Since I’ve been here, of course, Helen’s been working, and since I don’t yet have a job I’ve been having a week or three of holiday. My days have been mainly filled either by doing things for the house (out buying things we need, or staying at home waiting for deliveries) or getting out and about and seeing some of the interesting sites the city has to offer.Apart from aimless walking around taking the new environs in, my first proper excursion was to the 10,000 Buddhas temple (沙田萬佛寺) near Sha Tin, on the Kowloon side. The guide book said to get to Sha Tin station and follow the signs, but on arrival of course there weren’t any signs to follow. Helen had told me some directions in the morning, but I could only remember ‘turn left before the buildings’, so I thought I’d head left anyway and as luck would have it there was a building there to left in front of. The second half of Helen’s instructions were to then turn right, but I’d forgotten that so I went straight on to what looked like a temple, but was in fact a very ornate cemetery. The cemetery was on the side of a hill, and thankfully they’d installed an escalator to help get to the top. I noticed something was amiss by the distinct lack of Buddhas, but it was quite an interesting place nonetheless. At different levels up the hillside, there were lots of different rooms filled from floor to ceiling on three sides by little Take My Pick style cubby-holes, which I assume were filled with the ashes of the deceased. After many levels of these (and some more helpful escalators), I had reached as high as I was permitted, and had now confirmed that I was in the wrong place by a complete lack of Buddhas thus far. It was on the return journey down the hill that I noticed slightly to the left and through the trees, a footpath lined with Buddhas! That was the place! Now, how to get there? There was a little path that looked like it connected through the Buddhas path, but that was blocked with a gate and big fence with barbed wire, so I headed down to ground level and looked in vain for a connecting path, before a woman who looked like she was trying to sell something pointed around a building and hinted that I should go that way. Must be a common problem at the cemetery. Thus I arrived at the bottom of the path up to the 10,000 Buddhas temple, so named because there are 13,000 statues of the Buddha contained within its grounds. There followed a gruelling walk back up the hill (no escalators now!) looking at the life-sized Buddhas which lined the route, weaving back, forth, and mostly up the hillside. There were quite a lot of Buddhas, but I’m dubious as to whether there’s really 13-, or even 10,000 there. The top of the hill yielded to a beautiful little courtyard with the biggest statue of all under a protective awning, the temple itself under a big red drape of a dragon (that sounds quite tacky but it was really very nice), a tall red tower, which without the internet I’ve not been able to research the significance of, and yet more life-sized statues around the edges. The smell of Buddhist temples is what I think I like the most, as they have great cauldrons filled with burning incense sticks of people praying, and here there were such cauldrons and either end of the courtyard, and being on the side of a hill meant there was a nice breeze blowing across too, carrying the fragrance with it.
Slightly further up the hill there were a couple more smaller temples (and some more Buddhas), but by this stage the humidity had taken its toll upon me, and I was desperate to get back to some air con and at least a cool drink, so I headed back down the path towards Sha Tin station, and back on my merry little way around Hong Kong.