After a lengthy delay, I'm finally getting around to writing about our trip to the Philippines this past summer.
This being our third time, the trip is starting to take on a familiar rhythm. We flew out of JFK on a Saturday night on Cathay Pacific and had a brief stopover at Vancouver where some of the passengers departed and the cleaning crew came on to tidy up the plane before new passengers boarded. I have to say I really like to the food they serve on Cathay Pacific. I don't remember all of the meals I ate, but I do remember having liked the seafood congee.
We arrived at Hong Kong International Airport on the morning of August 22, 2011 at around 7 a.m. local time, as usual. Our connecting flight to Cebu in the Philippines wasn't scheduled to depart until roughly 4 p.m., so as usual we had some time to kill in Hong Kong. The last two trips, we rode the Air Train into Central to meet a business acquaintance of mine for lunch. This time, I wanted to do something touristy, so I decided that we would ride the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car to the Tian Tan Buddha Statue on nearby Lantau Island.
I ordered the tickets online before we left New York. The option I chose was to ride the Crystal Cabin (which is a cabin that has a glass bottom) to Ngong Ping village and a regular cabin car for the return trip to Tung Chung.
My plan was to ride the bus to Tung Chung, which is where the cable cars depart for Ngong Ping village, but I wasn't able to figure out which bus to get on. I decided to play it safe and go there by cab. In Hong Kong, taxi cabs are colored based on where they go in the city. For Lantau Island destinations, you take, if memory serves, the blue colored taxis. The trip cost the four of us 50 HK dollars, which is roughly $7.00 US.
We got to Tung Chung a bit early as the ticket office for the Ngong Ping cable cars wasn't open yet, so we went to a nearby shopping mall to kill some time. Around 9:30, we headed back to the ticket office. There was already a long line, but thanks to my infinite wisdom in ordering our tickets online, we got to go directly to the ticket office and obtain our tickets after only a brief wait. From there, it was probably another 15-20 minutes wait online before we were able to board one of the crystal cabins.
What follows are two videos of our ride on the crystal cabin. We shared the cabin with a Chinese family who sat across us. The wife and the daughter (I'm guessing) were directly in front of me when it came to shooting the video of what was in front of us, so they show up in the video from time to time. Also, there were moments when I was holding the camera while it was still recording while I was not looking into it, which probably explains why the camera seems to linger on them here and there.
Luckily for me, the memory card had just enough memory left in it to hold out until we actually came in sight of the giant Buddha statue. If you watch the videos and listen to the audio, you can tell that we had a lot of fun on this ride. If Hong Kong is ever part of your vacation itinerary, or even if, like we did, you find yourself with a few hours to kill while waiting for a connecting flight, the Ngong Ping 360 cable car ride is a good way to spend your free time. The potential downside is that the Ngong Ping 360 is sometimes closed for service, and when I went on the website to get the link for this post, I saw a message that it is closed for the next two months. So it looks like it might not be up and running again until April of 2012.
When we got off the cable car, we began to make our way to the Tian Tan Buddha Statue and took some pictures along the way. Ngong Ping village is basically a theme park, so you shouldn't get the impression that you are experiencing an authentic Chinese village. But it did make for a nice time killer.
No, I didn't end up buying him the hat.
A very pretty arch that evokes classical Chinese architecture.
The Tian Tan buddha at last. The view from the bottom. My wife took this picture and if you click on it to enlarge it, you can make out me and the kids at the midway point, with me waving to the camera.
Almost there. It was a hot August day and I was already dead tired and sweating my ass off by this point. Then I remembered that the first noble truth of Buddhism was that life is suffering.
The view of the way I came from near the top.
I wasn't intentionally trying to get a silhoutte in this close up of the statue. As you can see from the sky in the background, the sky was rather cloudy, so the Buddha statue wasn't well lit. To see some really good photos of the Buddha statue and the Ngong Ping village, Nino of My Kafkaesque Life has photo rich blog posts here and here. Nino is a Slovenian expat living in Taiwan who has an excellent blog that I highly recommend if you ever plan to visit Taiwan, and I will provide further links and references when I get to the Taipei leg of our trip.
After a long, exhausting walk, we rejoined my wife at the foot of the stairs and made our way back to the village where we had lunch at a noodle restaurant before riding the cable car back to Tung Chung. When we got there, I was able to find the bus station nearby. You can catch either the S1 or S64 bus back to Hong Kong International Airport. For the four of us, the cost was a mere 10.5 Hong Kong dollars and the buses run about every 10 or 15 minutes.