One of Hong Kong’s major attractions is the Giant Tian Tan Buddha statue (also known as the Big Buddha) located on Lantau Island, the largest and most popular island under Hong Kong jurisdiction.
The statue is said to be the largest seated outdoor bronze Buddha in the world at about 112 feet tall, weighing in at 250 tons. The construction took 12 years.
Visitors can travel to Lantau Island by going to the last stop on the Tung Chung MTR subway line, the same general transit route for Hong Kong Disneyland. From there, under ordinary circumstances, a breathtaking three-mile cable car ride takes you to Ngong Ping Village, also the site of the Po Lin (“precious lotus”) Monastery.
“The Ngong Ping 360 as the cable car is also known, is of course, an attraction in itself, providing some of the most beautiful views of Lantau Island and beyond as far as the South China Sea,” the Hong Kong Traveler explained. The cable car is offline until June 2017 for renovations, however.
For now, after exiting the MTR station, take bus No. 23 (which may be a little hard to find at first, but you will likely hit pay dirt once you see a long queue of people waiting to board) to the village. Hong Kong has an excellent public transportation system that enables residents and visitors to get around relatively easily using an “Octopus card,” which is like a handheld E-Z Pass.
It’s best to visit this attraction on a weekday, otherwise expect a long wait at the cable car terminal once it is back up and running. Also, check the weather before you begin the trip. Rain could also mean lots of thick fog at the Big Buddha elevation
After passing through the village, visitors can walk up the physically-challenging, 260-plus steps to reach the platform where the Buddha is seated. Admission is free.
The Buddha approach is guarded by 12 divine generals, one of which is shown below, representing the Chinese zodiac and specific hours of the day.
Discover Hong Kong provides this description of the Giant Buddha and surroundings.
“The remote Po Lin Monastery, hidden away by lush mountains, became a popular attraction when the extraordinary Tian Tan Buddha statue was erected in 1993. Facing north to look over the Chinese people, this majestic bronze Buddha draws pilgrims from all over Asia. The eyes, lips, incline of the head and right hand, which is raised to deliver a blessing to all, combine to bring a humbling depth of character and dignity to the massive Buddha. Opposite the statue, the Po Lin Monastery is one of Hong Kong’s most important Buddhist sanctums and has been dubbed ‘the Buddhist World in the South’. Home to many a devout monk, this monastery is rich with colorful manifestations of Buddhist iconography and its pleasant garden is alive with birdsong and flowery scents.”
The mountainous Lantau Island, which is twice the size of Hong Kong Island, is also home to Hong Kong’s international airport and to three- or four-family homes or condos along with huge apartment towers, many newly built, the latter in which most citizens reside throughout the city/state.
This street sign in Ngong Ping Village. indicates that New York City’s Statue of Liberty is a mere 8,000 miles away. A flight from the New York area to Hong Kong takes about 16 hours.
Visitors to the Giant Buddha location are encouraged to make a wish at the Bodhi Wishing Shrine under the Bodhi Tree in Ngong Ping Village. Also known as the “Tree of Awakening,” it is said that this is the tree under which Siddhartha Gautama meditated, eventually attaining enlightenment, and becoming Buddha.
Parenthetically, this apparently hungry local resident showed up at the snack bar in the village to say hello.
“The tranquil atmosphere paired with the amazing and beautiful views of Lantau Island will transform you in a calm and relaxed setting and should definitely not be missed,” NextStopHongKong recommended about the Giant Buddha sightseeing visit to Lantau Island in Hong Kong.
[Featured Image by Kin Cheung/AP Images]