Hong Kong is just less than two hours flight from Manila and is often visited by Filipinos for a quick getaway and in my case, some retail therapy. For the last four years, I think I managed to go to Hong Kong at least once a year (sometime in 2007/2008, I think I went there twice in less than 6 months!) and 2010 was no exception. I went to Hong Kong last December 26 and stayed there for four nights with my in-laws.
As much as I wanted to turn into shopping mode again, I opted not to because I already had my shopping binge fixed just before Christmas. Instead, I made an itinerary that’s packed with new sights to see and less shopping time. You should give me a big pat on the back because I didn’t lose my self-control in getting the Mulberry bag I covet the most when I met it face to face in Times Square! *beams with pride*
Before the trip, I made a list of places to visit both in Hong Kong and in Macau so that I can discover what I didn’t discover during my last visit. It’s always a wise decision to make an itinerary even if you’re going to a familiar place because that will save you time thinking what to do next.
The first attraction I visited for this trip was the Tian Tan Buddha in Lantau Island, the biggest island in Hong Kong.
There are three ways to get there. First, you can take a cab but that will be expensive. Second, you can take a 50-minute bus ride from the Citygate Outlets terminal. Or, you can take the MTR then the Cable Car. In the latter case, you might want to get an Octopus Card for HK$150. It has a HK$100-value consumable load and when you return it, they will give you back whatever remains from that value including the HK$50 that served as a deposit. I got my Octopus Card at the airport.
Since I was billeted at Park Hotel in Cameron Road, my route was from the Tsim Sha Tsui station all the way to Tung Chung station. When you arrive at the Tung Chung station, you most probably will be distracted by the branded outlet shops of Citygate Outlets *guilty* Don’t get distracted because it’s open until 10pm and you can do your shopping after your Tian Tan Buddha trip.
Just follow the signs going to the Cable Car terminal where you can purchase your ticket. The ticket counters open at 10am on weekdays and lines usually form at about 9:30am so if you want shorter queues, go there early. I went in line around 2:30pm and it was almost 3:45pm when I boarded the cable car. The cable cars operate until 6:30pm.
There are two types of cabins to choose from: Standard Cabin and Crystal Cabin (with glass floor). I got the roundtrip Standard Cabin ticket for HK$115 becase I reckoned I wouldn’t be gazing at the floor anyways. It turned out that it was a good idea because the Standard Cabin has shorter queues than the Crystal Cabin.
The destination is Ngong Ping and it’s a 25-minute cable ride from Tung Chung station. During your ride, you will be moving across Tung Chung Bay and you can see Hong Kong International Airport from a distance. You might notice down below the 70-km Lantau Trail that weaves its way into the forest. I wouldn’t be caught dead hiking that path over the highest summits in Lantau! If you are afraid of heights, do not worry because the 360-degree panoramic view will keep you entertained and amazed during your cable car ride.
Soon enough, the gigantic Tian Tan Buddha will loom into sight in all its mighty splendor. The world’s largest outdoor bronze Buddha, 34 meters in height, is majestically seated on top of a plateau overlooking Ngong Ping Village.
When you reach your destination, you’ll be entering what is known as the Ngong Ping Village. It has an area of 1.5 hectares and is a Chinese-themed village. Do not expect to see the buddha right away because it’s still a long walk from here. When you enter Ngong Ping Village, you’ll notice lots of shops and attractions around. You can have your snacks here because they have deli shops around the Village Centre. You can also find Starbucks Coffee along Bodhi Path. Retail shops and souvenir shops are in the Country Market. I suggest you grab a copy of the map in English so that you can find your way around.
We’re lucky because we were just in time for some festivities going on at the Ngong Ping Village Center. They had a snow show
As you walk forward, you will find the New Pai Lau which serves as the entrance archway to the Po Lin Monastery. It is built along the Northern architectural style of the Qing Dynasty consistent with that of the Monastery.
You will then be walking down along the Bodhi Path which is the central walkway leading to the Monastery and the giant Buddha. Lined on both sides of the path are statues of the Twelve Divine Generals as well as 40 lotus-shaped lanterns. The Twelve Divine Generals are regarded as protectors in Buddhism, and each is responsible for guarding a two-hour section of the day. In addition, they represent the twelve Chinese zodiac signs, as denoted by the different zodiac signs on their crowns.
At the end of the Bodhi Path is an open space facing the Po Lin Monastery and the giant Buddha where religious ceremonies are held. There, you’ll see colorful prayer flags waving through the wind.
Overlooking the Monastery is the giant Buddha seated atop a super long flight of stairs, 268 to be exact. It would be a breeze to go through them if you’re physically fit but if you’re a couch potato like I am, it’s gonna be a bit of a challenge Surprisingly though, I didn’t suffer at all because there were resting stops every 16 steps and the weather was really cold. I didn’t sweat at all!
The view at the top is simply breathtaking. I’ve seen great photos of the Tian Tan Buddha but I can say that, now that I’ve seen it myself, there’s no photograph that will ever give justice to this magnificent attraction. You simply just have to see it for yourself and awe at its HUGEness!
The statue is named Tian Tan Buddha because its base is a model of the Altar of Heaven or Earthly Mount of Tian Tan, the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. It sits on a lotus throne on top of a three-platform altar. It is 34 meters in height and weighs 250 metric tons. It’s considered the world’s tallest outdoor bronze Buddha.
The Tian Tan Buddha appears serene and dignified. His right hand is raised, representing the removal of affliction.The Buddha’s left hand rests on his lap in a gesture of giving dhana. The Buddha faces north, which is unique among the great Buddha statues, as all others face south. On its chest is the Swastika, an equilateral cross with its arms bent at right angles. This symbol was used by the Nazis in 1920.
The Tian Tan Buddha is surrounded by six smaller bronze statues known as The Offering of the Six Devas which are posed offering flowers, incense, lamp, ointment, fruit and music to the Buddha. These offerings symbolize charity, morality, patience, zeal, meditation, and wisdom, all of which are believed to be necessary to enter into nirvana.
We didn’t get the chance to go to the Wisdom Path which is just a short walk from Po Lin Monastery. It’s an outdoor replica of the centuries old Heart Sutra, one of the world’s best-known prayers that is revered by Confucians, Buddhists and Taoists alike.
Overall, I agree that this is a must-see in Hong Kong and that it’s worth dropping some shopping time just to see the Tian Tan Buddha. Anyways, I need not worry about shopping because Citygate Outlets was just waiting for me upon my return to the Tung Chung Station
How to go there:
- Taxi (can be expensive depending on where you’re coming from)
- Bus (50-minute ride; buses depart at the terminal outside Citygates Outlet at the Tung Chung Station)
- MTR then Cable Car
Depends on where you’re starting from but your destination is the Tung Chung Station
Follow the exit sign to the Cable Car terminal
Roundtrip Standard Cabin ride Tung Chung – Ngong Pin – Tung Chung costs HK$115 per adult
Ngong Pin 360 Cable Car operates from 10:00am-6:30pm (weekends; or 6:00pm weekdays).