Faced with the prospect of a grueling all-day tour (and a vegetarian lunch), I decided to fortify myself with a well-balanced breakfast of Eggs Benny, four kinds of dim sum, some smoked fish, grilled salmon, and two pieces of papaya (again, purely for decorative purposes). And it’s a good thing I did because it was a full six hours later by the time we sat down to lunch! Between meals, we switched off three buses to finally get to Lantau (literally “broken head”) Island where the last bus transported us up a steep and winding single-lane mountain road. As we motored along, occasionally pulling over to allow the oncoming vehicles to pass, my mind wandered to the tourist tragedy snippets that occasionally found their way into the international section of my local newspaper. No more than a paragraph in length, these little blurbs tended to involve narrow winding mountain roads (check!), a tour bus that witnesses would later report was traveling at an excessive speed (check!), bad weather in the form of rain or, worse, fog (check and check!), and the words “plunge”, “mangled”, and “bottom of a ravine”.
Thankfully, we reached the Po Lin Monastery safe and sound and there, we were treated to a stroll through an assortment of souvenir shops and a fog-obscured view of the famed Giant Bronze Buddha. Then, it was down to the restaurant for a complimentary lunch prepared by the local monks.
As it turned out, the vegetarian lunch was surprisingly good (then again, by this point I was downright ravenous). I feasted on tofu, broccoli, taro, beancurd skin, and a dish that contained something that tasted suspiciously like meat. With lunch out of the way, it was back on the bus for a trip to the nearby cable car station. Now I like heights about as much as the next guy who happens to be terrified of heights, but I thought I was doing a pretty good job of hiding my general apprehension as we made the steep descent – until, that is, we broke through the wall of fog and I was treated to a spectacularly terrifying view of long drop down. I don’t know how I reacted exactly, but apparently the look on my face was enough to trigger prolonged laughter from the elderly Indian couple seated directly across from us.
By the time we made it back to the hotel, we were both exhausted. We rested up, changed, and then headed down to one of the hotel restaurants for another underwhelming dinner. We started with Monk Jumps Over the Wall, a hearty soup that included double-boiled abalone, sharkfin, conpoy, sea cucumber, silky chicken, and mushrooms. We followed with a passable “stuffed crab in its shell”, terrific squab two ways, a good “sweet and sour groupa”, an odd “bamboo fungus stuffed with diced vegetables”, and an even odder “baked rice with hairy crab roe and mixed meat”. We skipped dessert and headed back to the room where I would later work on my blog and, while my wife was off getting a massage, desperately turn the place upside-down looking for the lone French macaron she swore she hadn’t eaten (but, in fact, had thrown out that morning).
Tomorrow’s forecast calls for overcast skies with a chance of precipitation and crispy eel.