Lantau Island Hike to The Big Buddha HK

Hiking to the Big Buddha was something G and I always wanted ever since our first visit to the Big Buddha by cable car in 2011. But I did not want to do it with just the two of us so in 2013 we talked Mike and Tom (who were visiting us for the week in Hong Kong) into the hike by promising that we would all get a massage afterwards at The Four Seasons.

I knew the hike would not be easy but I had no idea how tough it was to hike in the hot and humid weather under the midday sun. The toughest part was finding the start of the path to the Big Buddha after we exited the Tung Chung MTR. I found directions off of this website, but unfortunately the swamp she described was filled to make way for a hospital so we got extremely lost. I thought we were never going to find it because nobody we came across knew how to hike to the Big Buddha. But G was determined and pushed to go forward. After 2 and 1/2 hours of wandering around Tung Chung we finally found the start of the hike.

I think this was one hour in of getting lost. We wound up in a small fishing village where we could see the cable cars in the distance. It reminded me of villages in China.

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We tried a different path and wound up in the middle of nowhere…

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Circled around again and passed a housing estate which was on the way to some temple that was part of a heritage trail. We figured at worst we could hike the heritage trail so we followed that path.

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And somehow we found this green bridge which lead to the start of hike as described by RunLily. I was worn out at this point already, we had been walking around in the hot humid weather for the past 2 and 1/2 hours with a 15lb backpack. I had no idea if I was going to make it up the first hill because I knew it was a straight climb up and not a winding path. Note where the cable car station is, that was the first peak we needed to climb followed by 5 more. Much of the trail to the Big Buddha is directly under the cable car path.

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Climbing the first hill seemed endless. There was no railing and the path was steep. I was wondering how could I possibly finish this path when there are 6 more after this one? It did not help that the path was not shaded and the sun was quite strong as was the air pollution. I think it took us 40 minutes to get to the top of this hill with numerous stops in between.

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But the view was almost worth it if I wasn’t so terrified of falling off the mountain.

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Going down the first peak. The wooden stairs were shaky and not good for those with a fear of heights like Tom and I. We were so high up that I kept my eyes away from the cliff side. I was very discouraged at this point but did not want to back out because it was scarier to go back than it was to continue.

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I think this is was somewhere around the second peak. The sun was getting to me and I remember I had to lay down for at least 10 minutes before I could proceed. Mike was doing push ups because he wanted to keep his heart rate up. He was kind enough to carry my backpack for the reminder of the hike. This is also where Tom got the inspiration to solider on because Mike was doing push ups while Tom was exhausted. Currently Tom is in amazing shape and bikes all around New York and does bouldering.

Without the extra 15lbs on my back, I was able to continue. It also helped that the trail got easier. Like life, if one works harder in the beginning then it will be smoother passage later.

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The Big Buddha is within sight! Only a couple of more hills to go.

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We were all pretty tired but excited to be finally eating lunch at 2pm after starting the hike at 8am in the morning! A vegetarian fest at the Po Lin monastery hit the spot. It is nice to go back to a place where the food never changes. I first ate at the Po Lin monastery in 1999, and it is still the same fare today.

I am not a Buddhist but I do respect all religions. I know that there must be some greater power out there, but not sure what. As I grow older, I realize how important it is to do the right thing, help others, and give back to society.

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Gand I gazing at the path that took us 3 and 1/2 hours to complete.

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Cooling down with a shaved ice at Food Republic inside the Citygate Outlets at Tung Chun. Afterwards we headed to the Four Seasons where we indulged in a 90 minute massage. The massage did wonders for all of us as none of us was sore the next day.

Overall: The hike was amazing! I highly recommend it for those that are in decent shape in cooler weather. I would do this again for sure!

Till next time.

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Afternoon Tea at The Four Seasons Hong Kong

If you are after a high quality afternoon tea experience during your trip to Hong Kong, The Four Seasons would be your best. The Peninsula is too touristy, The Clipper Lounge needs a makeover, and the rest is not worth the money. It is my favorite place for afternoon tea in Hong Kong. The decor is modern but cozy despite the high ceilings and you have a fantastic view. Additionally tables are placed far apart so that you never had to hear your neighbor’s conversation (unlike The Peninsula and The Clipper Lounge). There is also live piano music playing throughout most of the afternoon. I loved it when the pianist plays Disney songs, but that depends on your luck as we were stuck listening to songs I did not recognize at all another time.

