The Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery on Lantau

Lantau, Big Buddha and Po Lin MonasteryTowards the end of our week in Hong Kong we woke to a vivid blue sky, no rain was forecast, so we took the metro to Lantau Island, Hong Kong’s second largest island. The metro drops you off, rather handily, at Tung Chung, a small town, where a cable car can whisk you 5.7 km up Mount Muk Yue, to Ngong Ping, the Po Lin Monastery and the Tian Tian Buddha.

Despite being a Wednesday {in December}, there was a long, long queue to ride the Ngong Ping 360 gondola, this first day of sunshine for a while must have prompted the influx of tourists as it had prompted us. It took us an hour to reach the ticket desk.

Lantau, Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery

Twenty five minutes later, we had ascended the hill and were deposited into the touristy Ngong Ping village, a ‘resort’ of restaurants and shops that lead through to the Po Lin Monastery. The views from the gondola are impressive, looking out over the airport to the South China Sea. The Tian Tan Buddha comes into view as the 5.7km cable curves its way up the hill.

We walked quickly through the village, there was little there that interested us, to the monastery. We were confronted by the magnificent Mountain Gate, pearly white in the bright sunshine. Passing through this to the monastery gardens where a sign declared ‘the rules’.

Lantau, Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery

Large incense

Large incense

Po Lin Monastery rules

Po Lin Monastery rules

Our first port of call was the Monastery restaurant, with rumbling bellies we purchased our meal tickets from the counter next door. The restaurant was a huge room, we were shown to our table then we were brought a range of vegetarian dishes; a simple soup, steamed veggies and steamed rice, silken tofu and sweetcorn, and some mock chicken. It was all simple monastery food, tasty but not overwhelmingly so. There were also spring rolls but they were far too greasy for me.

Fully sated with nutritious food we climbed up to the Tian Tan Buddha, a bronze seated Buddha. The base of the Buddha is modelled on the Tian Tan {Altar of Heaven} in the Temple of Heaven in Beijing and that’s where it gets the name, it consists of 3 levels which can be climbed for closer views. He is sat on a lotus flower and has a serene expression as he gazes out.

Within the base of the Big Buddha are 3 floors of galleries and a bell, the galleries show Buddhist artefacts and art. As the site was busy with tourists entry was restricted to those who had meal vouchers, that included us so we had a look around. The views out from the outside terraces are wonderful, and well worth the climb just for that.

We thought we were leaving early but when we reached the cable car station and saw the queue our hearts sank. We queued for hours, the sun dropped below the horizon and the air got very chilly. The queue behind us got longer and longer, there seemed to be more people on the hill than gondolas to take them back down. Eventually we got to the very front of the queue only for the cable cars to grind to a halt. We think it was because the wind had got up and it was pretty breezy out there on the hillside.

Ten minutes later we were able to board a car and off we went, into the night sky by now. We descended a little way down then it halted again. Ten minutes we hung there, over a huge drop as the icy wind buffeted, us swinging the car, it was rather terrifying and also very cold! I was so relieved when we got back down to terra firma.

Near to the Tung Chung MRT station is an outlet mall and we were able to thaw out in there for a while before setting off back to Hong Kong.

Lantau, Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery

I think you can get a bus up to the monastery too if you don’t fancy the cable car, or if you are feeling energetic there are walking trails up there too.

You can read more about the Tian Tan Big Buddha here:

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2 Responses

  1. davegct says:

    Glad you went to see the giant Buddha! That’s one thing we did not do during our time in Hong Kong, just ran out of time. Next visit for sure! Love the last pic in your posting looking up past the hand at the face. Amazed at the crowds you encountered, especially in December. We probably would have been too impatient to wait for hours to ride back down, would have started walking! What about the monastery, is it still a real working monastery?

    • I think every tourist in HK was waiting for a sunny day, just like we were! They didn’t mar the walk up to the Buddha, the crowds seemed to disperse after the cable car!
      Yes, the monastery is fully working, we didn’t go in as we were a little monasteried-out since Mongolia/China! Just enjoyed the gardens and the food!
      The last photo is my favourite too 🙂