01.12.2014 - 01.12.2014
Acutely aware of the crunches that test both my abdominal muscles and time management skills, I decide quickly that my last full morning in Hong Kong will be best served by seeking out the giant Buddha statue which perches serenely on the rolling hillscape of Lantau island. The MRT line that runs with such focus to the airport continues on for a few more key stops before terminating at the base camp for pilgrimage, only rightly an outlet mall. Disembarking from the substation I find a wet chill in the air, water vapour poised to attack from any direction, driving me into the warm arms of a general discounter that stocks reams of hold-overs and never-rans from low and high end designers alike. I push through rows of the mundane and the sublime, the latter including a bizarre orange and yellow mesh and poly-blend shocker from Junya Watanabe that I am almost driven to splash out on like a wardrobe cure for scurvy. I opt instead for two more sensible choices in shades of navy, hoping that one or both pieces will be a fitting compliment to an evening at the Ritz. Pushing past some comically oversized mainlanders flashing more rolling white real estate than a Wenzhou condo developer, I get over-heated in an absurdist shoe section that begs for pride of place somewhere in my life.
Ziggy Store Lust
Resisting the siren's call and having sadly missed the boat on foot binding by a good 20 years, I make my sensible purchases and head out in the greyness to skip the pricey tram ride and join a short queue for the 28 bus to Buddha town. It arrives shortly, laden with a good mixture of Chinese and foreign tourists spread out on the comfortable public grid. My bag sits on the vacant seat next to me, happily bumping along up winding turns through humid air and largely unspoiled green. Half an hour out from the city's financial and service centre feels truly a world away, a perfect release valve after days of involuntary crowd-surfing downtown. A particularly steep grade catches me by surprise, downing my purse and sending a torrent of makeup containers down the aisle, a dingy mirror spinning ominously a row and a half down. I look appropriately sheepish, waiting for a slower curve to duck down and gather my pieces, elegant as always as I manage to whack my head on the seat back in my hurried quest to pull myself together. Mirror uncrack'd from ride to slide, no curse upon my chilly hide, I disembark with the rest and feel karmic wind through my bones. Pulling an umbrella up and open feebly I am at once underdressed, pinning for the ubiquitous puffer coat and hustling up to keep cardiac function flowing. I march past tour groups and food stalls, stopping only once before the main drag to capture a little abode, pock-marked but charming.
the Priory of Lion
I rush next through a couple of temples where incense burns bright and gilt statues are ever vigilant before turning my eye up to the giant Buddha that sits atop a staircase of 268 steps, a trifle in comparison to the momentous emotional spire that leads to transcendence. Barely up even to the former, I rocket up between couples and families, missing the forest and nearly the trees in the desire to get some nice shots and get back on a warm vehicle. The view from the pinnacle is stunning, made more so by the wet atmosphere, and I can't help but take a few moments to breathe deeply as I survey the marvellous statues and the great beyond. Shopping opportunities only located discreetly within the facade of the Buddha there seems to be at last a small measure of restraint on the capitalist dragon, and the view is all the richer for it.
Refreshed and quietly pious, I run down the stairs and quickly bin any spiritual learning as I splash out at a delightful gift shop on all manner of wares, my personal treat a cardboard miniature of a MRT station complete with little shops and ATMs. Once I am a few hundred HKD lighter I make back for the bus, joining a longer and colder line than the first, legs pumping like I am treading water until the coach pulls up. Safely onboard I watch the late arrival's resignation before the spin down the mountain brings me back to my warm MRT snug-hole. I am back at the apartment in decent time, now mid-afternoon and having neither heard from nor contacted Johnny. Thinking further on my travel details I realize that my 5am flight the next morning necessitates travelling to the airport at a time when my only option will be a pricey cab. Ruminating on the matter I decide to just leave the apartment this night, grabbing one of the last express trains and dealing with a few extra hours at the lonely airport to make up some of the financial hits I have taken courtesy gift-ware. I ready myself to leave around 1100, my Ritz plans indefinitely on-hold, and email my landlord to let him know I'm on my way out. He responds quickly and it is as simple as closing the door behind me to end my Sheung Wan immersion. Having looked one last time with fondness at the tiny but neat set-up, I can appreciate even my sore head as I emerge from the front door to a surprisingly brisk Hong Kong evening. Thankfully brisk also is the hailing of a cab, a red car pulling aside just minutes after I step to the curb, taking me just as far as the proximal Hong Kong express station where I replenish my Octopus card and clamber aboard the silent bullet, headed straight back into the heart of Lantau.