Our Ngong Ping 360 Sky-Land-Sea Adventure in Hong Kong
Hong Kong Central is all glam and glitz. But after a few days of skyscraper-hopping and gourmet indulgences, you may find yourself craving some open space. On the last day of our Hong Kong trip with kids, I arranged a trip to Lantau Island on our way to the Hong Kong Airport for the flight that evening. We went on the Ngong Ping 360 (昂坪360) Sky-Land-Sea adventure, it was a very active half-day journey with the kids.
Even with pre-booked tickets, we still waited 30 minutes before boarding the aerial tram. If you also plan to squeeze in a Ngong Ping 360 tour in half a day, my suggestion is to book the Crystal Cabin cable car package, the price is slightly higher than the regular cabins, but the line is significantly shorter and will save you quite some time.
As we ascended above the bay towards the mountains, we saw the stark contrasts of Lantau Island. On one side sprawls the clusters of high-rise apartment buildings with urban hum, on the other side, serene peaks are topped with emerald forests with cicada chant. I noticed election campaign posters on the way, raising the question of further residential development in Lantau Island. From our aerial point of view, the situation does seem delicate.
Although certain local residents appear less disturbed by the fate of the island.
As we journeyed further through the mountains, a very different Hong Kong unveiled her face from the mist.
The sights of Po Lin Monastery (寶蓮禪寺) and Tian Tan Buddha (天壇大佛) are things of Kung Fu movies, decidedly a very different aspect of Hong Kong. A visit to Ngong Ping has become some sort of a pilgrimage route, now a lot easier with the cable car connection.
We arrived at Ngong Ping Village, a "culturally-themed" village filled with souvenir shops and fast food joints, in other words, you can probably speed through this themed shopping mall void of authenticity. A walk up the hundreds of stairs to see the big buddha in the summer heat is probably less dreadful a task.
We didn't linger much around the village or the buddhist attractions, and headed straight towards Tai O (大澳), the fisherman's village still in its authentic form.
As part of the Sky-Land-Sea package, we boarded a small local bus and went on a speedy, bumpy ride down the winding hills towards the seaside. Tai O village looks like a place forgotten by the hectic developments of Hong Kong. Even with the tourism push since Ngong Ping cable car started operating in 2006, the fishermen and their families seem to retain their way of life, and their interconnected stilt houses sit ever so quietly in the natural harbor under the hills in Tai O.
Sights and aromas of dried seafood greeted us as we entered Tai O village. A walk through the market stalls makes you think that they dried anything that could be found in the ocean. Fish, shrimp, scallops... and also sea cucumbers, jellyfish, sharks, and some other exotic sea creatures.
Fish balls and squid balls are local favorites. I've always enjoyed street food lunches on the go, and this was no exception. We gobbled down the chewy globs of seafood and headed over to Tai O Boat Excursion for a ride (also included in the package).
We boarded the little boat with just a handful of passengers. There was no commentary or lively conversations with the boat driver, the sights of lived-in Tai O was up to your own silent interpretation.
Once we passed under the manually-operated drawbridge, the boat accelerated towards the open water. We were no longer sheltered by the shores, and our bare little boat, like most fishing boats in this area, was at the mercy of the sea.
Away in the distance, a new highway is sprouting up from the sea into existance. It's the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge that will soon connect three major cities in the world's most populous region, the Pearl River Delta estuary. This bridge will bring together the powers of manufacturing from Mainland China, the financial prowess of Hong Kong, and marry them to the thriving casino and retail tourism of Macau.
In contrast, the future for secluded Tai O seems uncertain. The local fleets of fishing boats are no match compared to the modern fishing industry. Dried seafood can only bring in meager profits. Tourism maybe a blessing in disguise for the aging population to preserve their unique culture.
We returned to shore, took a taxi back to Ngong Ping Village (the next bus was nowhere to be seen), got on the aerial tram back to Tung Chung MTR station, and then took another short taxi ride to the Hong Kong Airport to board the plane in a few hours.
It was a day jam-packed of Sky-Land-Sea adventure. On that plane ride back to San Francisco, the kids slept quite well.