Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lantau Island and Nicole's Visit

     After getting back into the swing of things from Christmas Break, we were blessed with a visit from an old friend, Nicole.  Now Nicole has been inspiring to me over the past year because she did what many people dream of doing........she saved up some cash, sold her possessions, quit her job, and went on a trip around the world.  I'd been following her blog posts and was blown away by her photos as she left from the States in March '11, beginning with Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia before going through Southeast Asia, Europe, Turkey, Morocco, and back to Asia. 
     We'd actually planned on hosting her while we were still in Germany, but the timing didn't work out and we had to put those plans on hold.  Instead, she came back through Southeast Asia in December and made plans to visit us in January before she made her return trip to the States.  I didn't realize that we actually hadn't seen her since 2009, before we moved to Germany, but it's funny how personalities remain just how you remembered them.

The only picture we managed with the three of us - we like to call this a "Jackson Sandwich"!

     We only had 4-5 days and we wanted to maximize the sightseeing and hanging out, so we kicked it off with a trip to Lantau Island (one of the outlying islands of Hong Kong).  The good thing about hosting guests is that it sometimes urges you to go and do some of the touristy things that you've been planning on doing, but haven't got around to it.  The big sight on Lantau is the "Big Buddha" and a monastery, both of which require taking either a ferry or a cable car to see.  We went with the cable car...

As you can see, or can't see, the visibility was rather poor and it was colder than we had expected, but we made the most of it.  The cable car takes about 20-25 minutes, stretching across the water and over the mountainous terrain.

After grabbing some coffee we were able to warm up and continue on...

...until we came across another darn cute Asian cartoon thing that necessitated a photo-stop.

 Just so you can appreciate the place as a whole, that's the "Big Buddha" with the pavilion below.
The lighting really wasn't helping us much and the weather was shat, but we did the best we could.

The crazy thing was that it was warm and sunny when we left Mongkok, but it was a different story on Lantau.

Thar she blows!  It's actually pretty new - built in the 2000's out of bronze.

If you look closely you see the shocking Buddhist symbol of the sun that closely resembles the Swastika.  Hitler was SO unoriginal!

Here's the bauhinia flower which is basically the flag of Hong Kong.

To find a monastery all you have to do is "follow your nose", except not to Fruit Loops - you have to follow the trail of incense that can get sickening after a while.

There were some wicked dragon carvings on the pillars of the monastery.

The view inside the monastery/temple is pretty typical: flowers, fruit, incense and some golden idols.

Besides going to Lantau we had a couple more days of sightseeing with Nicole after work.  We had wanted to check out a Michelin Star dim sum restaurant in Mongkok.  We sent Nicole out to get us a number ahead of time, so we were able to make it for an early dinner.

Prepping for our dim sum experience at Tim Ho Wan.

In an effort to find more local Mong Kok joints, we happened across the "Aqua" Bar, situated on a random floor of a random building but had a nice ambience.

Our personal favorite stop, cuz it's our neighborhood.

     We absolutely love hosting guests since they can be few and far between.  It's also nice becoming tourists in our own town.  We hadn't seen Nicole in a few years and it was great catching up, getting to know her better, and asking tons of questions about her travels.  Of course we love traveling, but it's hard to imagine 10 consecutive months of travel.  She's basically a rock star and has some great stories and experiences to share.  We only wish that she could've stayed longer!


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