Having successfully avoided the tourist hubs on our first day in Hong Kong, it was a bit shocking to arrive at the mother of all tourist destinations: The Tian Tan Big Buddha.
The 25-minute gondola ride from Tung Chung to Ngong Ping offers up spectacular views of Lantau Island and the surrounding land masses. I’m sure the scenery would have been infinitely more impressive if we hadn’t been privy to the hike Dragon’s Back the previous day. Below the gondola, there was a beautifully, perfectly manicured path winding up, down and around the mountains of Lantau all around us. My biggest regret of our trip was not having hiked from the Tung Chung MRT up to the Big Buddha. The trail looked immaculate and I would venture to say that it would have offered even more amazing views than Dragon’s Back. I would go back for that hike alone!
I would not categorize The Big Buddha as a DON’T MISS. Yes, it’s an impressively large Buddha. It’s cool but not an absolutely essential stop in your Hong Kong adventure. After taking the gondola to the Six Flags-esque village at the top, we took the requisite photos and shimmied our booties out of the tourist haven as fast as we could, catching the #2 bus headed southeast. We alighted the bust at Lower Cheung Sha Beach. Our expectations weren’t high, we just wanted a sandy space and a place to relax. To our delight and surprise, we had a pristine, top-notch beach all to ourselves.
After enjoying solitude on the beach, basking in the sun and swimming in the ocean, we popped up to The Stoep, a South African / Mediterranean mélange. We watched the sunset over a bottle of rosé, eggplant, seafood pasta and mussels with chorizo. Lower Cheung Sha beach is stunning, easy to reach and, in my opinion, a must-do while you are in Hong Kong.
Similar to our first night, we had planned to go out on the town and explore the world-renown nightlife, but found ourselves burnt out from our long day exploring. Almost directly across from the Chungking Mansions, where were were staying, is an awesome bar called Eyebar (located in the iSquare Mall). Thirty floors up, Eyebar is a gorgeous space overlooking Victoria Harbor and Hong Kong proper. The atmosphere was relaxed, the views spectacular and the cocktails were top-notch. The perfect end to an excellent day.