Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery, Hong Kong

I have had the pleasure of visiting Hong Kong a few times already. The first time I stayed for a week, and it was my first trip to Asia. I instantly loved it. A bustling place, with great food, shopping, markets, a place where English-looking double decker trams meet Chinese boats and the Tian Tan Buddha, and the neat skyscrapers of orderly Hong Kong IslandΒ provide a contrast to buzzing and confusing Kowloon. A place where the metro (MTR) is so clean, safe and efficient it’s a pure joy using public transport.

Getting to Tian Tan Buddha

The last time I travelled to New Zealand, I was fortunate enough to fly via Hong Kong. I had a day and night to spend in one of my favourite cities, and decided to stay at Novotel Citigate close to Chek Lap Kok airport, near Tung Chung MTR station. Perfect place to stay if you ask me, half an hour by MTR to the centre of Hong Kong, and a 5 min drive to the airport. So, what to do in this one day? Easy decision: since I was based in Tung Chung, it would have been foolish not to take advantage of the new cable car to Ngong Ping on Lantau Island and see the Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery!

Ngong Ping cable car, Hong Kong

Ngong Ping cable car, Hong Kong

Taking a ride on the Ngong Ping Cable Car

The cable car terminal is a short walk from the MTR station and really easy to find. Everything is sign-posted really well. The cable car connects Tung Chung with Ngong Ping, where the Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery are located. You can either choose a ride in a normal cabin, or the “crystal” cabin, which has a glass floor. The length of the cable car is just short of 6 km and offers amazing views of Lantau Island’s hills, the bay, the airport and Tung Chung.

View over Hong Kong from Ngong Ping cable car

View over Hong Kong from Ngong Ping cable car

As the cable car approaches Ngong Ping, you are treated to your first views of the Tian Tan Buddha:

The Tian Tan Buddha, viewed from the Ngong Ping cable car

The Tian Tan Buddha, viewed from the Ngong Ping cable car

Before the opening of the cable car in November 2006, the only way to get to Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery was via a 1 hour bus ride on the winding mountain roads, plus ferry and MTR. At 125 HKD per person for a roundtrip (188 if you choose the crystal cabin), it might be a bit more expensive than the bus ride. But it’s only 25 minutes and with these views, I guess it’s quite a fair price.

Map of Ngong Ping

Map of Ngong Ping

Arriving in Ngong Ping Village

On arrival in Ngong Ping station, the visitor enters the newly built Ngong Ping village, 15,000 square metres of purpose-built tourist attraction. It’s built in traditional Chinese designs, but featuring a Starbucks, shopping and a cable car mini museum that showcases cable car replicas from countries such as Switzerland, Italy, or Brazil, the whole “experience” feels quite bizarre. Admittedly, I found the Starbucks a welcome refuge on this particularly cold and rainy day, but expecting more of a spiritual setting given my ultimate destination of the Tian Tan Buddha and the monastery, it felt very much out of place and somewhat messed with my ideal “experience” of what I had imagined.

Tian Tan Buddha, Lantau Island, Hong Kong

Tian Tan Buddha, Lantau Island, Hong Kong

However, my dismay was short-lived as I later found one could dine, very simply, with the monks at the monastery (vegetarian only).

Tian Tan Buddha, Hong Kong

Tian Tan Buddha, Hong Kong

Climbing the stairs to Tian Tan Buddha

After a short walk from the fake village to the buddha, I reached the 268 stairs leading up to the 34m tall buddha statue. It sits on a lotus throne and is surrounded by six other bronze statues, the “Offering of the Six Devas“. It is quite a unique atmosphere on a foggy day, when the buddha slowly emerges from the fog as you climb the stairs.

Po Lin Monastery, Lantau Island, Hong Kong

Po Lin Monastery, Lantau Island, Hong Kong

Don’t leave without visiting Po Lin Monastery!

Next to the Tian Tan Buddha is Po Lin Monastery. Although the buddha only dates back to 1993, the monastery has been around for a little longer. It was founded by a few visiting monks from Jiangsu province in 1906.

Po Lin Monastery, Lantau Island, Hong Kong

Po Lin Monastery, Lantau Island, Hong Kong

The Main Shrine Hall shows the Buddhas of Three Worlds, Buddha Sakyamuni, Buddha Bhaisajyaguru, the Master of Healing, and Buddha Amitabha, of Unlimited Light and Life Spans. As mentioned earlier, visitors can also taste the vegetarian cuisine of the monks in the Memorial Hall.