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Another bonus is that The Four Seasons accepts reservations for their afternoon tea, so you would not be stuck waiting for an hour like The Peninsula. Additionally their dress code is completely casual to the extent of shorts and flip-flops which I like but others hate.

Food wise, they serve the best scones in Hong Kong hands down. I was amazed that most of the people ate the sweets first, sandwiches second, and the scones last! How could a scone taste good cold? It must be eaten first when it is piping hot with the clotted cream and jam all melting into one delicious bite. The clotted cream and the homemade jam is also top-notch. The tea set below is for 1 person. For two, just double the quantity. Pictures of the tea set I took for two is uploading sideways so this one will have to suffice.

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Needless to say that the service at the Four Seasons is superb, easily the best of the bunch as well.

Overall: All the dining establishments inside the Four Seasons are great with the exception of Inagiku, which I won’t review since this blog is meant to document the good times.

The Lounge is located on the lobby level of The Hong Kong Four Seasons at 8 Finance Street and is attached to the IFC Mall. Tel: 3196 8820

Tai Ping Koon 太平館餐廳

Tai Ping Koon from the outside looks like one of those Western Style Dining Places from the Old Shanghai gangster movies. As in their doors and windows are fully covered by white gauze, and have that dark wood and brass thing going. Eating at the restaurant is stepping back to 1930’s Shanghai.

The name does not sound like much nor does my picture look like much, but it was scrumptious. Perfectly seasoned and without MSG, or at least I could not detect any. Swiss Style chicken is pretty much a fancy name for soy sauce chicken in my book. But these were the best that I have tasted. During the 14 months I lived in Hong Kong. I have gone back repeatedly for this.

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Another favorite of mine is the Swiss Styled beef chow fun, which is similar to the wet style beef chow fun. It was super delicious as well. You would think that in Hong Kong every restaurant makes good beef chow  fun. You would be wrong. Beef is expensive in Hong Kong, so usually only the good restaurants or only at certain price ranges would you get good quality beef.

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The Tai Ping Koon I frequented is the central outlet as it is a 15 minute walk from my apartment. Have not been to the other branches though I know there is one in Causeway Bay and TST.

Tai Ping Koon is also famous for soufflés as big as your head, but it is not impressive in my book because there are tons of restaurants in NYC and Hong Kong that make a kick ass soufflé.

Address: 60 Stanley Street Central, 2899-2780 Reservations are recommended.

HK Tycoon’s Canteen aka Fook Lam Moon 福臨門

Fook Lam Moon is a world-wide high end Chinese chain serving top rated Cantonese Cuisine. But the only branch I have been to is their flagship eatery in Wanchai as purported to be the best tasting. I have visited there twice during our 14 month of living in Hong Kong and I am sad that I didn’t visit it more often. But really there are just so many delicious restaurants in Hong Kong.

The food here is exquisite and quite possibly the best Cantonese Restaurant I have ever been too. It is no wonder that it is a favorite with the rainmakers in the Hong Kong, it’s nicknamed the Tycoon’s Canteen because during lunchtime there are scores of Rolls Royces and Bentleys parked in the front along with drivers and bodyguards all dressed in black.

Fook Lam Moon Hong Kong

I rate Fook Lam Moon so highly because they only use the freshest ingredients and combine that with their expertise in traditional Cantonese cooking, it is hard to have a unsatisfactory meal here. Besides they make the best roast suckling pig in the world period. There is none of that porky smell that is associated with either unfresh or cooked poorly. A masterpiece that is Cantonese BBQ. Note that the pig must be preordered.

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The East Star Garoupa was delicious. Easily the best fish I have ever tasted. It was expertly steamed and seasoned with the fish being firm yet tender with the indescribable sweet taste of top quality fish. I ordered this dish because my dad always wanted to try the East Star Garoupa. At around $180USD for this fish, this is pricy to say the least. But it was worth it to order it at Fook Lam Moon because this fish would cost around $150USD at other seafood restaurants around town because it is a highly prized fish. I would order this again. 10/10 for taste.

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Fook Lam Moon’s signature mochi with with red bean filling is simple yet exquisite. A must order to round out your meal. 10/10 for taste.

