Travelling from Calgary to Vancouver and onwards to Hong Kong is a super long journey! My trip didn’t go too well since the flight from Vancouver to Hong Kong was 12 hours and I had to make it through with a non-operational personal entertainment system on Cathay Pacific so I couldn’t watch movies or read anything. The flight attendants did reset my TV multiple times but nothing worked and they couldn’t move me to another seat.
A few weeks prior I had researched some places to go to in the city while we had a 10-hour layover in Hong Kong, however, due to the political protests and situation it wasn’t wise to visit Hong Kong city centre and Kowloon and so I was prepared to spend 10 hours sitting in the airport catching up on patient charts, reading and exploring the airport as Hong Kong International Airport is huge with lots of dining and shopping. The Hong Kong International Airport is on its own island and surrounded by mountains. Upon landing, it really generated a similar feeling to landing in Vancouver, Canada whose airport is also on an island and mountains visible around.
On arrival, I was happy to learn the airport protests had calmed down the day we were there and we would be able to at least leave the airport and go out but stay in the airport vicinity (no Kowloon or city centre this time). We ended up going to Lantau island which is close by to the airport and easily accessible. Lantau island is where the Big Buddha statue and temple (Tian Tan Buddha) along with the Po Lin monastery are located. It is a Buddhist monastery and they do have a vegetarian restaurant if you fancy eating a meal there.
The cable car to Lantau island doesn’t open until 10am so we ended up having some breakfast in the airport, however, there are many cafes serving typical Hong Kong style pastries in the area by the metro station that were open as well along with a Starbucks. There is also a Pizza Hut for lunch if you aren’t digging the Asian foodfare. If you feel like shopping, there is a small shopping mall in this area also. I highly recommend you get to the cable car ticketing office for 10am as a line-up forms pretty quickly.
From the airport, take the S1 or S56 bus to Tung Chung MTR terminal. This takes about 15 minutes and costs $3.50 HK dollars each way. Once you get to the terminal, take the Ngong Ping 360 cable car up to Lantau Island (the entrance is adjacent to the bus terminal). The attraction has different packages which also includes walking tours once you get up there if you have enough time. We just did the basic cable car due to time restrictions. The cable car ride is 25 minutes, one-way. Once you get off the cable car at the top, there is a cute touristy village with souvenir shops, ice-cream shops, and some restaurants…obviously at a tourist price. You walk through this village for about 10 minutes to get to the Big Buddha and monastery and temple.
You do have to climb about 268 stairs to get to the Big Buddha and capture a close-up view so make sure you have water as it can get quite hot, sweaty and tiring. If you can sustain the climb, the view from the top is gorgeous and full of luscious greenery.
It was so hot and only 10:30am at the beginning of August – practically dying so if you are planning on stopping over in HK and going into town, pack some summer clothes and a hat in your hand luggage if you are travelling during the summer. Don’t forget to get a water bottle or two from the airport or from the Lantau area before going to the cable car.
Make sure you check if you need visas to enter Hong Kong. Canadians with Canadian passports do not need travel visas.
Hope to make it into the city and downtown core of Hong Kong next time and try some dim sum. I did have some condensed milk toast, Asian noodles, and dumplings (first time on the dumplings) at a restaurant in the airport pre-security (bad service, tasty food) which was incredibly busy – I believe it was Maxim Jade Garden right by the elevators on the top floor.