06 September 2009

The Island Life: Sorry, That’s Closed Too. Oh, & That Too

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Because most travelers arrive and head immediately to the urban jungle of Kowloon or Hong Kong Island, most find it hard to believe that 80% of Hong Kong is, in fact, undeveloped jungle, forest and beach. Fortunately, we set aside nearly two full days to explore the [natural] wild side of Hong Kong. Our first stop was Lamma Island - a $4 US return, 30-minute ferry ride from Central Pier on Hong Kong Island. The “thing” about Lamma Island is that there are absolutely no cars on the island. The main thoroughfare that connects the island’s two fishing villages - Yung Shue Wan & Sok Kwu Wan - is a walking and biking path about 4 feet wide. The only fueled vehicles plowing the island are mini dump trucks that remind me of my old Tonka trunks that I used to play with as a child. They move at about 15mph.

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The sun was pounding on the day of our journey, so we stopped at the first beach we passed - Hung Shing. Sweating out about a liter of water an hour, we took refuge under the trees that dotted the smooth sand. After a quick dip in the tepid, not-at-all refreshing but beautiful water, we made the brilliant decision to walk across the hilly island in the dead of the afternoon. It became a sort-of death march as we inched closer and closer to the peak, wondering if, in fact, we could really carry on. I was clad in just a speedo, Stacey a bathing suit top and linen shorts. We were SO HOT. Upon arriving at the next beach - Lo So Shing - I told Stacey I was “just going to shut my eyes a few minutes and rest.” TWO HOURS LATER I awoke in a passed out daze, uncertain of where I was or how much time had passed. Wanting nothing more than some ice cold water, I hit the vending machine. Naturally, it accepted Octopus card ONLY. I felt like I was in one of those “Got Milk?” Ads.

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The Octopus card is this travel, food, bar, everything “credit” card that can be topped up almost anywhere in Hong Kong. We didn’t get them because there was a $6 “processing fee” that I deemed ridiculous. Now, as a result, I was about to pass out from dehydration on a remote island that ONLY accepted a Hong Kong-specific fake credit card that I did not have.

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Fully cooked and near melted, we headed to the island’s other town - Sok Kwu Wan - to catch a ferry back to Central. It was a brilliant day - hot weather, total silence and serene, seemingly isolate beaches.

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We coupled that with our next-day adventure to the Tian Tan Buddha (largest seated Buddha in the world) on Lantau Island. Larger than Hong Kong Island, Lantau is hope to just 50,000 of the nearly 10 million people who call Hong Kong home. Sadly, the SkyCar was closed (a Hong Kong theme for us) so we ended up taking a bus up the long and winding road at a speed of just over 2mph. A cow overtook us on the way up. Again, it was brilliant.

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Our stay concluded with a trip up Victoria Peak on the tram (which rises 1200 feet in 4 minutes on a 60-degree angle) and a visit to Felix Bar on the 28th floor of the Peninsula Hotel for panoramic views of Hong Kong Island - by far the most beautiful skyline in the World.

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As far as timing goes, we did hit a few snags this go around. To start, the Bakerloo Line in London was shut (the only line we needed to get the airport). In Hong Kong the Jade Market, the Flower Market, the Bird’s Nest & Ginseng Market, two recommended Camera Shops, Two Internet Cafes In The Lonely Planet, the SkyCar and the Fringe Club were all either shut or nearly shut, while the Peak overlook and the Big Buddha closed just minutes after our arrival. Well played Hong Kong. Well played.

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Kyle Taylor

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