Overall: If I could only have one meal during a stopover in Hong Kong, it probably would be Fook Lam Moon. It is that good. And though it is on the expensive side it is worth its price tag.

Interesting thing of note: There were various opened wine and alcohol bottles with names tags on them stored in plain view of the diners at the restaurant. I recognized some of the names to be the head honchos of finance and real estate of the business elite that often dine here. Prices here can be sky high as there certain things like abalone that costs $2500 USD per person!

Man Wah at the Hong Kong Mandarin Oriental

Man Wah is one of the most highly regarded Cantonese restaurants in Hong Kong. Originally, I wanted to dine there for Valentine’s day 2012 but with Valentine’s day being HUGE in Hong Kong most nice places were all booked instead we went for G and I’s weekly fine dining date. In retrospect, I am glad that that we did not dine there for Valentine’s day. The atmosphere was decidedly unromantic. To me the decor was a 1970’s Chinese restaurant with pink tablecloths and lots of rosewood. Granted the pink table cloth was of very high quality and ironed, decor was of very high quality but that still does not suggest romance to me.

Man Wah at the Hong Kong Mandarin Oriental

The restaurant was intimate and our table had the best view in the entire restaurant. The bonsai tree was a nice touch. I couldn’t find many pictures of our meal but I will say that the food at Man Wah is excellent. I particularly remember their fried rice with abalone steamed in a lotus leaf shown below. Also Man Wah’s Peking Duck is the best I have had in Hong Kong but it is not on the same level as the ones I have had in Beijing.

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Overall: Man Wah serves very high quality Chinese food. The ingredients were all very fresh and tasty. Their service was top-notch with credit given to the maitre d’ who stopped me from over ordering. My main gripe is that I hate the decor, or perhaps I just hate that particular shade of pink. My advice to management would be to go all out and change the tablecloth to hot pink for a more contemporary look. Right now it looks like a high-class Chinese restaurant that is stuck in the 1970’s.

Reservations are a must as the restaurant is small.

Located at: 25/F Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road Central, Central, 2825-4003

Kei Kee Dessert 佳記甜品 BZai Liang Fen

During my entire 14 months stay in Hong Kong, I only visited Yuen Long once. My parents wanted to visit because they heard from their friends that Yuen Long is still relatively authentic for Hong Kong. I can vouch for this as Yuen Long looks like the 1980’s Hong Kong that I watched in TVB tv series. Also authentic in the sense that it was hard to find a bathroom in Yuen Long and when I finally managed to locate one, it was of the squat variety. I was tempted to circle back to Tai Wing Wah as I know they had a bathroom.

For our Yuen Long day trip, I had planned out our eating itinerary beforehand. Dimsum at the famed Tai Wing Wah Restaurant, a tour of the area, dessert at Kei Kee, and some wife cakes from the age old Hang Heung to bring home. All three places I choose had top reviews in openrice. Sadly all three were okay at best and definitely not worth going out of your way for.

The most memorable part of our day was the grass jelly at Kei Kee. For around $10 USD this huge dessert of grass jelly and various fresh fruit can feed at least four people though closer to six. This is Kei Kee’s signature dish.

Kei Kee Dessert 佳記甜品 BZai Liang Fen

After scooping out four bowls, we still had tons left over, which we brought home. But did you know fresh grass jelly melts after awhile even in the fridge? So really what we brought back was fruit soaked in grass jelly juice.

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The grass jelly didn’t taste bad and I can see why it is the most ordered item at Kei Kee Dessert aka BZai Liang Fen aka BBoy Grass Jelly. It is a very good value for the amount of food. But you really have to LOVE grass jelly to fully appreciate this dish. As I only LIKE grassy jelly, this dessert is not for me. I would recommend ordering another dessert or a smaller order of their grass jelly from their humongous dessert menu.

Kei Kee Dessert   佳記甜品 BZai Liang Fen is located at Shop 7, Chi Fu Centre, Yuen Long

Caprice Hong Kong: A Feast For The Eyes

High-end French Cuisine is often associated with snobby waitstaff. I am happy to report that this is not the case at Three Michelin Star Caprice. Infact, service was one of the highlights of the day. Our servers were genuinely nice, helpful and efficient. I also loved the entrance to Caprice with lit gold colored floors that made me feel like I was strutting down a runway!

