Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Lantau is Hong Kong's biggest island and offers much more than its Big Buddha.
It has a very attractive mountain scenery (the highest mountain is Lantau Peak at 934m) and an impressive rocky coastline with some very nice beaches and it is also ideal for hiking tours.
There is the tiny village of Tai O in the West (for details check out the below tip) and Mui Wo in the East.
How to get there?
a) Take a ferry from Central (HK Island). The trip takes about an hour (ordinary ferry) or some 35 minutes by fast ferry.
Ferries usually arrive at Sivermine Bay (Mui Wo) on Lantau's East shore. From there, you can already see various buses waiting to bring people to further destinations all around the island.
Take the bus heading for Ngong Ping, i.e. the Po Lin Monastery (you can pay by Octopus card). The ride takes about 45 minutes and is, frankly speaking, not very comfortable... but on the good side, you can see a lot of Lantau Island during the ride.
b) Take the MTR (subway) from wherever you're staying to Tung Chung on Lantau Island.
From Tung Chung, you can take the new cable car (Ngong Ping 360 - see next tip for details) and enjoy a stunning 25-minute-ride (!) with awesome views across Lantau and the airport.
Po Lin Monastery is located at 450 meters altitude. It was opened in 1970 and the main attraction is the 34m high giant Buddha statue, unveiled in 1993. It weighs 220 tons and is said to be the biggest Buddha statue in the world (quite believable). You have to climb a lot of stairs to reach the platform but it is worth the effort because you enjoy a wonderful view across Lantau and its surroundings.
If you prefer a little lunch, the monks of Po Lin successfully operate a vegetarian restaurant that serves excellent food at very moderate prices.
Thanks to the new cable car, the trip can be done within half-a-day. However, it might be more relaxing to plan for the whole day and make a side-trip to Tai O (see below tip for details).
We were excited to get out of Hong Kong proper and pay a visit to Lantau Island and the Giant Buhdda, but after what seemed like a long journey from Hong Kong, we were a bit disappointed to find out that the Buddha has no historical significance what so ever.
The Giant Buddha, a majestic figure of the seated Buddha (or Tian Tan) is 34 metres high, was cast in China and took 10 years to complete. Weighing 220 tonnes, it was unveiled in 1993 amid deep religious ceremonies".
You can climb the steps to the top of the Buddha where you will be rewarded with a majestic view of the mountains. Inside Buddha is a smallish musuem, but the best part is definitely the outside. We arrived on a pretty cold windy day and as we were circuling the Lotus where Buddha is seated, we were amazed to see the fog rolling in.
Included in the price of the museum is a "cafeteria like" meal. We were treated to a selection of vegetarian goodies which came as a nice surprise.
Opened in mid-September 2006, the new cable car Ngong Ping 360 is definitely a MUST-Do activity for all travelers to Hong Kong.
The ride starts at Tung Chung, a new town with around 250,000 inhabitants. It lies on Lantau Island's northern shore and is the end of the Tung Chung-MTR-Line (dark yellow). The ride from Hong Kong Station to Tung Chung takes about 30 minutes.
The cable car terminus is a mere 2 minutes walk from Exit B of Tung Chung station.
The 5.7 km-ride up to Ngong Ping takes about 20 to 25 minutes (!) and offers stunning views across Western Lantau and Check Lap Kok airport.
Ngong Ping Village
Visitors will arrive in the newly constructed Ngong Ping village, which houses several restaurants, souvenir shops but also two new tourist attractions:
a) Walking with Buddha (multimedia attraction allowing guests to follow the life of Siddhartha Gautama, the man who became Buddha)
b) Monkey's Tale Theatre (a computer generated animation, combined with special effects and surround sound, that's supposed to provide an amusing story for young and old)
There are several packages existing, including one or two of the attractions within Ngong Ping Village. I will simply show the rates for the cable car only. For more details on the packages, please check out the below website.
One-way trip: 58.- HKD (Peak season: 68.- HKD)
Return journey: 88.-HKD (Peak season: 98.-HKD)
Please check the below website for the exact dates of the peak season.
