Sunday, 25 March 2012

Chi Lin Nunnery and a Farewell Banquet

After my morning session I decided, as I had the afternoon free I would visit the Chi Lin Nunnery at Diamond Hill. In the evening there was the formal Farewell Chinese Banquet, at 7pm, so after getting back to hotel around 1.30pm ish I could not go too far.

I took the MTR, changed 3 times, it really is SO simple, and arrived at the station of Diamond Hill. My first thought was, this is a spaghetti junction place, there were 3 flyover motorways above my head as I emerged, how can a Buddhist nunnery be around here?

Not like the venues of most of the Convents I visit! I wandered out onto the road and found the sign for the nunnery and the Nan Lian Gardens, which is the public area of the house. It took 5 minutes to find and I entered the carved gates into what amounts to a tiny enclave of paradise in a totally urban and madcap district. In truth it was not 'quiet', the traffic could still be heard, but the gardens protected one from the clatter and clang, it became a distant rumble.

The gardens were magical, twisted banyan trees, swaying palm trees, bonsai trees in terracotta pots which looked hundreds of years old and rocks and falling water so beautiful it quite took my breath away. I wandered around the paths with Buddhist bells alternately tinkling and booming in the background. The birdsong was louder than the people (!) and the Lotus Pond full of lazy, fat goldfish, the size of a large salmon.

I wandered past the wall of water peacefully falling 20 feet down a glistening rock, and watched the large waterwheel turning, picking up, and then dropping water into one of the many sparkling ponds.

I was determined to have a bite to eat in the well known vegetarian and organic restaurant, and when I arrived at the low wooden building, lunch had finished, so afternoon tea, Buddhist style, was on offer. I plumped for the HK$60 set tea of fresh squeezed orange juice, a piece of vegan cheesecake (to die for) and some delightful sweet red bean puff pastries, finished off with a slice of melon and a square of dragon fruit. It was so beautiful, to the eye as well as the taste buds. I could not photograph it as no photography was allowed in the restaurant, you will need to use your imagination, and think Feng Shui and incredible symmetry!

I got back to the hotel around 5pm and after a hot bath went down to the Falcon Room for the dinner.

Well the wine was flowing, there were 10 courses, each more exotic than the next ! I had my first taste of truffle, young bamboo pith in some savoury sauce, tiny pinhead Japanese mushrooms, cod in black butter, beef and mashed potato (if you can believe it), gingered king prawns with sesame seeded green peas, scallops in fermented soy wine, rice with mixed seafood, mango pudding simply bursting with fresh mango, and small red bean jam puff balls.......we none of us could move by the end, and I retired around 10pm, but by the looks of some of the chaps at noon today, I suspect a veritable Buddhist waterfall of red and white vino, plus a few chasers topped off with Dragon Beer, had flowed through the veins of the brave, or the daft !

A good day.

Too much food, too much traffic, and just about enough greenery and flowing water to keep me going until I get back to blighty!

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