25 May 2014

HK Day 3: The Big Buddha

After finishing last night's post around 3:00am, we were surprised to wake up at 7:30am.  So we're either not on HK time yet or our bodies have decided 4hr sleeps are good enough.  Also, the sun rises earlier here - 5:40am today, so maybe that has something to do with it.

Anyway, we were up, so we got ready for breakfast (#9 - forgot to mention a couple showers yesterday).  Just as we were leaving our room, a Mousekeeping woman came to our door to ask whether we'd like new towels and bed sheets and when we'd like her to tidy our room.  We told her we were on our way to breakfast, and she could come in now.

Downstairs, Chef Mickey's was very busy.  The energy is different, and more frenetic here than in either the Chef Mickey's in WDW or Tokyo.  T described it as a more "Chuck E. Cheese" feel, which is pretty accurate.  The restaurant is louder, the only character to "meet" is Chef Mickey, and (possibly because of the craziness) he only poses for photos by the entrance to the restaurant.  We were seated right away, at a table set with yellow paper place mats and red napkins.  As she left us at our table, the hostess handed me a laminated card (obviously done by hand...) telling us that we could queue up for a photo with Chef Mickey any time between 8:00 and 10:45am.  Realizing we'd forgotten to bring both phone and camera for taking pictures, T went back to the room for them, giving me a chance to observe the surroundings.

I'd say 80% of the clientele were Chinese, speaking either Cantonese or Mandarin (seemed mostly Mandarin, actually), 10% were Indian, and the remaining 10% comprised everyone else (a deer-in-headlights American family of 3, a German speaking family, and various other types of Asians).  I also noticed that while the Mandarin speaking small children were clearly very excited to be there, they were surprisingly well behaved.  Upon arrival, many were pointing out the not-so-hidden Mickeys omnipresent in the theming, but as soon as they were seated, they sat fairly quietly and patiently waiting for their parents to bring back plates of food from the buffet.  This meant that few children actually went to the buffet area, which is probably a good thing.

The food offerings sort of mirrored the breakdown of the clientele, though 50% was traditional Western breakfast fare (lots of pastries, scrambled and over easy eggs, pancakes, Mickey Waffles, etc.).  Interestingly, the Mickey Waffles and banana cakes (above) were the only specifically Disney food items.  Where WDW has Mickey shaped pancakes, Waffles, sprinkles and breakfast pizza, Japan had lots of Mickey-shaped things; yolks of soft boiled eggs, hash browns, pastries...  Both those restaurants have food areas (and probably seating areas too) that are twice the size of Chef Mickey's here in HK.  Thus, the individual food sections were also smaller, with less variety; made-to-order noodle soup, Indian (dal, rice with ghee & cumin seeds, curry), Japanese (various types of pickles, lox), dim sum.  Also, there was kind of an "every person for themselves" vibe.  Once seated, we had to flag down servers to get (terrible) hot tea and coffee.  They did do a quick job of clearing used dishes, however.  At the food stations, there was no order or flow to how people moved through the buffet.  Instead, people literally pushed through at any point.  I even had several people reach over me!  But, there were 2 types of delicious xiao long tang bao on offer (and only 4/steamer basket), so perhaps some of the pushing was warranted.  Overall, we felt that breakfast at the Langham Place was better, and comparable in price.

After our delicious breakfast, we collected our adventure bag (stocked with sunscreen, bottled water, wipes, and hand sanitizer) and headed off to find our way to the Big Buddha!

Aboard the Mickey train!
The MTR station is quite easy to get to; the Disney Resort Station is just outside the entrance to the park.  There is a special "Mickey train" which took us to the Sunny Bay stop, where we changed to the orange line to Tung Chung.  There, we were surprised to see an outlet mall right off of the MTR station.  Just past the mall is the entrance to the cable car station.

We bought round trip tickets in a standard cabin (as opposed to glass bottom, which seemed like it would be pretty terrifying) for $300HKD.  Another option was a one way ticket, but it appeared that to get back, you'd have to walk across several mountains (and swim across a bay) if you didn't have some other transport waiting for you at the top.  As an aside, there are actually 2 queues - one for the glass bottomed Crystal Cabins, and one for the standard cabins.  Not noticing any signage, we chose the wrong line and after waiting half an hour, were sent to the back of the proper line when we made it to the ticket taker...  Luckily there are at least twice (maybe 3x) as many standard cabins, so this line was shorter.

I was a little dubious about the cable car ride, not being a huge fan of heights.  But the ride is very smooth and not so fast that you feel like your car might fall at any moment.  In fact, the cabins are "naturally air conditioned" by vents, so we could feel and hear the wind gusts as welcome cool breezes, but did not feel any sway in the cabin.  Being a (scorchingly hot at 91F, but felt like 101F according to weather.com) clear day, the views were wonderful.

At the top, the cable cars drop you in a "village" called Ngong Ping.  This is pretty much a tourist village of shops selling all types of refreshment and souvenirs.  We walked through the village, stopping for a grapefruit juice at Starbucks (check out our Flickr for photos of some other intriguing Chinese options!), and made our way to the Big Buddha and temple.

After walking around the temple area, we bought some ice pops and headed up the stairs to the Big Buddha.  Definitely not for the faint of heart on this sweltering day, we got our workout for the day and were rewarded with more fantastic views.


Leaving the Big Buddha, we stopped in some of the stores in the "village," more to cool off than to really shop.  At the very end of the line of shops was a little tea shop, where we decided to stop for tea.  It was 2:30, and tea time after all.  The shop had a cute little seating area where we enjoyed a traditional tea ceremony and relaxed in the air conditioning whilst drinking 95C hot tea.

After tea, we re-boarded a cable car and headed back to Tung Chung.  We spent a few hours exploring the outlet mall, but didn't find anything particularly enticing.  By the time we returned to the hotel, I'd developed a sore throat and we were both a little hungry, so we went back to Hollywood and Dine.  We got a nice dinner of noodle soup for me and cha-siu-bao and fruit cup for T.  We got our food to go so we could eat it in our room after much needed showers (#10).  Well fed, we've been napping since about 7:00pm and now it's midnight.  I woke us up to soothe my throat with some more tea, but now it's back to bed!

Tomorrow:  Central and wontons

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