For more impressions on this new must-see attraction, please check out my new Travelogue - Ngong Ping 360.
I recommend to visit Ngong Ping 360 on a weekday as weekends tend to be rather crowded and you might need to queue for up to an hour!!!
!! Re-opened !!
Ngong Ping 360 was re-opened on December 31, 2007 after its six-months suspension of service. Enjoy!!!
Tai O is located on Lantau's western shore and used to be called the "The Venice of Hong Kong', mainly due to its stilt houses.
Once being a tiny fishing village, it developed into a tiny fishing-tourist destination with street vendors lining up along your path. However, compared to other places, Tai O is not a main tourist spot and its clean air and scenery are still worth a visit off the beaten path.
How to get there?
Same as for the Big Buddha, take the ferry from Central to Sivermine Bay (Mui Wo) on Lantau's East and get onto the connecting bus towards 'Tai O'. The trip from Mui Wo takes about 45 minutes.
Tai O is often referred to as the Venice of the Orient. It is a fishing village by the mountain where ppl live on houses built on stilts over the river. Although many ppl have moved onto land, there are still many of these stilt houses by the river.
Dried seafood, especially salted fish, is the local specialty, since many ppl catch fish or shrimp for a living. It's not difficult to see ppl drying fish or baby shrimp on a bamboo rack outside their home. You can also take a boat tour around Tai O.
There is a lookout about a 15 min walk from the main street of the village, where you can have a good view of the south end of the airport on a clear day.
To get to Tai O, take bus 11 from the bus terminal in Tung Chung in Lantau Island or bus 21 from Po Lin Monastery
A great daytrip out of Hong Kong is to visit Lantau Island. One of the popular things to see on the Island is the worlds biggest outdoor seated buddha, and also very close to that is the Po Lin Monastery, which is just absolutely spectacular.
Go inside the main building and see the amazing details, and the beautiful buddhas.
Even the outside of the building is fantastic and very detailed.
Take a ferry from Central's Outlying Ferry Terminal during weekdays and bus no. 2 to hit the station just below the Buddha statue.
Transporation cost around 35-40 HKD from Central (One -Way)
The steps up to the Buddha are made in segments of 16 steps per segment.
Try to get the ticket to the Buddha with a vegeterian meal for anytime before 5pm at around 50 HKD. The meal is sumptous, but make sure you try out the other store for dessert after your meal.
I had taken a walk from the Hill to the MTR station located at Tung Chung. It's a long 3 hour walk which is concrete paved with few pple on the route. You will be able to see the Airport, an ancient Lo Han Temple and a Canon Fort along the way together with the remote serenity of the Lantau nature. It could be missed if quality time if required for a short trip around Hong Kong.
Tung Chung central is well developed and maintained as a Town and the trip from the MTR station to Kowloon/Central takes around 20 mins.
The giant bronze Buddha at the Po Lin Monastery is a sight to be seen! The monastery has a hostel that you can call and make reservations for. It's a nice place to hang out at for a few days. Here is an excerpt from my travel journal about my experiences there:
On the road to Po Lin, I got off the bus at the foot of the mountain leading up to the monastery and walked. It was a lovely walk up the mountain! Absolutely breathtaking. Words won't do the experience justice, you'll have to see the pictures. As I walked up, I had an overwhelming sense of peace and happiness come over me, as well as wonder at the beauty of the surrounding hills and valleys. At one point I stopped to watch the sunset, which was happening behind a hill from my vantage point, and it was so cool... the sky was pink and orange and soft, with a brilliant crystal clear blue above, and a few fingers of gold were shooting up from behind the hill. It was amazing! Venus was low and bright in the sky above the hill. I spent a moment taking in the awesomeness of that view!
Finally, after about an hour's walk, I arrived at the monastery. Po Lin is home to a giant bronze Buddha, the largest anywhere in China. As I walked past it high on the hill, I could see its silhouette. I could hear bullfrogs awming loudly, and the wind kicked up and made the yellow and red flags on either side of the path come alive. I love arriving at a place at twilight! Everything strangely seems brighter when the details are left to the imagination.