Po Lin Monastery, Lantau Island, Hong Kong

Po Lin Monastery, Lantau Island, Hong Kong

Outside the monastery, worshippers light incense and bow to the four directions, and offering prayers.

I really enjoyed my day at the Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery. The whole experience was both educating and stimulating, including cultural learnings, views of beautiful landscapes both natural and man-made, and even a great experience for the taste buds in the monastery’s dining hall. So next time you are faced with a day stopover in Hong Kong, you know where to head!

What’s your favourite Hong Kong stopover activity?

Christina Hegele

About the author: Christina Hegele runs Sandal Road, a blog on her favourite destinations. It just so happened that 95% turned out to be about New Zealand. Follow Christina and her blog on Twitter, like her blog on Facebook, and subscribe to her Youtube channel. Alternatively, subscribe to her email newsletter at the top right of this blog.

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  17 comments for “Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery, Hong Kong

  1. 27 December, 2011 at 07:10

    I’ve not spent much time on Lantau Island, but my guess is that my sister in Hong Kong will “insist” on my being able to cover all the spots. πŸ™‚ Thank you for the virtual tour, Christine!

  2. Christina
    27 December, 2011 at 09:35

    You’re welcome, Henry! Great that your sister lives in Hong Kong, I think it’s an awesome place. I’d quite happily have all my stopovers on the way to OZ/NZ in HKG. And definitely follow your sister’s advice πŸ™‚ I’m sure there are plenty more spots to see, especially from a local’s perspective. And then I’ll get to read about it too, right πŸ˜‰

  3. 28 December, 2011 at 09:54

    i wish i went here when my son and i went to Hong Kong. maybe next year, i can plan on another trip to HK πŸ™‚

    • Christina
      3 January, 2012 at 21:46

      Hope you get round to seeing the Buddha next time! It’s well worth it!

  4. 29 December, 2011 at 07:48

    Kali and I were just talking about traveling to Hong Kong! When we head there, we’ll definitely check out this monastery – it looks great.

    • Christina
      3 January, 2012 at 21:47

      You should! Look forward to reading your take on it!

  5. 3 January, 2012 at 07:10

    wow! that buddha statue is AMAZING!! would love to see that!

    • Christina
      3 January, 2012 at 21:48

      Hey Jen, I promise it’s even more amazing in real life, especially on a misty day with a view from the gondola!

  6. 3 January, 2012 at 09:16

    I love that shot of Tian Tan Buddha in the miserable weather – very powerful atmosphere. If you’re a Franconian then English is not your first language, but yours is exceptionally refined and nuanced for a non-native speaker. I hope it isn’t presumptuous of me to say so.

    • Christina
      15 January, 2012 at 21:27

      Hey Robin, thanks for your comment. I loved visiting in that weather, although I bought gloves at one of those souvenir stands, that’s how cold it was!
      No, English is not my native language. Thank you very much for the compliment, it means a lot coming from a writer like yourself!

  7. Dallas
    4 January, 2012 at 13:47

    The Buddha rising up against the grey clouds is a striking image. Which cable car did you take? The crystal one sounds fun, but I think my vertigo would have kicked in!

    • Christina
      15 January, 2012 at 21:29

      Hi Dallas, I took the normal cable car. I’m not a fan of heights (despite my healthy appetite for bungy jumping), so I thought it would be wiser not to spend 30 minutes in a cable car with transparent floor… πŸ™‚ The normal cabin was great, I’m fine seeing left right front and back, no need to see the ground…!

  8. 5 January, 2012 at 02:29

    How beautiful! I just spent New Year’s in Hong Kong and that was a blast. Unfortunatly we didn’t have time to stick around for the cable car and Lantau island. It’s been on my wish list for a while now. Your pics make me wanna go even more!

    • Christina
      15 January, 2012 at 21:30

      Great you spent NY in HKG! Just put Lantau Island on the list for next time. It is very special and definitely worth a trip.

  9. 5 January, 2012 at 06:03

    So cool! When I was in HK about ten years ago I missed out on Lantau Island. I’ll definitely go there when I return someday, if only to ride on the cable car πŸ™‚

    • Christina
      15 January, 2012 at 21:31

      Great you liked the photo tour, Michael!

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