Somewhere in a remote area of Hong Kong sits a huge monument overlooking the forests and clouds while tourists and pilgrims flock to its feet. This is the Tian Tan Buddha or otherwise known as ‘Big’ Buddha, a sculpture of the Buddha Shakyamuni which was completed back in 1993 situated at Ngong Ping, Lantau Island just outside Hong Kong.
A great way to get to the site is by cable car but sadly as we arrived at Tung Chung MTR station looking to transfer to the cable car terminus just across the street, the cable car was out of action. Plan B swung into action as we had heard rumours of maintenance being performed on the cable car system. This involved walking to the rear of the cable car terminus to the bus station where bus number 23, departing from the far side of the bus station as you approach it, takes you to Ngong Ping.
We had our octopus cards already loaded with enough dollars to get there and back which costs $17 HKD (£1.65) each way. Simply touch your octopus card on the scanner by the driver with the ‘octopus’ symbol. If you don’t happen to have an octopus card there is a ticket office just beside the bus stand.
The journey took around 45 minutes altogether and passed through some incredible views of rural Hong Kong. The hilly terrain made way for the most incredible view of the coastline and islands dotted around the bay, it really made up for missing out on the cable car experience. We arrived on one of the earlier buses which I would highly recommend as the Tian Tan Buddha and nearby Po Lin Monastery are both extremely popular with tourists and visitors alike.
With an hour or so to kill before the monument officially opened to enable us to scale the steep incline to the top, we made our way over to the Po Lin Monastery. It was tricky to get into the main area as prayers were being conducted so I managed to scale the steps at the side to see The Golden Buddha’s. Unfortunately photography in this area was strictly forbidden so I can only tell you that they were beautiful golden statues surrounded by the scent of burning incense. Well worth viewing.
The gates soon opened and we were up and away to climb the steps in the now red hot sun. It’s a real effort getting to the top but it’s so worth it when you look up at the big man looking back down at you – he’s huge! The detail in the statue really is intricate and so well made, absolutely one of the must-do’s in Hong Kong. Then there’s the view….
The view is unlike any that we have ever come across on our travels. The clouds almost seem to part slightly and hover just above the forest canopy. It’s such a peaceful place, the kind of place that only exists in films or through pictures in a book. To actually be here was a privilege and even though we are not of the Buddhist faith you can’t help but be impressed by the beauty of this site.
We climbed the steps just below The Buddha’s chin and got an even better look over the site of Po Lin, the islands and the stairway down below which was becoming more populated as the buses arrived. Just below the Buddha there is a gift shop where you can purchase replica’s of the statue (obviously smaller) and various other items relating to the site and Hong Kong in general.
After two hours at Ngong Ping we decided to call it a day and catch a bus back while we could. To get to the bus terminus you walk through a sort of mini-village which has shops, restaurants and souvenirs. We stopped at a shop to buy some water for the journey back and headed through a narrow alleyway with a signpost for the bus terminus. The stand is clearly marked for the number 23 and with a swipe of the octopus card we were back en route to Tung Chung. The interesting thing about the service back is that it is a bus service for the locals so expect to stop a few times to collect people on their way to the city.
Our overall impression of the Big Buddha experience is one that will live long in the memory. I can’t honestly remember a more peaceful place. It’s a shame that we couldn’t do more in the monastery but what we did see was very impressive. The big man himself is well worth a 45 minute hop on a bus from the city to gaze at. My advice would be to get there early as it is very popular plus as well you can take your time and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. Another perfect morning in Hong Kong.
Opening times: Daily 1000-1730