Monday, May 28, 2012

Buddha, Bar & Monsoon

The good news, starting the morning, was that I woke up feeling a whole lot better than I did yesterday. The bad news was that it was our final full day in Hong Kong. There was no way that we'd be able to fit as much in as we'd have liked to, but we gave it the old college try and decided to focus on just a couple of activities.

Our first task was to take in one of the best known attractions in Hong Kong - the Tian Tan Buddha - or Big Buddha - on nearby Lantau Island. Boo and I were both struck and surprised in the enormity and scope of the project. Our journey started by taking a 20-minute gondola over the bay and up the side of one of the tallest mountains in Hong Kong.

Started in 1990, the Buddha was completed in 1993 and, at the time, was the largest outdoor buddha in the world. It is also unique among the massive Chinese Buddhas in that it is the only one that faces north. Apparently, the difference from the other south-facing statues is that the Tian Tan Buddha looks north to watch over China and the Chinese people.

The statue gets its name from the fact that the three levels forming its foundation are modelled after the base structure found in the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests at the Temple of Heaven, or Tian Tan, in Beijing. The 34-metre (112ft) tall, bronze buddha houses a museum and giant bell that is rung 108 times a day to symbolize a release from Buddhism's "108 troubles of mankind."

Po Lin Monastery is a short walking distance from the Big Buddha and was established in 1906 - a long time before the Big Buddha was erected. Originally a remote monastery, largely hidden by the green of the surrounding mountain, it was known as the "Buddhist Kingdom in the South" and served as an international retreat. Nowadays, it's likely visited more by tourists, like Boo and I, than by monks, it was awash with colour and incense.

I'm sure we could have spent a lot longer wandering around the site but Boo had another mission to accomplish - finding a chop to take home. After finding the chop market - there are markets for virtually everything here - he finally found one that will remind him of the vacation for many years to come.

Our final evening in Hong Kong started off with our meeting up with Whaler and Dane, our new friends thanks to Axel's and Tyrant's introduction. We were to convene in Central Hong Kong for drinks and dinner and - wouldn't you know it - a torrential downpour started just prior to the appointed hour. Naturally, we did not have an umbrella. Their familiarity of the area allowed us to skip the better part of the rain by cutting through various buildings and malls, but we were still rather drowned by the time we ordered our first cocktail.

I'd be had pressed to determine whether this rain was coming down harder that the storm we encountered in Margaret River earlier in the week but it was certainly longer lasting. We decided to wait out the rain and lightning show, but the intended one or two drink happy hour lasted a good two to three hours as I think a veritable monsoon was hitting the city. At least we had a window seat for the show, but by the time we left the bar, we had a bit of difficulty finding a restaurant that was still open for dinner. Luckily, the boys had a favourite that was willing to keep the kitchen open long enough for us to order dinner.

1139. 2010 d'Arenberg The Stump Jump (McLaren Vale/Adelaide Hills - Australia)

Facing Thai cuisine and a limited - and unknown - wine list, I stuck with d'Arenberg's white Stump Jump, a unique blend of Riesling, Sauv Blanc, Marsanne and Rousanne. Here we were on our last night out on the other side of the world and I was ordering a bottle of wine that I know pretty well from home, but I was pretty sure that it should match up nicely with the mix of spices on our plates. Plus, ordering it was a bit of a tip o' the hat to our recent visit to the winery when passing through McLaren Vale. We were so over our limits on buying wines that we couldn't pick up a bottle at d'Arenberg.

The boys were game to keep playing but Boo and I were sensing the end at hand. We opted to try and catch the last train back to Kowloon side and bid them "Adieu." As coincidence would have it, Whaler and Dane were going to be passing through Vancouver in the very near future. We agreed to do our best to meet up with them when they arrived. In the mean time, any further introduction to Hong Kong's famed nightlife would have to wait for another trip. Surprisingly, Boo enjoyed the city far more than he'd expected to and he'd already stated that he'd be willing to return somewhere down the line.

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