Tuesday (27.01.09) Lantau Island and the Tian Tan Bhudda
I had decided that this would be my day to explore Lantau Island. There is a cable car ride up to Ngong Ping Village, nearby to which is the Po Lin Monastery and the Tian Tan Buddha which is, let me get this right, the world's largest seated outdoor bronze buddha. There are also some small villages dotted around the island that I had hoped to visit.
The weather seemed fine when I set out, a little cold, but nothing too bad - on arriving at the cable car terminus there was a huge queue, but that was fine - I got in line. What I hadn't realised while I was in the queue (which was snaking back and forth) was that the mist had descended over Lantau Peak (Fung Wong Shan - Phoenix Mountain), but eventually I got on my cable car to the top. My initial optimism that the mist would clear soon waned, and after lunch and some Chinese tea to heat me up I decided that since I could hardly see a 10 feet in front of me, it wasn't going to be worth seeking out
this buddha, and made my way back to the ground and back to the mainland. I'm hoping that I'll be able to go back there another day, as I was quite disappointed not to have seen it all. Just in case I don't make it back to Lantau, if I've done this properly, the link below should take you to the website so that you can see what I missed: Lantau Island, Po Lin Monastery and Tian Tan Buddha Wednesday 28.01.09 - The Chinese New Year Cup
Horseracing is big
business here in HK. It's one of only 3 forms of legal gambling (the other 2 being the lottery and I think our guide said betting on international football(?). There are 7 million people living in Hong Kong, and last year, HK$62 billion was spent on horseracing.
The Chinese New Year Cup is held on the 3rd day of the Chinese New Year at Sha Tin Racecourse. I joined a tour for this one quite happily as I wouldn't know where to start when it comes to racing, and actually, this turned out to be one tour I would recommend to anyone coming to HK. Once we'd collected everyone from their hotels we headed
straight to Sha Tin and were given our passes which gave us access to our members box. There was some entertainment going on in the grounds as we arrived with a lady singing what sounded to me like the tune to "when you and I were young, maggie", although I guess it was probably a traditional chinese song; there were the dragon dancers again but they were just finishing when we got to our seats.
On our way in, we were encouraged to spin the wheels of fortune to bring us luck. There were more of these in the main public stands too, and throughout the day there often queues of Chinese people wanting to spin for luck.
The members area was great - lots of small rooms with a few tables in each where we had a lovely buffet lunch, and we had an introduction to the betting system from one of the staff there. He was very patient and made sure I know what I was doing before he let me loose to do it for real!! I made notes on my practice sheet and kept it for reference for my first few shots, although, after
a few races I didn't need it as I was into my "race, place, horse and money" routine. I was keeping things simple, picking one horse and betting the minimum HK$10 (£1) for it to come either 1st, 2nd or 3rd. There were other people there doing much more complicated (and much bigger stakes) than me, but out of my bus, I was the only one to come out on top! Netting off my stakes and my winnings, I ended the day up by HK$7.50, which is about 75p - I don't think I'll get rich this way!!
Here's a list of my horses and their finishing positions. If you look closely, you might see some meaning behind some of my choices, but most are just because I liked the name!
race 1: Mythic Steed; 2nd
race 2: Clovis; 4th
race 3: Mutual Gain; 5th
race 4: Go Lucky Go; 6th
race 5: Lucky Red; 3rd (I know a few people who might like this one!)
race 6: Green Glory; 1st (I know a few other people who'll like this one even more!!)
race 7: Amazing Venture; 7th
race 8: Never Look Back; 9th
race 9: Always Giggle;
race 10: Mellifluous; 4th and also Momentous; 8th
It was all very exciting, and you can't help but get carried away with it all when you go out on the terrace and hear the crowd below roaring. In my first race, my horse, Mythic Steed
which I picked purely because I liked it's name, came 2nd, although I missed it's moment of glory because I was eating my lunch! In race 6, when my horse Green Glory
came from last place on the bend and caught up with everyone else on the straight to win, nothing could stop me jumping up and down on the terrace!!
We had a visit down to the parade ring to see the horses before they went out for race 7 and then we watched at the finishing line for that race 7; after that we watched at the winners enclosure while the huge entourage that goes with a horse had their moment of glory, although the horse and jockey did seem to be relegated to the background, even though they were the one's who'd just done all the hard work in winning! It seemed to me that it was the money
men taking all the glory - I suppose without their money the horse couldn't train and so on.
All in all it was a brilliant day; I met some really great people and we all had good fun. I think this is something I'd love to do again - maybe we could go to Perth races or something like that? Golden Bauhinia Square
My pick up and drop off point for the tour was near to the Golden Bauhinia Square, so I took the opportunity to come over and have a look. The square contains the reunification monument and also Fovever Flowering Bauhinia
which was a gift from the Chinese central government to mark the creation of the HK Special Administrative Region in 1997 ie at the end of British rule when Hong Kong returned to China. The Bauhinia is the symbol of Hong Kong shown on it's flag. Thursday 29.01.09 - I've finally caught up!
If you've made it this far, you've done very well, and you'll be pleased to know, this is the last posting today as I have finally caught up with myself. I have nothing really to tell you today unless you want
to hear about doing my washing and internet banking! I will try to be more organised when it comes to putting posts on the blog, so that you don't get so many in one day again!
That's me done, I'm off to bed
Love to all
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