We were supposed to leave Macau early, like 7 am early, but we went to bed late the night before and when we woke up, it was 12 noon. I wanted to go back to HK earlier because of almost half a dozen temples I had been itching to see. Again, things did not go according to plan. After depositing our baggage in Ate Lydia’s place on Kennedy town at around 3 in the afternoon, we went our separate ways. Some of us wanted to go to Citygate outlet to shop since most are not thrilled with the prospect of seeing temples.
Dai and Edcel shared my curiosity so the three of us went to our first destination based on a plan to conquer all the places on my list (since they were all accessible via the MTR), Nan Lian Garden. It was east of Diamond Hill station of MTR. We did not have a hard time finding the place because there were signs everywhere.
I expected Nan Lian Garden to be a bit far from civilization but I was wrong because it was situated in the middle of two highways, right at the heart of Diamond Hill. Though Tsim Sha Tsui was noisier, the place was still loud for the standards of a rural kid like me. All around are tall buildings and other establishments but it did not affect the soothing and relaxing feeling we got after entering the garden. It was unexpectedly and fortunately quiet, like, we entered some sort of a different dimension where all the sounds dissipated. Chi Lin Nunnery can also be accessed via the garden and this was the view in the said nunnery.
This reminded me of a temple made of 24 carat gold in Japan but I don’t think this one is gold. Everywhere I looked, I saw beauty. Heck, even the trash bins looked nice. According to Wikipedia, the garden was designed in Tang Dynasty Architecture. The place is a heaven for photographers. Actually, you can get a point and shoot camera, close your eyes and randomly click on all sides and the pictures would still look wonderful.
There were lots of bonsai trees as well as a souvenir shop that sold unique merchandise from CDs of incredible sounds (like this) to authentic granite rocks. They were expensive so we just settled for bookmarks. There was a man-made waterfall beside a cafe and we were curious of the food but we were running out of time. The place reminded me of all those old Chinese films and the lessons we had in Asian History back in high school. I even expected some old guy with really long and thin beard to greet me. There was also a Gallery inside the garden. Unfortunately, it was already closed when we arrived which almost broke my heart.
After roaming around Nan Lian Garden, we went to the adjacent Chi Lin Nunnery. To further break my heart, the main building was already closed so we just appreciated it from the outside. According to Wikipedia, the present-day buildings are wood frame buildings built without the use of any iron nails. This construction is based on traditional Chinese architectural techniques dating from the Tang Dynasty that uses special interlocking systems cut into the wood to hold them in place. The Chi Lin Nunnery buildings are the only buildings to be built in this style in modern day Hong Kong (cool!). The garden and the nunnery are part of a 33,000 square meter Buddhist complex and both are open to the public daily, free of charge.
After realizing that temples in HK are not open 24/7, we half-walked and half-ran our way to Wong Tai Sin Station in the Kwun Tong Line of the MTR for the Sik Sik Yuen Temple. We arrived there, panting, at around quarter to 6 pm. Unfortunately, opening hours were up to 5:30 PM only. I was devastated. Devastated as in I wanted to scream but then I realized I was in a foreign country so I gathered all my will power not to.
After that very sad news, we weighed our options on what to do next and I implied that all temples were already closed for public viewing except maybe, the Giant Buddha in Lantau Island because it was, well, a giant. So we again rode the MTR and went to the farthest station on the opposite side of where we came from, Tung Chung Station. From there, we were supposed to take New Lantau Bus No. 23 to Po Lin Monastery in Ngong Ping Village where the Giant Buddha was. We arrived at the bus station near the citygate outlets at 7:15 and the last bus leaving for Ngong Ping was at 7 pm. Oh my God I couldn’t accept what just transpired at that time so I just sat on a bench and stared at nothingness for a couple of minutes. I was full of regret. If only we left Macau earlier and all those crap things. The first bus leaving for Ngong Ping was at 7 in the morning and I planned on going the next day, never mind that I’ll be late for Disneyland (which was our planned itinerary). Guess what? I did not wake up early. And they teased me. I got pissed I did not talk for a while but you can’t stay angry with your friends, especially if you’re outside your home-base.
Nan Lian Garden was worth all the hassle but seeing other temples would have been great because I am a temple kind of person. I’d be contented with just staying in one and roaming around, maybe with a good book. I promised myself than if ever I get a chance to visit HK again, I will go back to Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin nunnery, The Peak (to try the nature trails, Sky Terrace and Madame Tussauds), watch the symphony of lights at Victoria Harbor, and visit the following: Kowloon Walled City (even if Reyma’s friend told us there was nothing to see there except old dilapidated buildings because I LIKE old, dilapidated buildings), Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple, Hong Kong park, Man Fat Sze or 10,000 Buddhas Monastery (because they said it was hard to find and I’d like to take on the challenge), Dialogue in the Dark (being blind is one of my fears), HK History Museum (I find history interesting), and Po Lin Monastery with the Giant Buddha (and take the wisdom path).
Don’t get me wrong, my 8 day-trip was still memorable and I would not have wanted it any other way but the nerdy, list-freak part of me just won’t let go.