Caprice Hong Kong

I booked Caprice for G’s birthday a month in advance in order to secure a window seat. Caprice books up pretty quickly, so if you want to try it during your Hong Kong trip, definitely plan ahead. You can just email them from the Four Seasons Hong Kong Website.

Caprice Hong Kong

What made Caprice memorable for me was their place settings. The gold charger plate is something like $300USD, and the bread plate is around $150USD. Out of all the fine dining venus I have been to, nowhere else uses such pretty and quality plates. I also recommend ordering bottled water instead of tap. The quality of Hong Kong tap water is not good. Even though we ordered bottled water, our glasses were rinsed with regular tap water and still had a metallic after taste. But pure tap water in Hong Kong is not drinkable imo without being boiled first. In New York there is no need to do this as the tap water tastes the same as bottled water. If in China, I recommend drinking straight out of the bottle as their water quality is worse than Hong Kong’s. An alternative would be hot tea. Bread and butter were first rate for Hong Kong and the servers came by several times to offer more bread. Again not always a given in Hong Kong.

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Eggplant fondant, mushrooms, escargot, and poultry stuffing. Great presentation and delicious to boot. Loved the plate so much so that I emailed the management at Caprice about it. Management was nice enough to send me an entire pdf of the plates they used and I was shocked at the prices. I wonder what would happen if I was to accidentally break it? I don’t own any nice dinnerware currently but when I finally get settled down and not move 6 times in past 6 years, I will be sure to invest in matching dinnerware. I would love a beautifully set table with matching cups and plates and fresh flowers. It’s the little girl in me.

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Raw scallops in Yuzu dressing. Beautiful presentation, beautiful plate, the scallops were okay but nothing mind blowing. Then again, raw scallops arent’t my thing, I like my scallops cooked all the way through like those at David Burke Townhouse.

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Whiting Fillet. Crispy, tender, spot-on flavoring, very enjoyable. Generous serving size as well. Nothing special about the plate though. Did I mention I love eating during daytime? I like to see my food clearly especially if I am paying a lot for it. Besides eating after 6pm makes me fat.

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Braised wagyu beef shoulder with leeks and potato crisps in a red wine sauce was yummy. G did not care for that particular cut of beef, but I enjoyed it very much.

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Two coffees and some petit fours rounded off our meal nicely. The coffee cups were something like $300 USD per set. As expensive as it was, at least it was pretty and of good quality. Unlike the 20 assorted weird looking dinner sized plates that were hung in our HK apartment lobby and each floor. I thought they were cheap and not too attractive and was shocked to see in the Lane Crawford Home Store in Pacific Place for hundreds of dollars. Art is subjective after all.

Overall: I enjoyed Caprice immensely though not necessarily for the food. Food wise I would give it a 7/10.

Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery Hong Kong

One does not associate Hong Kong with calm and peacefulness, but it is possible to find it within the Nan Lian Garden and The Chi Lin Nunnery Complex. It is not too far from city center and yet is almost always completely quite and empty.

Nan Lian Garden Hong Kong

The Nan Lian Garden is a good example of Tang Dynasty architecture. The Tang Dynasty was one of the more glorious periods in Chinese history where the arts and culture flourished and was spread to neighboring places. Take away the tall buildings in the background, and that is how I imagine a wealthy Tang household to look like back in the day.

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See the muted colors of the building and the well pruned plants. I much prefer this type of building that the reds and yellow’s of the Forbidden City.

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The only odd thing that stood out was this gold pagoda and the small red bridge as everything else was muted and in harmony with nature.

Chi Lin Nunnery Hong Kong

The Chi Lin Nunnery is attached to Nan Lian Garden as is one of the most serene temples I have come across. Probably because  it is so empty. The above pic was taken on a Sunday. =)

Overall: Very scenic spot, great for photographers. Expect to spend around 1 hour walking through the gardens and nunnery. After your visit, cool down with some Taiwanese ice located at the food court that is in the shopping mall right on top of the Diamond Hill MTR Station.

The Nan Lian Garden & Chi Lin Nunnery is located right next to the Diamond Hill MTR Station Exit C2. Follow the well posted signs. No entrance fee, open between 9-5 everyday.