On Saturday, we had the awesome opportunity to visit Lantau Island. We rode the MTR all the way to Tung Chung and from there, we boarded the Ngong Ping 360, which is a 25 min gondola lift that brings people up to the Ngong Ping Plateau. While for some this was the ride of a lifetime, others were gritting their teeth, counting the seconds until we reached our destination.
At the top station, there is a tourism village, the Tian Tan Buddha, and the Po Lin Monastery – which are big tourist attractions in the area. People are able to climb a long staircase to “The Big Buddha”, where they can see the 112 ft statue up close, as well as the six Deva statues that surround it. With the statue, came fresh breezes and beautiful views of the intersecting hill sides.
While at the top of the buddha, we were presented with incredible views of mountains, valleys and the Po Lin Monastery, which was a much needed change of pace after being emersed in city life for the past two weeks. After we spent some time in that area, we caught a bus down to Tai O - which was an adventure in its own right, due to all of the twists and turns as well as half of us standing up (all of the seats were taken) while being pushed and pulled by the motions of the ride. Besides the motion itself, we very nearly crashed into another bus, which added a little excitement to the day.
When we got down to Tai O, we worked on our photography assignment, which centered on the ideas of empty, objects, quiet, and graphic. Tai O itself is also a tourist attraction, but much less so than the previous area – and having gotten passed the initial crowds and shops (smelling almost entirely of fish and selling the fresh and preserved exploits of the sea) the village opened up to quiet twists and turns with colorful peeling paints and rusting metal. This area definitely had a quiet and aging feel to it, and offered many opportunities for texture and subjects for our photographs.
Fishing used to be a very viable career for many people, however with this trade dying out and the devastating effects of the fires in 2000, this village has slowly rebuilt itself into squatters huts and dilapidated stilt houses. The sad beauty of this village is that these people were not trying to hide their lifestyles. If you looked closely enough you were able to see the hardships that these people face every day.
The older generations of people that lived in Tai O were very noticeable. They seemed to reflect in their faces and postures the feeling of this old and stilted fishing village. While there I was reminded of some of the old river towns on the Mississippi River. In particular, the physical state of the objects and buildings in Tai O reminded me of the objects and buildings in the photograph series, Sleeping by the Mississippi, by Alec Soth. While the people there are very different from the individuals portrayed in this series, the material portion of the village echoes a similar feeling of impoverishment and strained renewal that hosts a sort of sad beauty.
While many younger generations might try to flock to the larger metropolitan area, these people clearly weren’t concerned that their ways were of the fading past, they embrace what they can – like the tourism aspect of their village – and just keep on going on.
"Like sands through the hourglass... so are the days of our lives"