First time I heard about the Lantau Island of Hong Kong was in a program called Extreme Engineering aired at Discovery Channel. This program was about the construction of Hong Kong New International Airport (Chek Lap Kok Airport) and gave a detailed account on how they joined two islands in the sea to construct a world-class modern airport. When I planned a trip to Hong Kong, I read about some must visit places of Hong Kong, those are located near or on Lantau Island like Disney Land, Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha), Po Lin Monastery and Tai O Village. Later, I spent a full day on Lantau Island and it was really a memorable experience to visit those places.
How to Reach Big Buddha Statue? Also known as Tian Tan Buddha, this is the most famous attraction of Lantau Island. I was stayed in Tsim Tsa Tsui, so I used a combination of Metro trains and buses to reach Big Buddha. From Tsim Tsa Tsui MTR station, I caught a metro train to Tung Chung. Tung Chung is the nearest MTR station to Big Buddha. It took nearly one hour to reach Tung Chung from Tsim Sha Tsui. I had to change metro two times at Mei Foo and Lai King in order to reach Tung Chung. But if you take metro from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central first, then from Central , you can directly get a metro to Tung Chung on Tung Chung Metro line. Just before Tung Chung, there is another interchange at Sunny Bay, from where you can catch special trains to Disney Land.
Located in North Lantau, the residents of Tung Chung were primarily fishermen and farmers. But after the opening of Chek Lap Kok Airport in 1998, it became a new generation residential and business center. It is also famous for Citygate Outlets,a large shopping mall, just outside the MTR Station, where you can get branded items on amazingly discounted prices.
From Tung Chung MTR Station, there are two ways to reach Big Buddha:
First way is to use the Ngong Ping Cable Car up to the Ngong Ping village, which is just at 5 minute walking distance from Big Buddha. Tung Chung Cable Car Terminal is near the MTR station only, about 3 to 5 minutes walking distance. Opened in 2006, the cable car is a 5.7 kms bi-cable ropeway. During the 25 minutes ride,visitors can enjoy the spectacular views of Tung Chung Bay, HK International Airport, South China Sea and its Beaches, The Giant Buaddha and Lantau North Country Park. This journey is expensive, but very exciting. A standard cabin ticket cost for round trip is HKD 135 for adults, HKD 68 for children (3-11 years) and HKD 98 for senior citizens (65+ years with HK identity card) (Dec2012). The crystal cabin, private cabin and sky lounge are also available and cost much more than the standard cabin. You can also book the cable car tickets online from their website. The cable car operations remain suspended during the maintenance, so always check the serviceability before booking any ticket online. They generally update their service schedule on the website. During weekdays, the timings of cable car operations is 10:00 AM to 06:00 PM, while on weekends and public holidays, it operates from 09:00 AM to 18:30 PM.
Second way to reach Big Buddha is by using NLB buses operated by New Lantau Bus (NLB) Company. The bus terminus is between Citygate and the cable car terminus and is easy to find, although there are no signboards. Bus No. 1R and 23 operate from Tung Chung to Ngong Ping Village with 15-45 minutes frequency. These buses take 50-60 mins to reach Ngong Ping Village and costs HKD 17.20 on weekdays and HKD 27 on Sundays and Public Holidays. You can also get a full day pass at the costs of HKD 35 (March 2012) . Holders of this pass is eligible to travel on all NLB routes on the day which this pass is validated for use (Except N, S, 1R, B2 & B2P routes). Route no. 23 passengers boarding in Tung Chung area must board before 15.30 PM. The below route map of NLB Buses gives you a fair idea of the bus numbers and routes on Lantau Island.
I was interested to travel by the cable car till Ngong Ping Village and then by a bus further to Tai O village. But when I reached Tung Chung, I found that cable car was unserviceable. With no choice, I bought a full day pass for NLB Buses and boarded Bus No. 23 to Ngong Ping. One hour bus journey from Tung Chung to Ngong Ping was very scenic due to the beautiful hilly island, lush-green forests, scenic beaches, fresh air and clean winding mountain roads. The bus dropped us just outside the main entrance of Big Buddha premises near Ngong Ping village. When we alighted from the bus, we were welcomed by chilled wind. It was very cold there.
At Tian Tan Buddha Premises:
Just after the main entrance, there was a series of giant statue of The Twelve Divine General, six at each side of the road. In some Buddhist denominations, they are considered as the protective deities and each represents 2 hours of a day. The whole area was very neat and clean despite of a large crowd of tourists.
Moving further, I reached to a circular platform decorated by many colorful flags. This circular platform is known as Di Tan (Altar of Earth). Altar of Earth is where the monastery holds it major functions and ceremonies. In front of this circular platform, there is a series of 268 steps leading to the statue of Big Buddha. There is no entrance fee to visit this statue. Entry to the Big Buddha remains open from 10:00 AM to 17:30 PM.
After climbing on these stairs, I reached to a giant bronze statue of Lord Buddha sitting on a lotus flower on the top of 3-platform altar. It depicts Sakyamuni who sits on a lotus pedestal in meditation position. 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.Construction of this statue was started in 1990 and finished in Dec.1993. The Buddha statue is 112 ft tall and considered as one of the world’s tallest outdoor bronze seated Buddha statue. Every feature of the Buddha statue has a symbolic meaning of religious significance.
There are three floors beneath the Buddha statue: The Hall of Universe, The Hall of Benevolent Merit, and The Hall of Remembrance. A number of invaluable items are displayed in this three-storey exhibition hall. There is an entrance fee of HKD 25 to visit these halls and photography is not allowed inside. This fee also entitled a visitor to get a free vegetarian snacks at Po Lin Monastery Vegetarian Restaurant. For an extra HKD 35, you can get a simple vegetarian lunch and again for extra HKD 40 (Total HKD 100), you can get a deluxe meal. It is believed that the third floor houses a relic of Gautama Buddha, consisting of some of his alleged cremated remains. There is a huge bell, controlled by a computer, that rings 108 times during the day to symbolize the escape of the 108 troubles of mankind.
Please note that the opening hours of vegetarian restaurant is from 11:30 AM to 16:30 PM. Deluxe meal services start from 11.30 AM onwards, while regular meal services start from 13:00 PM onwards.
There are 6 bronze statues on the two sides of the Budhha, 3 at each side. These statues are known as “The Offering of the Six Devas” and 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 necessary to enter into nirvana.
The entire area around the statue was full of tourists with people enjoying clicking pictures around the statue. The high statue also offers a grand view of surrounding areas. The monastery and the village looked beautiful despite of misty weather.
Walking Towards The Wisdom Path: Just adjacent to the circular platform, you can see a well-paved trek path leading to the wisdom path, 15 minutes walk from Big Buddha. There is a very large wooden inscription of the Heart Sutra set within a figure ∞ to symbolise infinity.These 38 wooden columns or obelisks which are reminiscent of bamboo tiles were used in ancient times to form the number ∞ .
While returning from the Wisdom Path, suddenly the weather became foggy and it was very difficult to sight the Big Buddha Statue. I thanked god to reach there on time that enabled me to clicked some clear pictures.
Later, I also visited Po Lin Monastery and Ngong Ping Village, on which I will write the next post. If you wish to get the regular updates from solo backpacker, subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail address in the space provided in the right side of the home page. You can also follow us on Facebook as well as on twitter.