Hong Kong's Big Buddha and More: Ngong Ping Plateau
Escape the densely-packed urban sprawl of Hong Kong Island and head to Lantao, the largest of Hong Kong's many outlying islands. Here you will find beautiful nature, stunning temples, amazing Buddhist monuments, and a slower pace of life. Enjoy a side of Hong Kong which isn't as easily seen as its face of the bustling "World City".
Tian Tan Buddha 天壇大佛
High up in the mountainous islands of Hong Kong sits the Tian Tan Buddha, the largest outdoor seated Buddha in the world, looking serenely north out to sea. The statue is so large that on a clear day it can be seen in neighboring Macau.
Tian Tan Buddha via Pixabay
You can take a bus to the top of the mountain, but what's the fun in that? The best way to reach the top of Ngong Ping Plateau is by the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car! If you really want to do something special, $240 HKD ($30 USD) will get you a ride to the top in the glass-bottom Crystal Cable Car!
If you want to get some exercise, or want to save some money, there is also a path winding up the mountain that you can hike from far below to the very top where the Buddha sits! Or, you know, you can just take the bus (Route 23). From experience, though, we can say that splurging for a ticket to ride the Crystal Car is really worth it for the most amazing views.
view from the cable cars via Pixabay
The Tian Tan Buddha takes its name from the Temple of Heaven, the Imperial temple in Beijing, Chian. Constructed in 1993, the statue is 112 feet (34 meters) tall and cast from bronze.
This statue is significant in Mahayana Buddhism, and is one of the "Five Great Buddhas of China". Visitors climb the 268 steps leading from the base to where the statue sits in a pose known as the "Protection Buddha" which symbolizes overcoming fear.
Purchasing a donation to the Buddha (a ticket) grants admission to the levels inside the statue which depict Buddhist interpretations of heaven and earth. The ticket can be redeemed for a cup of hot Chinese tea and a delicious vegetarian meal at the Po Lin Monastery.
Po Lin Monastery 寶蓮禪寺
Po Lin, meaning "Precious Lotus" is a Mahayana Buddhist monastery sitting high up on Ngong Ping Plateau near the Tian Tan Buddha. While the main attraction may be the impressive statue, the monastery itself is quite beautiful and worthy of a visit.
The main feature of the temple are three venerated statues each representing the past, present, and future lives of the Buddha respectively.
Don't forget to take your ticket to the Big Buddha to the kitchens at the monastery! You can redeem it for a healthy and delicious vegetarian noodle lunch!
Wisdom Path - The Heart Sutra Trail
Just past the monastery is the Wisdom Path, also known as the Heart Sutra Trail. This short path follows a number of wooden posts carved with scripture from the Heart Sutra, an important Mahayana text. The path is set in a figure-eight representing infinity, and curves through a garden of tea trees.
If you are feeling spiritual, take time to meditate as you walk along the path. Otherwise, enjoy the clean air and calming nature of this quiet part of Hong Kong far away from the big city.
Ngong Ping Village 昂坪
There's plenty to do back in Ngong Ping Village itself. Besides the ubiquitous Starbucks and Subway, there are plenty of Chinese noodle shops and restaurants (which you really should choose, I mean, come on, you are in Hong Kong! Don't go to Subway!) to choose from.
In Ngong Ping Village, there is a special attraction called "Walking With Buddha", a unique multi-media show about the life of Siddhārtha Gautama, the Buddha. Outside, you can visit a sacred Bodhi tree, the "Tree of Awakening". It is said that the Buddha attained enlightmentment underneath a Budhi Tree, and all such trees are revered throughout the Buddhist world.
You can also visit the Linong Tea House! They offer a free tea ceremony three times a day, where you can sample different types of tea and learn about Chinese tea culture from the local tea master.
They serve several different types of tea, including the elegant and beautiful flowering tea, which opens up into colorful flowers while it is brewing.
Hong Kong is much more than a densely packed business center. There is a quiet side to the Special Administrative Region. Behind the busy city life there is something peaceful, spiritual, and serene. When visiting Hong Kong, spend a day at the Ngong Ping Plateau. You won't regret it. Unless maybe you decide to hike the long trail up the mountain!