Hours: 9am to 6pm, daily (last admission 5:30pm).
Address: Po Lin Monastery (accessed primarily from the Ngong Ping 360 cable car - for alternative directions
Price: 60 Yuan/ticket
Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha)
One of Hong Kong’s premiere attractions is the world’s tallest outdoor seated Buddha; the great looming statue of the Buddhist deity Sakyamuni. Seated on a summit in Lantau, the Buddha measures over 100 feet in height and weighs 275.5 tons. There is a large automated bell within the Buddha that rings 108 times everyday, with the number ’108’ symbolizing escape from 108 troubles of mankind. For a closer look at the statue and its surrounding views, you will have to ascend 260 or-so steps. It is well worth the effort though, as there is a museum at the top and you will be able to look out over the spectacular view of the surrounding Ngong Ping plateau and Lantau Peak.
A lively time to visit the Buddha is on the Buddha’s Birthday, a public holiday in late April or May. Each year thousands of people make the pilgrimage which makes for an inspiring scene at the site. However, if you seek a quiet, peaceful moment with the Buddha, try to avoid visiting on Sundays or public holidays.
Po Lin Monastery
Known as the ’Buddhist Kingdom of the South,’ this extensive monastery is one of the main Buddhist monasteries in Hong Kong. Po Lin can be translated as ’precious lotus’ (with the lotus flower being the Buddhist symbol of purity). The monastery itself was founded by three monks in 1920 and was renamed and developed into the Po Lin Monastery that now exists today in 1924. Although many monks still seek refuge there today, the area attracts much more outside visitors these days.
Visitors should not bring meat or alcohol to the area as a measure of respect.
There are three good-value vegetarian restaurants around the area. You can buy meal tickets at the entrance to the Buddha statue and this ticket gives one access to the displays inside the Buddha and what is basically the monk’s canteen. For the carnivorous, Buddhists chefs specialize in mock meat dishes, which is basically sweetened to-fu.
To the west of the Buddha statue are some Tea Gardens, which have their own plantation. A quaint Tea Garden café serves up simple dishes and tea, with the dated overhanging parasols providing shade and relief from the sun. The café also sells tea leaves fresh from the bush. To get there walk from Po Lin Monastery and follow the signs to the Tea Gardens entrance.
The Wisdom Path
From the Tea Gardens, a 15 minute walk along a hiking trail will bring you to the Wisdom Path. Recently refurbished, here there is a large outdoor installation representing of the Buddhist prayer; the Heart Sutra. The prayer is creatively displayed on escalating wooden pillars. Together, the pillars form the symbol of ’Infinity,’ which exemplifies the limitless and boundlessness of Buddhism and enlightenment.
Estimated duration of the trip:
Sightseeing and lunch: 4 hours
There are numerous ways to reach the Buddha, with the recently added and popularly acclaimed Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car providing the most scenic and effortless route.
The longest, but most ecological route involves taking a ferry to Lantau from Central. Take the MTR to Hong Kong Station / Airport Express Line, but leave the station at exit E1, towards the signs for the IFC Mall and the outlying islands ferry pier. After exit E1 walk through the IFC Mall to the outlying islands Ferry Pier 6. Take the ferry to Mui Wo, Lantau Island, then bus 2 from the bus terminus outside the pier.
Or alternatively, the most mediocre route is to take the Tung Chung line in the MTR to the end of the line - Tung Chung Station. Get out at exit B and walk towards the bus terminus to find bus 23 from Tung Chung to Po Lin Monastery.