off as this was the last time, I was leaving the Disney bubble before heading back to the airport. As the resort line only connects two stations and therefore does not take very long, by the time I had my photos it was time to get off. I wandered over to the coach station and waited a few minutes for my shuttle to arrive.



    When I got back to the hotel, I noticed that Graham had used a luggage tag tied to the door handle to let me know he was by the pool. I had enough heat for the day. I stretched out on the bed for a while and rehydrated using the free water in the room. I checked in on Facebook and then read for a while. When there was still no sign of Graham an hour later, I decided to head down to the pool. Graham had turned into a sun worshiper and seemed to be very happy on a lounger. I found myself a lounger further along in the shade and settled down. I only moved again when the local mosquito population decided it was dinner time and I was it.

     

    dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Joined
    Dec 25, 2007
    We went back to our room and Graham had a nap. I decided to read for a bit. I had noticed earlier in the day that Paint the Night was scheduled that evening at 19:30. This was the first time it had run since we arrived in Hong Kong. I had a park day planned for the next day. However, there was no guarantee that this would run again the next day. I also have become a lightweight when it comes to theme parks. I am usually ready to throw in the towel by about 16:00. I decided to go that evening. I was planning to be the park by 18:00, grab a bite to eat and maybe do a couple of rides before watching Paint the Night. I was a little chilly, so I crawled under the covers. The next thing I knew was that I woke up just after 18:00 hugging my iPad. Still, things worked out. Between some speedy legwork, the bus turning up just as I approached the bus stop and nobody waiting at bag check or the turnstiles, I was inside the park by 18:30.



    I headed over to Tomorrowland. There are two restaurants there. Comet Plaza is serving various Chinese, Korean and Japanese dishes. This would have been my first choice. There is also Starliner Diner, which serves more typical theme park food like burgers and chicken nuggets. Unfortunately, both of them were closed. I did not fancy my chances that anything in the other lands would be open. I headed over to Ant-Man and The Wasp: Nano Battle! instead. This was a walk on. I did this once and then I decided to go and find a spot for the parade.

    On previous visits, I had watched Paint the Night from either the hub or the top of Main Street. This time round I decided to get a spot as close to Town Square as I could manage. I managed to get a kerbside spot at the bottom of Main Street in front of the Emporium. I could not believe my luck. The drawback with that location is that it takes a while until the parade gets there. The advantage is that you can make a very swift exit afterwards and can get ahead of the crowd for the buses.



    I killed some time getting caught up on Facebook and posted some photos from the day. It did not seem to take too long until the lights in our area were dimmed and the music started. I have seen this parade quite a lot between Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland, but I still had some tears in my eyes when I heard the familiar music. I thoroughly enjoyed this again. They had tweaked a few elements since last year. It was nice that they keep this fresh.











    [/url

    [url=https://flic.kr/p/2i3XFBL]















    When the parade finished, I had a clear path to the exit. I was held up very briefly at the turnstiles, but soon I was on my way to the bus station. Even though I had a head start, there were already a lot of people at the bus stop for my hotel. I thought I would have to wait for the next bus. The bus arrived shortly afterwards and to my surprise, I did not only manage to get on, but even got a seat. I was back in the room by 20:30. Graham was still fast asleep. I got ready for bed, posted the photo of the day and then I settled down for the night, too.
     

    MouseOfCards

    Finally jumped in . . .
    Joined
    Feb 11, 2016
    Thanks for sharing! So nice that you were able to enjoy the fairly empty HKDL park. Looks like there were still a good number of people watching the evening parade. From your report and photos, Hollywood Hotel looks pretty nice. We have stayed at Explorer's Lodge (very nice) and concierge at DL Hotel (nice as well, but the concierge experience, lounge and room and service, was subpar). Our little ones enjoyed Explorer's Lodge much more than DL Hotel.

    Really looking forward hearing about the rest of your trip and Singapore!
     

    juniorbugman

    <font color=blue>New car vs another cruise?? THAT
    Joined
    Aug 22, 2001
    I can definitely attest to the fact that there is a very large number of buddhas in that hall.
    After looking at all your photos there are tons of buddhas there. You looked like you had a good time touring the areas. Too bad the tea situation happened. Glad you finally got a cuppa tea.
     

    Orbitron

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Mar 5, 2006
    I haven't been here for a long time, great trip report. Looks like I have to come around more often now.
     

    dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Joined
    Dec 25, 2007
    Thanks for sharing!
    Welcome on board.