I walked along the little path in the woods to my hostel and checked in, and made friends with a few travelers.
If you've more than a week in HK, after getting used to the bustling city life, you might want to take a more relaxing path by taking a cruise from HK Island to the outlying island of Lantau. This is also where the new airport is located.
LANTAU ISLAND is the largest island with 300,000 inhabitants & it's twice the size of HK Island! The attraction here (at least for me as a tourist) is the PO LIN MONASTERY which has a massive (height=35 m, diameter=52 m) Buddha figure. At 800 m, this monastery of the precious lotus (Po Lin in Chinese) offers great sea view of the outlying islands. A very interesting sight indeed! What a pleasant surprise! In addition, the monastery also offers tasty vegetarian food! (For more photos, please go to Lantau Travelogue.)
Incidentally, this is also the world's largest, seated, outdoor, bronze Buddha.
To reach this amazing sight, take a ferry from the Outlying Islands Ferry Pier No. 7 in Central to Mui Wo, Lantau Island. Then the No. 2 bus. Alternatively, take MTR to Tung Chung & No. 23 bus from Tung Chung Town Centre.
If you have time while in Hong Kong, the Bid Buddha statue on Lantau Island is well worth a visit. It's such a amazing statue that can be seen well before you reach it. The eyes, lips, incline of the head and even the right hand raised to deliver a blessing to all is so awe inspiring, whose very glance brings calm to those who look into those seemingly all-seeing eyes. The majestic figure of the seated Buddha (or Tian Tan) is 34 metres high, was cast in China and took 10 years to complete. Weighing 220 tonnes, it was unveiled in 1993 amid deep religious ceremonies. Besides attracting Buddhists from all over Asia, the magnificent figure with its compelling presence almost instantly transformed the remote Po Lin Monastery with its devout monks into a must on tourist schedules.
If you walk towards Lantau Peak, you will see it.
It is a compound right in-front-of Lantau Peak, with many sculptures. Big wooden pieces engraved with Buddhist Wisdom Orison (If you watch "Journey to the West" - HK Movie/Drama, you'll sure know it!)
The sunset view here is perfect. Winds are strong here too. Weather here is like Fraser's Hill, Malaysians!
It was a Wednesday, tourists are packed at Big Buddha & Po Lin Monastery but not here. Actually we thought of turning back half way. It was a long walk (about 15-20 minutes in a jungly path) from Po Lin Monastery to Wisdom Path. We have no idea whether the path that we are heading worthwile or not. Luckily we did not gave up. You will regret if you missed it!
This monastery is situated on Lantau Island. You can reach it by bus from Tung Chung or Mui Wo. Or you can reach it by cable car from Tung Chung. Since the opening of the cable car, it has got more and more busy here.
Next to the temple is the famous Big Buddah statue. This statue was erected in 1993. It is 34 metres high and faces north towards China. The right hand of the Buddah is raised to deliver a blessing to all who gaze on it. This massive Buddha, took 12 years to complete. Climb the 268 steps at the foot of the statue to see the great views from the top.
Vegetarian meals are available in the monastery. Many lovely hiking trails start from here. I have done the one from here to Tai o fishing village.
Lantau has wild water buffalo and cattle. They are considered by the authorities as a bit of a nusiance and they like to find reasons to cull them. Personally I rather like them except maybe when they hit the motorway and my bus gets stuck behind them.
The largest seated outdoor Buddha statue in Southeast Asia is located at the monastery. Constructed of 250 tons of gold-leafed bronze, its platform altar is modelled on the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. The Buddha can be seen for miles out to sea perched on top of the hill.
The Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island was opened in 1970. It is supposed to be the most magnificent Buddhist Temple in Hong Kong. The main hall has 2 floors with an elaborately decorated roof.
You can actually stay at the temple, accommodation is provided with a vegetarian meal.