Big Buddha and the Bay, HK

As I write this I’m looking out over the bay towards Hong Kong Island, watching fishermen trying to catch dinner from the murky waters. The sun has set and I’m waiting for it to go dark when I know the bay really comes alive. The clouds are starting to roll in over the mountains but it’s been a clear and sunny day today.

After collecting my Chinese visa this morning I set off for the Big Buddha, an iconic tourist attraction in the mountains of Lantau Island. The buddha was only built in 1993, and it’s obvious it was created to be a tourist site when you reach the bottom and they ask if you want to pay extra to go inside the buddha and have a meal. No thanks.

big_buddha_hongkong

I enjoyed the surrounding areas more than the buddha itself, even though the Po Lin Monastery was closed for refurbishment.

big_buddha_village_hongkong

From the buddha there’s a 360degree view of the mountains and the bay, and you can watch the clouds descending as the day goes on.

big_buddha_view_hongkong

The real highlight for me was the cable car ride, taking approximately 25 minutes each way and passing over sea, mountains and waterfalls.

cablecar_to_big_buddha_hk

bigbuddha_cable_car_hk

For a good half of the journey you can watch planes fly in and out of the airport nearby, which I will always find fascinating.

Anyway, the sky is dark now, and a fisherman just caught his first of the evening, so that’s my cue to take a stroll down the Avenue of Stars and soak up the atmosphere.

hongkong_bay

hong_kong_bay

 

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How to Get a Chinese Visa in Hong Kong

It’s much easier than I thought it would be to get a Chinese visa in Hong Kong. For me personally it was the double entry tourist visa but this information applies across the board.

The visa office, as of 10th June 2013 is at:
3rd Floor (Visa Section)
China Resources Building
26 Harbour Road
Wanchai
Hong Kong.
Nearest MTR: Wan Chai
MAP HERE

Open Monday to Friday (except Hong Kong public holidays)
9:00-12:00 and 14:00-17:00

My experiences were of the office when it was on the 7th floor but I’m sure it’s pretty much the same on the 3rd floor.

What the building looks like
What the building looks like

What You’ll Need

A photocopy of your passport information page and 1 passport photo. If you can’t do this in advance they have the facilities to do it there. You also need to give them your passport.

An idea of when you want to go to China and the addresses you’ll be staying at – I hadn’t booked anything yet so I picked some random hostels from Hostelworld and wrote their addresses down.

What Happens When You Get There

There are two queues: one for visa applications and one for pickups. I arrived at 8.20am and was about 8th in line, office opens at 9am. The good thing about getting there early was that they handed out the application forms and I was able to complete it before I even reached the building. I had downloaded a copy and filled it out already, but I preferred to do it again on their official papers just in case. If you’re applying for a tourist visa and you’re not from Hong Kong you also need to fill out the last section of the supplementary form.

When you enter the building all food and drink will be confiscated and your bags and you will go through an x-ray machine.

When you get to the processing room, take a ticket once your forms are fully completed and you have your photo and passport photocopy. The people handing out the tickets will give your form a quick check to make sure it’s done properly.

chinese_visa_hong_kong_office

Then wait for your number to be called. If you’ve selected the 2/3 day option they’ll ask whether you want rush (2 days) or express (3 days). The number of days includes the day you apply if it’s in the morning, so 2 days is actually next day. There’s an extra charge for either of these options – the standard is 4 days.

They give you a slip but you don’t pay yet – you’ll pay on collection.

I was out of there by 9.30am so it was a quick and painless affair. The official website advises against going on a Monday or Tuesday. I went on a Wednesday so maybe that helped.

Collecting Your Visa

If you’re collecting your visa you’ll be sent in ahead of the people waiting to apply. Take your slip with you and once you reach the processing room queue at the cashier desk. I found that lots of people went at 9am so I went at 9.30 and didn’t have to queue. Once you’ve paid, move to the collection desk and there you have it, the proud owner of a Chinese visa.

Agents

There are agents who will do all this for you but it’s so easy to do it yourself you may as well save some money. My hostel had a visa service but they told me that double entry tourist visas were no longer issued and that I would have to get a double entry business visa instead, at a cost of $2,000HKD ($260USD or £170). When I went to the visa office myself I discovered that the hostel manager was talking rubbish. I was issued with the double entry tourist visa I wanted and it cost $850HKD ($110USD or £70).

Further Information

You can find further information on the government website here.

 

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