    Looks like there were still a good number of people watching the evening parade.
    I think looks were deceiving. Essentially everybody got a front row seat, but that suited me just fine.

    From your report and photos, Hollywood Hotel looks pretty nice. We have stayed at Explorer's Lodge (very nice) and concierge at DL Hotel (nice as well, but the concierge experience, lounge and room and service, was subpar). Our little ones enjoyed Explorer's Lodge much more than DL Hotel.
    We did Disneyland Hotel in 2018 and Hollywood Hotel this time round. We had standard rooms for both. Even though our room at Disneyland Hotel was about the size of our apartment, I overall much preferred Hollywood Hotel. The atmosphere was just nicer.

    Really looking forward hearing about the rest of your trip and Singapore!
    I got a little sidetracked, but the next instalment should be up shortly.

    After looking at all your photos there are tons of buddhas there.
    They are definitely not sure about a few buddhas.

    Too bad the tea situation happened.
    I am still shaking my head about this.

    Great pics of the Buddhas and parade!
    Thanks.

    I haven't been here for a long time, great trip report. Looks like I have to come around more often now.
    Welcome on board.

    Corinna
     

    dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Joined
    Dec 25, 2007
    Day 6

    We were awake around 6:30 that morning. Graham suggested that we could go to Chef Mickey’s for breakfast. Not in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I get 3 character meals in 5 days. I asked if we could go to Enchanted Garden at the Disneyland Hotel instead. Graham was happy with this idea. We got up and ready and then walked along the seafront to the Disneyland Hotel. It was a gorgeous mild morning and the walk was a very pleasant start to the day.

    As we had come from a different direction compared to previous visits, I was not entirely sure if I would find the restaurant straightaway. However, as soon as we were in the grounds of the hotel, I knew where to go. There was nobody waiting to be seated when we got to the podium and the restaurant was very empty. We were seated and offered a hot drink. Then we explored the buffet. Graham had some fruit, yoghurt and assorted cold cuts for his first plate. I started with a bowl of chicken and pumpkin congee with black vinegar, soy sauce and roasted peanuts. This was absolutely delicious. I also had some watermelon juice. I then had a plate of old favourites. They do this amazing Korean fried chicken there, which was the main reason why I wanted to come there. I also had some barbecue pork buns. They are not as pretty as at Chef Mickey’s, but I actually prefer them. I also had a Frankfurter sausage and some Turkish bread and hummus. Graham had a fried egg, bacon and toast. I went back for some Korean fried chicken and barbecue pork buns. I then spotted that they had all the ingredients of my favourite Hawaiian breakfast dish Loco Moco - white rice, burger patties, fried egg and brown gravy. I had some of this, too. Graham had some pastries including an egg tart.






    In between our trips to the buffet, the characters came to visit. Minnie turned up first. The previous year, they were wearing their traditional outfits at breakfast and their Christmas outfits for dinner. This time round, both Minnie and Mickey were in beautiful denim outfits. The previous year, for both meals we had there, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Pluto were present. This time round we had Minnie, Mickey and Eeyore. Mickey turned up not long after Minnie visited, but for some reason he bypassed us. Eeyore came to visit and stayed for quite a while. Mickey came back just as we were ready to leave. On the way out, I took some photos.

    [url=https://flic.kr/p/2i3XJ1Z]

    [url=https://flic.kr/p/2i3Ugvb]

    [url=https://flic.kr/p/2i3UgGy]

    [url=https://flic.kr/p/2i3WKDK]

    [url=https://flic.kr/p/2i3XLkd]

    [url=https://flic.kr/p/2i3UiSR]

    It was still quite early. Graham was on no particular timetable and the park was not due to open until 10:30. We went up to the lobby and sat down. Not long afterwards, a cast member came and told us that Tai Chi with Master Goofy was due to start in about 10 minutes. I decided to give this a go. I had done this the previous year on our first morning there and it was terribly crowded, but it was still fun. While I was waiting, I decided to check out the gift shop. There was nothing there that caught my eye. Shortly after I got back to the lobby, Master Goofy arrived. This time round there were only about a dozen people and this worked better. After the Tai Chi, Master Goofy was available for photos. Once I had my photos, we headed down to the bus stop.

    [url=https://flic.kr/p/2i3Uj4c]

    [url=https://flic.kr/p/2i3XMta]
     





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