On December 21, 2016, two of my daughters, Sara and Leah, and I, traveled to Hong Kong to visit Ngong Ping Village, the Tian Tan or Big Buddha, and the Po Lin Monastery. It was about a 35 minute ride to the nearest train station in Changping, which is in Dongguan, Guangdong, China. The train to Hong Kong is considered a semi-high speed train. It took us about an hour to reach the Hung Hom Station in Hong Kong, then we took the MTR to Tung Chung on Lantau Island. We were staying in an Airbnb room, so we checked in and dropped off our bags before heading up the mountain.
From Tung Chung, you can take a bus or cable car to Ngong Ping, and we chose the cable car. The regular cable car; there is a glass bottom kind also, but, I'm challenged enough to ride the regular kind! I signed up ahead of time for their email newsletter and got a 10% off coupon. ( https://www.np360.com.hk/en/ ) It was raining, but still an enjoyable view. It's about a 25 minute ride, giving you great views of Tung Chung, the HK airport, Lantau Country Parks, and the Tung Chung Bay. (Note: The cable cars will be closed for the first half of 2017 for a rope replacement project)
Once up the mountain, you have to walk through Ngong Ping Village to reach the Big Buddha. The village, opened in 2006 (along with the cable cars), is quite "touristy," but, if you need food, drink, or a souvenir I guess you'll appreciate it. There's even a Starbucks! There are also some other touristy things to do that you can read about on the website, but we headed straight for Big Buddha.
Above is the Ngong Ping Gate, once you pass through it, you still have a bit of a walk to the Big Buddha. Before reaching it, you reach an even larger gate, which is the entrance to the Big Buddha area.
As a little side note, this is my daughter, Leah, and the cat umbrella was purchased from the Hong Kong SPCA. We got it at a table set-up on the street, but it is available at http://www.spcahk.org/-umbrellas , there are ones with dogs also.
There are feral cattle that roam the village, looking for food, these ones in the following pictures seemed to know to hang out by the restaurants. I'm not so sure that the lady taking a selfie touching the cattle's horn was so smart though!
When we finally reached the Big Buddha, the fog was so thick that we couldn't even see the statue at the top of the stairs! But, we climbed the 268 steps (I didn't personally count them!), and a little before reaching the top, were able to make the statue out. It was opened in 1993 and is now one of Hong Kong's biggest tourist attractions.
I don't know much about Buddhism, I visit places like this from a cultural viewpoint, not a spiritual one, but here is some info I found online. The following picture shows three of the six Bodhisattvas, I will quote from a Hong Kong travel page which also has some pictures of Big Buddha on a clear day! http://www.hong-kong-traveller.com/hong-kong-big-buddha.html#.WHdcj_l95PZ "The Bodhisattvas are Buddhist deities which are venerated for helping mortals reach enlightenment. Each statue weighs about two tons and are made of stone."
Below, you can get a good idea of the size of the Big Buddha statue. It sits on a three level podium and is a 112 foot high bronze statue. Inside the podiums is a museum. On a clear day, you can look out and see the monastery. As we walked around the statue, the fog continued rolling in and out, at one point clearing enough for the picture at the beginning of this post.
It was still quite foggy as we started down the stairs, but, it cleared quickly, and when we reached the bottom, we were able to look up the steps and see the Big Buddha!
Across from the Big Buddha is the "Mountain Gate," the entrance to the Po Lin Monastery, originally founded in 1906. "Po Lin" means "Precious Lotus" in Cantonese.
There is a large courtyard area, then a series of incense burners, before reaching the first building, which houses the four guardian statues.
Once you pass the guardians, you reach another large courtyard, which leads to the Main Shrine Hall of Buddha. On either side of the stairway, sits a large stone lion. This hall was built in 1970 and you can see the inside here. http://www.hongkongextras.com/_ngong_ping.html
Behind the Main Hall is the newest, and largest building, the “Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas,” built in 2014. The buildings are quite elaborate with many interesting architectural features. There are huge stone carved pillars, curved eaves with zoomorphic animals, colorful dougong brackets, and much more! There is also a Vegetarian Restaurant, open to the public, in the Monastery.
Leaving the monastery area, we had a nice (but still foggy!) overall view of the piazza, the Big Buddha, the Mountain Gate, and the altar in the center.
Heading back to the cable car, between the Big Buddha gate and the Ngong Ping Village Gate, we again passed the Twelve Divine General statues lined up on either side of the Bodhi Path. It was really wet and foggy at this point, so hard to make them out, but, can you see the cow crossing the path?
Because of the poor weather, and the fact it was getting late, the village was quite empty as we passed through. I liked this shot of the Big Buddha in the distance behind Leah though.
We got the cable car about 10 minutes before closing, and ended up heading downhill as it was getting dark. It was interesting to see the airport and city lights in the distance.
This was my second trip to the Ngong Ping Plateau, the first was in extremely hot weather and we didn't stay long, this time was mostly in the rain and fog. My mother used to always tell me the third time's a charm, so maybe the third time I visit, sometime in the future, will be the "charm!"! There are also a Lotus Pond Temple, a Wisdom Path, and many trails to explore, so, I hope to return in good weather someday to see the rest! I "might" even try that Crystal Cabin Cable car!
If you are interested in reading more about the Ngong Ping Plateau, try here http://www.hongkongextras.com/_ngong_ping.html