"If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your path" - Buddhist Proverb
Having spent some time in Singapore, I was curious to see how Hong Kong compared. They are both modern cities, sharing a strong Chinese heritage and an affinity towards nature.
Being located on mountainous terrain, Hong Kong definitely impresses when it comes to natural landscapes. I was pretty excited to see how such a modern city interacted with its natural landscape. So the first activity we did was to take the cable car all the way to Ngong Ping (Lantau Island) to encounter the second largest, outdoor bronze Buddha in the world: Tian Tan.
Our excitement was marred by the fact that we waited TWO hours to get onto the cable car, partly because we didn't pre-book tickets, but also because it takes a while to load 8 people into each arriving cable car. A cable car costs HK $235 for a round trip or HK $110 for a single. You can also upgrade to the crystal cabin which has a glass bottom. However, it is a steep $315 for a return ticket. We actually recommend the one way trip because you can easily head to another area on Lantau island that same day. We visited Tian Tan early afternoon and that left plenty of time for us to visit Hong Kong's remaining traditional fishing village, Tai O - which we cover here.
The view from the cable car was spectacular , and you could even feel sorry for the poor souls who chose to hike all the way! Kidding, I'd be up for that next time! If you do have time to spare, and you've brought a sturdy pair of shoes, rise early as you'll need at least four hours to walk 5.7km long to get to Ngong Ping Village.
Once we got to Ngong Ping, we were slightly disappointed with how touristic the whole affair was. Tian Tan being so sacred, we would have expected more of a sombre and meditative ambience. Sadly, it felt more like a theme park to us. Nevertheless, Tian Tan stood mightily tall, commanding the landscape with all the patience he could muster.
The story of Tian Tan alone, is fascinating. At hight of 34 meters, it was constructed in 1990 and finished 3 years later. The base of the statue is a model of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing (Early Mount of Tian Tan, where it gets its name. And the altar upon which it sits, resembles a lotus flower. It is also surrounded by six statues known as the 'Offering of the Six Devas'. These represent meditation, wisdom, generosity, zeal, patience, and morality.
Once we were done wading through other tourists like ourselves, we visited the beautiful Po Lin Monastery. I don't ever remember seeing such intricate temple details and the colours are so vivid that it reminds you how sobering even the most lavish Catholic churches are. Remember to take a shawl to be demonstrate respect at this holy site.
You will also have the option to experience a vegetarian meal at Po Lin Monastery. The ticket booth is near the base of the Giant Buddha. You can also ask your hotel to make reservations for the vegeterian meal.
On the way back, don't forget to pass by the smaller temples and the GIGANTIC incense sticks.
Once we were done, we found a convenient bus stop just before the site's exit, which took us to Tai O Fishing Village. More on that next time!!