There are really only two choices when you have an 11 hour stop over. You can be boring and find an airport cubicle, lie flat and get actual sleep – that will have eluded you on your 11 hour flight there…. OR you could be fun and head out into the city and see some of the sights. I will give you one guess which one I chose.
That’s right I chose not to be boring. Although I can see the side of the people who want precious sleep, I am way too much of a traveller to miss a chance to see the world. Marion and I arrived in Hong Kong at 7am. We cleared customs in record time, our checked-in luggage was going straight through, so we headed directly into the airport. Everything has been thought of. There was a place for us to stow our hand luggage so that we did not have to drag that everywhere – at quite a reasonable price too – it worked out to about £2 an hour. The information desk gave us all the information that we needed – which buses to catch and where we could have a shower after we had been outside.
I will admit to having done a bit of pre-study here. There are some amazing tours that you can do from the Hong Kong airport at really reasonable prices, that will have you seeing a lot more than we did. However, they did not fit into our timescales. We were there too early, so therefore left too early to be back in time.
After stashing our stuff, we headed out to the bus station, literally outside the airport, spent a very small amount and got on the number 8 bus to Ngong Ping – otherwise known as The Big Buddha. Of course, by this point it was only 7.30am, it was not quite open yet. However, next to the bus station there was a Starbucks and a mall – the mall was not open, but Starbucks fed us and gave Marion some much needed caffeine. A massive tip here – Ngong Ping opens at 10am. Try and be there by at least 9.30am – you will queue even at that time, but it will not be as bad as if you turn up later.
One way to readjust your body clock is to get some sunshine, to ensure that your body knows it is daytime. So we decided whilst we were waiting to walk around the rather large park that is next to the cable car terminal. After sitting for 11 hours, it’s nice to move your body. All around us there were people waking up, practicing their tai chi and exercising. This proved to be hugely beneficial to us when it came to arriving at our final destination of New Zealand – I really think that our jet lag was not so bad due to this long stop over.
We ended up queuing for about an hour and a half for Ngong Ping. All along the queue there are pictures of the Buddha and of the village at the other end of the cable car. Sadly for us, it’s a really misty day and we are not able to see the amazing views from the cable car. The journey up to Ngong Ping is about a half hour by cable car, and then about a 20 minute walk from the terminal. To aid with viewing the amazing sights, you can request a glass bottomed car. However, as it’s misty, we decide to save on this.
Once we arrived at the end of the line, we were greeted by even more mist. We walked through the village that is a lot of fun – there are lots of Hello Kitty installations that you can have your photo taken in and interesting retail stores as well. There are also 3D experiences to delight any age, as well as dining experiences.
The walk to the temple is very easy – any level of fitness could walk the paved walkway to the steps to the Buddha. On a clear day, you would be able to see the Tian Tan Buddha from the bottom of the steps, however, this was not a clear day. We headed up the stairs – about 100 of them. They are wide so if you have young children or are not that fit, you can have a rest.
The Tian Tan Buddha is beautiful – the bits of it that I saw through the mist. Even in the mist, it is worth the trip. It’s a golden piece of serenity. There is a feeling of calm around the base where you realize just how huge the monument is, and how whilst it feels so close to the city, that actually you are surrounded by a huge park. On the way back down, we can see a number of hikers, who could well be taking an alternate route to see the Tian Tan Buddha.
At this point, we were hungry and a bit warm, so we needed a shower. We headed back to the airport and made our way to the Plaza Premium Lounge. After you have been travelling for so long and then walking around in the heat, a shower is a must before boarding the next 11 hour flight. The showers are clean and very much welcome. Towels and some toiletries are provided. No matter how long your stop over is on a long haul flight, I would always recommend a change of clothes, to make you feel human again, so a shower is a great luxury.
After our shower and feeling much more human, we headed back into the airport and over to the food court to eat dumplings. Everything here is cheap when you convert back to GBP. As we headed to our gate I got a bit distracted by the Pandora store – who would have thought! I picked up this wee love for my pink bracelet. Awww.
As we headed onto our flight I am excited about coming home to New Zealand, but more than a little intrigued by Hong Kong – and will be back to check her out more I am sure!
Photos: Nicola Whyte