Our plan for the day was to explore places in Hong Kong that we hadn’t previously visited. We started off the day with a journey on the MRT to Hong Kong University station (HKU) Exit A.
The University of Hong Kong was established in 1911 and is the city’s oldest university. It is located on hillsides above the western edge of Hong Kong Island near to Kennedy Town. The campus includes the university museum and art gallery which is the oldest museum in Hong Kong.
We toured the historic buildings of the campus, admiring its main building. Constructed in 1913 in colonial style, it is supported by granite colonnades and features a magnificent tall clock tower. The campus is beautifully landscaped featuring four internal courtyards with palm trees providing shade from the sun. Along the main thoroughfare, University Street, an undergraduate overseas fair was getting under way with stands from as far afield as Sydney and London.
Having enjoyed our morning stroll we set off for our next destination of the day which was to the Monastery of 10,000 Buddhas in Sha Tin over in the New Territories. It was quite an effort to get there from the university station as we had to take four trains including the surface level East Rail Line which we had not used before. When this lengthy train pulled into the station we were very surprised to find that it even had some first class carriages attached. Leaving Exit B of Sha Tin station we could see the monastery peeping through the forested hillside on Po Fook Hill. Getting to its entrance gates only takes 10-15 minutes from the station but it is a slightly confusing route with the only signpost strangely being quite near the entrance gates.
In case you might like to visit, I have outlined the directions here. Outside Sha Tin station you need to turn left and take the elevated walkway across the road. At the end, turn right at the bottom of the slope passing the old village houses of Pai Tau on your left. As you approach the first junction you will see a sign for IKEA on the Hone Centre building ahead. Cross the road towards IKEA but turn left with IKEA on your right. Take the first right onto Sheung Won Che Road with the Government offices on your left. At the end of this building there is finally a yellow sign pointing to the monastery entrance.
From the gates it was a lengthy uphill walk up over 400 stone steps to the monastery. Sitting on each side of the stone steps were life size gold plated Buddhas, all slightly different from each other. The collection ranges from a Buddha reading a book to one sitting on a large blue lion. It was a magnificent sight and as the uphill path continued so did the display of unique Buddhas.
The recent typhoon had caused some damage with one Buddha having been knocked off its pedestal and another damaged by a fallen tree. It was quite a strenuous climb and although we had paused numerous times to take photos and admire the Buddhas, we were pleased to reach the lower level terrace.
Located on this level is the main temple, Ten Thousand Buddhas Hall, the Kwun Yam Goddess of Mercy Pavilion and a nine storey pagoda. The walls of the main temple are lined with miniature gold ceramic Buddha statues. Displayed on shelves are more than 10,000 statues which are all approximately 12 inches tall, each adopting a different pose and expression.
The elaborate pagoda can be climbed by an internal spiral staircase with far reaching views from its highest level. This pagoda achieved some notoriety when, in 2001, it was selected to represent the symbol of Hong Kong on its $100 bank note.
From a small shop we bought some bottles of water and sat on a bench for a few minutes to have a rest before continuing up even more steps to the upper terrace. Most visitors didn’t seem to make the effort to climb up to the top but I would recommend plodding on uphill to be able to see the huge, gleaming white Kwun Yam statue standing in front of a waterfall. This huge edifice overlooks a pond filled with koi carp with miniature gold Buddha statues perched on the surrounding rocks.
Returning down the steps was much easier than going up and it didn’t take very long to return to ground level. Before taking the metro, we paused to explore the traditional houses of Pai Tau village near the MRT station.
We then took the East Rail Line all the way back to Tsim Sha Tsui which was very quick as there were few stops. Back near the Star Ferry terminal we found a cafe for some lunch and then returned to Central on the iconic Star Ferry. For a change, we decided to sit on the lower deck where fares are HK$2.20 (21p) midweek and HK$3.1 (32p) at weekends compared to the upper deck fares HK$2.7 (26p) and HK$3.7 (36p) respectively so as you can see, its very cheap to cross Victoria Harbour wherever you sit.
During the 12 minute journey we contemplated what to do next and came up with the idea of walking over to Hong Kong Park, a tranquil setting in the heart of the city we’ve visited many times before.
The Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware is located in an historic building in one corner of the park so we took a look inside to view a collection of tea sets. It was built in 1846 and is the oldest example of Western style architecture remaining in Hong Kong. It was formerly the residence of the Commander of the British Forces in Hong Kong.
Afterwards, we strolled through the park admiring the water-lilies and watching the antics of the turtles as they slowly climbed up on top of each other, popping their heads out occasionally to see what was going on. There is a feature waterfall at the top end of the park with a path allowing visitors to walk behind it. Unfortunately it was out of action when we visited as a tree had come down in the recent typhoon causing damage to one of the statues in the pond.
From the nearby Admiralty station we took the MRT back to North Point and after buying yet more delicious warm custard tarts from the local bakery, we returned to our hotel for a short rest and a cup of tea. It was still only 4.00 p.m. so we spent the next couple of hours shopping, returning to our room with three large carrier bags of clothes! We ate dinner in the same, small restaurant we had dined in a couple of nights earlier then took the MRT to Tsim Sha Tsui so that we could watch the Symphony of Lights along the promenade.
This laser and light show commences at 8.00 p.m. each evening and as we were 30 minutes early it meant that we were able to get seats on the upper viewing platform for the first time ever.
The production had changed since last year and is now choreographed to music recorded by the Hong Kong Symphony Orchestra. The ten minute free spectacle was just as good as ever, featuring a myriad of searchlights, lasers, LED screens and lighting across 40 buildings overlooking Victoria Harbour. It was the perfect way for us to round off our evening in beautiful Hong Kong.
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