Although I’m amazed at the high-density living here in Tai Po, the area is really out in the back blocks of Hong Kong and on mainland China’s doorstep. About 10 km closer to Hong Kong island, the urban hub of Sha Tin is also pretty “rural” with shopping centres and residential blocks built on the semi-flat land between the steep hills and the Shing Mun River. Flat land is very scarce here, and the continually reclaimed land from the waterways — especially Victoria Harbour — for urban development.
A lot of Hong Kong is not flat, with steep inclines as great as 1:5 part of the public transport routes. For pedestrians, it means a lot of stairs or steep slopes, although — being a technology-loving people — many public places also offer escalators.
Some houses perch high on the hillsides up the back of Hong Kong and are only accessible via long trails of stairs.
Today I had some time by myself between taking the kids to school and picking them up, so I took the train out of Tai Po to conquer Po Fook mountain at the back of Sha Tin. Originally the location of a monastery, no monks reside there now, and the site has been developed as a series of memorial halls for the dead and a temple known as the Temple of 10,000 Buddhas.
Here's the entrance to Po Fook Hill cemetery.
A cat was dozing in the middle of the parking lot at the cemetery. All the animals I've seen here are clearly well looked-after, mange-free and wearing collars. (Maybe the unwanted pets just get eaten, I don't know.)
This little pool was home to a large number of turtles, a Chinese symbol of longevity.
Although on a very steep hill, the grounds were fully landscaped.
The cemetery was actually a columbarium and contained multiple internment rooms for the ashes of the deceased. Visitors come and burn incence outside the rooms or leave gift of flowers or food. In a designated incinerator, family members could also burn paper objects -- cars, money, mobile phones, etc -- to provide their dead ancestors with these modern luxuries.
It's a space-efficient way of memoralising the dead.
The cemetery was dotted with idols in elaborately decorated surroundings.
I guess one statue just isn't enough.
The cemetery is constructed to handle large crowds of visitors on festival days and has many escalators climbing to each level of memorial halls. Two inclined lifts also helped me in the descent (I didn't find them on the way up!).
Further up the hill from the monastery is the Temple of 10,000 Buddhas. Unfortunately, you have to go *all* the way back down the bottom of the hill before you can access the steps to the temple.
Although the guidebooks say that the Temple of 10,000 Buddhas is accessible by climbing 431 steps (I wonder if they double-checked that?), it sure felt like 10,000.
The walkway is lined with gold-painted statues in various poses. Although the Buddhas weren't carbon-copies of each other, the themes repeated. In climbing up the hill, I chose to walk up the incline rather than the shallow steps.
Most of the "Buddha" statues looked simply like friendly oriental men.
And this is why it's called the Temple of 10,000 Buddhas. (Actually, there are over 12,800 Buddha statues dotted around the place as well as lining the walls of the main hall.)
The red-clothed statue in the glass case is clearly labelled as the corpse of Rev. Yuet Hai. Charmed, I'm sure.
Classic oriental architecture.
Aha, *this* is how the monks get everything to the top of the hill!
While I was there, workers were adding to the family by cementing more Buddhas onto the low wall around the grounds.
This has been the ONLY graffiti I've seen. Trust the Anglo tourist to deface some public property. The words read: Cosmic war approved, Jesus.