Monday, February 2, 2009

Day Six in Hong Kong - Religious Sites

Our last full day in Hong Kong and we're eager to see a few more places before we leave tomorrow. Before we do that we have been instructed to meet Nancy at her apartment so that she can accompany us on our final day of exploring.

We arrived at Nancy's apartment to find her just sitting down for breakfast and still getting otherwise ready for the day. She admitted while we were visiting her in Zhuhai that she normally doesn't get up until 11 or 12 in the morning (or early afternoon, depending on how you count these things) and we arrived at 10 so I guess I can understand. Despite my impatience, we had a cup of tea and a little breakfast cake before departing for the Chi Lin Nunnery.

An entirely wooden structure, it covers many blocks with gorgeous buildings and breathtaking planted courtyards. One in particular was my favorite as it had four pools willed with lilies in a myriad of colors with dragon-headed fountains drooling at a phenomenal pace.

The shrines in the nunnery were immaculately maintained, clean and with fresh offers. We made donations for a few praying for health and mercy primarily (Laura for her tummy troubles and me for a wife apparently, as Nancy felt that would be appropriate). It's amazing how peaceful the entire compound was despite the relatively large number of people visiting.

We then left the nunnery for Nan Lian Garden, across an ornamental bridge to the other side of the adjacent road. At the end of the bridge we were deposited into a stunning courtyard and walked the meandering paths where we came upon a golden pagoda and numerous wooden structures including one being used as a gallery to exhibit some really pretty carved ceramic that were pretty amazing when see alone but even more attractive when lit from within.

Lunch was had in the vegetarian restaurant in the garden. We enjoyed giving dirty looks to a man who failed to read the instructions and who became outraged with the serving staff because he was ignorant. The food was nice although the mushroom soup with enormous chunks of raw bamboo isn't likely to become a favorite dish.

Due to our late start Nancy said we only had time for one more activity and I asked to see the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery. The ascent is over 400 very steep steps so Laura decided to leave us and pursue a less physically demanding afternoon while Nancy and I soldiered on. We got to where Nancy thought the monastery was as it was a religious site on a steep hillside and left me at a covered viewpoint to head the rest of the way up on my own.

It turned out that Nancy was mistaken and the place she took me to, while next to the monastery, was actually a mausoleum. I didn't have the heart to tell her she made a mistake so when I came back down I told her what Laura and I had planned for dinner this evening and said that I was going to wander around a bit. In truth, I saw where the monastery actually was and wanted to go without hurting Nancy's feelings because she has been such an amazing host.

I climbed yet another set of seemingly endless stairs to the top of the monastery only to be disappointed. As the pictures below illustrate, the Buddhas looked rather cheap and the atmosphere was gaudy and poorly maintained even though it was obviously a place of active worship. It was probably a poor idea to visit the monastery directly after seeing the absolutely amazing nunnery.

I descended the stair and headed to the train station only to sit of the train for at least twenty minutes drenched in sweat after having climbed two endless peaks. Apparently there was some kind of accident at the next station so all train bound for Hong Kong Island were suspended.

When I finally made it back to the hotel I rehydrated and relaxed before setting off with Laura to meet Nancy and Jeffrey for dinner. David was invited but had an exhausting day so he opted not to come. Because we had enjoyed it so much we took them to Branto, the vegetarian Indian place in Tsim Sha Tsui. Jeffrey had never supped the delicacies of India and we knew he likes spicy food so we were excited to take him somewhere new. As we all know, Indian food is either something you love or hate and Jeffrey apparently loved it because I ordered four dishes for us and he asked with we could order another portion of chana masala. Hooray! Unfortunately, Nancy didn't seem to enjoy the food as much. She at the dal and the pratha with a large portion of rice but not with her usual vigor.

When it came time to pay the bill I handed the waitress cash but Nancy told her to give it back because she was paying. Well, Laura wasn't having any of that because Nancy had already spoiled us during our visit so she stood up and promised a larger gratuity if they would let her pay. While Nancy and Laura argued over who would pay the bill Jeffrey said "Mom always does this and she always wins." True enough, Laura dejectedly threw herself back into her seat with her credit card still in her hand; Nancy had won as Jeffrey had promised.

After eating Nancy insisted on buying us something because we bought her a lens for her camera. She and I have the same camera and she was impressed with the night photos but didn't know what kind of lens was best suited for those conditions so I gave her a list of my favorite lenses before we left Zhuhai but I intentionally left out the one we had in mind for her. Anywho, Laura and I decided to let her buy something for us rather quickly so we could return to the hotel and pack for our departure to Bali tomorrow. It ended up that she bought us some nice gifts and we were able to select things that weren't too expensive (even though she tried to buy us more, we resisted).

Exhausted and beaten down by Nancy's hospitality, we returned to the hotel for an evening of packing, panicking and recovering before our flight in the morning.

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