HONG KONG (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97) toured Lantau Island during Carrier Strike Group 1's port visit to Hong Kong Dec. 29.
The tour covered the Lantau North Country Park to Ngong Ping Village, Po Lin Monastery and Tian Tan Buddha Statue. Sailors who took part in the tour wanted to experience a different aspect of Hong Kong.
"I think tours are a good way to see the culture of a country," said Personnel Specialist 3rd Class (SW/AW) Luis A. Cano. "I like having a tour guide explain the history of what we are about to see, or even why people do certain things. Tours are a convenient way a Sailor can go to a country and learn from its culture."
The Sailors were greeted, gathered and shepherded along the tour by Santa Lucia, their guide for the day. The 30-minute bus ride from Fenwick Pier to Lantau Island included a stop at the Tsing Ma suspension bridge, one of the largest suspension bridges in the world, and the Lantau Link View Point Bauhinia Garden.
Opened in 1997, the suspension bridge contains 26,700 tons of wire that would stretch 115,200 miles - enough to encircle the world four times - if laid flat.
Sailors viewed a section of the suspension cable and the fully enclosed lower level of the bridge which is used for the Metro Transit Rail (MTR) trains. The lower level is also open to all traffic during typhoons.
The tour continued across the bridge and onto Lantau Island, ancestrally known as Da Xi Shan. Twice the size of Hong Kong, the island is one of three regions (Lantau Island, Hong Kong Island, and New Territories) that comprise Hong Kong - containing 259 islands, 400 square miles and 7 million residents.
"There are 600 Buddhist Temples in Hong Kong," added Lucia, "and 500 of those are on Lantau Island where Sailors visited the Po Lin Monastery, home of a 'Happy Buddha.'"
Sailors took a ride on the Ngong Ping Cable Car that offered views of Hong Kong International Airport, Tung Chung Bay, Ngong Ping Village and Tian Tan Buddha statue.
"I loved the cable car ride," Cano said. "This, by far, was the coolest. I got the chance to see the entire city from the cable car."
"It was high," added Personnel Specialist 3rd Class (SW) James R. Bryan. "We had a large group, so it was a fun ride with everyone there."
The 5.7-kilometer sky rail offered views of Lantau North Country Park, which holds Lantau Peak, the second-highest point in Hong Kong. The cable ride continued to Ngong Ping Village where Sailors disembarked for a traditional lunch. The meal contained no meat, garlic or alcohol and was in keeping with what the monks of Po Lin Monastery ate.
"I picked the tour because I felt it would help me better understand the Chinese culture," Bryan said. "My favorite thing was the authentic vegetarian lunch. I didn't think I would like it, but I was surprised."
After the meal, Sailors had the afternoon to explore on their own. Many stopped at Po Lin Monastery, where locals offered prayers and lit incense before undertaking the arduous climb to the Tian Tan Buddha statue.
"It didn't look that bad, but once you started, it was rough," Bryan said after his climb to the largest outdoor statue of its kind in southern China.
The tour ended with a return trip on the Ngong Ping cable cars where Sailors reflected on the trip and the scenery.
"The tour offered a way to see a historic place without having to worry about how to get there or what the costs are," Bryan said. "It went smoothly, and we got to experience a lot."
"As a Sailor, we get to see many countries," Cano added. "The best way to see and learn from the locals is to have one telling you what it all means, and that is exactly what tours will do for you."
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