Friday, June 12, 2009

Blessed by Buddha

A trip to Lantau was on today's agenda. Ravi and I met at Hong Kong underground station to catch the MTR to Tung Chung (last station on the HK - Tung Chung line). HK's public transport system is as good as it can get. Or atleast, as good as I can imagine. Starting right from their airport- that is nothing short of being world-class-to its public transport like buses, taxis, boats, ferry and underground railway, it's very convinient to get to practically anywhere in the country using its public transport. Not only do they have every conceivable mode of public transport, they are also well-developed and well-maintained. But they also care for the environment I am told; like the place where venky lives, he tells me there are no vehicles allowed in that area. Something like our very own Matheran where vehicles are banned. Also, like in London, there are a few stations here in HK as well where there are layers of railroads under the ground. Further, since HK and Central stations are so close and since, between the two stations, you get a choice of four different lines and the Airport Express, both these underground stations as well as the Airport Express station are interconnected, underground. You don't have to come up the ground and then go under again if you want to interchange between these lines. This is what I call, infrastructure. It's an engineering feat, nonetheless.

After alighting at Tung Chung station, we took the cable-car ride to Lantau island, taking in panoramic views of the Tung Chung township, HK's international airport and a lot of natural beauty surrounding them. I don't remember the last time i sat in a Cable car but the ride was awesome. The views, especially as you are nearing Lantau village and can see the magnificent Buddha statue, are marvellous. The Buddha statue is quite omnipresent; you can see it from almost anywhere from the Lantau village. One of the things to do on this island, apart from shopping for beautiful Chinese and Tibetan artifacts, is to have a vegetarian mean at the PoLing monastery. Notice large incense sticks and pots on the monastery's complex. The Wisdom Park, a short 15-min walk from the monastery, is also a must-do.

Lantau island over, Ravi and I parted ways and I headed back to HK mainland, in search of the Zoroastrian Hong Kong association building that
also houses an Agiary or Dadgeh. God works in mysterious ways I have always felt; despite being a Sunday and all offices of the association closed, I almost missed running into our dasturji Jimmy Sidhwa. But there he was, and he readily obliged me by opening the doors of the Dadgeh for me. Wow!

Later that evening, I met Venky who took us out- yet again, the guy is a gem- to the Foreign Correspondent's Club for drinks and dinner. Don't get mistaken by the name, I was told, for you don't need to be a correspondent nor a foreigner to be this club's member. Rough estimates say that only about 20 per cent of this Club's member are correspondents; rest belong to corporates. But yes, this club was primarily meant for journalists, reporters and correspondents. It's a very upscale, very English club with two large giant screen TVs (we were to watch Roger Federer create history later in the evening on one of those screens, by winning his first French Open final and thereby winning a career Grand Slam; what a moment that was!!!) and a few other flat screen TVs; sports channels always playing on them, a large bar with a very large variety of drinks on offer and a number of bar tenders to offer quick and very efficient service. I had Bailey's Irish Cream, my favourite alcoholic drink that, contrary to the common way of drinking it after food, I prefer to have before food.

The Club has a correspondent workstation chamber, complete with all equipments for them to file their stories. There are also few Internet browsing work stations for guests, members and visitors on the main floor. Apart from the main restaurant and bar, there is also- what they call it- a Silent Room. It's like a closed-door restaurant, but the television in there is always on mute. Only BBC channel runs in here and if you want to listen to it, you've got to use the headphones. One of this Silent Rooms' and the Club's most famous members is Ms Claire Hollingworth, the lady who I am told was the first journalist who broke the story of World War II. All that, simply, as she was returning home late in the night in Poland and saw German tanks lined up. She reported the story next day that the World War II was about to break. And to top it all, those were her first days in journalism and she was in her very early 20s. I am told she is well into her late 90s now and comes with here with a helper. Every day, at around 4 pm,the corner table, the table next to the place where I had dinner, is reserved for her. I am not much of an autograph-seeking person, but I would have loved to get her autograph; that would have been some honour.

So after a delicious dinner- and surprisingly Foriegn Correspondent's Club excels at Indian cuisine and I had a wonderful lamb roghan ghost with rice and paratha- it was time to say bye-bye to Venky and hope to meet up again sometime soon...

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