Hong Kong, such a busy place and after 2 days of none-stop exploring we decided to get out of the city and head over to Lantau Island. Lantau Island is home to the airport, so it’s likely if you have visited Hong Kong you have actually been to Lantau Island possibly without even realising it. Apart from the airport there are loads of things to see and do on the Island, including Disneyland which unfortunately we just simply didn’t have time to visit. As we visited Disneyland Paris nearly three years ago and I have visited Disneyworld in Florida a couple of times, we decided to forgo seeing Mickey and his mates in favour of The Tian Tan Buddha (The Big Buddha).
There are loads of ways to get there – car, taxi, bus, train etc but we opted for cable car which in my opinion is the ONLY way to get there. We walked from our hotel to the Hong Kong train station and jumped on a train to the Tung Sung train station which took 25 minutes and cost a couple of pounds. We then walked from the train station to the cable car terminal where we were greeted with a queue which looked like it was 10 miles long – great! Needless to say we had to visit Lantau that day as we were flying back to London the next. So we patiently waited in the queue for the first hour at least, then frustration kicked in. This was so unlike me, I always book tickets for everything in advance. Why hadn’t I for the cable car?!?! Why? Why? Why? If I had we could have used the express lane and saved ourselves 2 and ½ hours! Once we reached the booths to pay we were offered standard cable car or a diamond cable car with glass bottom. I of course chose the diamond cable car (approx £23 each), forgetting the fact that Mr ESLT is not the best when it comes to heights.
We shared our cable car with 6 other people (you can pay extra for a private ride). Luckily on the day we visited it was a sunny, calm day. I imagine they rock like mad on a windy day. From the cable cars you get a great view of the airport and it’s runway together with views over the lunch greenery below. A point to note is that from the bottom to the top takes around 25 minutes, the longest cable car ride I have ever taken and after 10 minutes even I was wishing we were there already. I’ll be honest I was struggling with the height. Don’t get we wrong the views around and below are fantastic and getting the diamond cable car was totally worth it but I was more than ready to have my feet back on solid ground by the time we reached Ngong Ping.
I’ll be honest I wasn’t overly impressed with Ngong Ping village, I expected something a lot more traditional especially with regards to food and crafts. Instead we were greeted by expensive substandard cafes and restaurants and a lot of gift shops selling the usual tat. Needless to say we didn’t spend too long in the village and after a quick pit stop for noodles we headed to the main attraction – The Big Buddha. Now it’s been said that hindsight is a great thing (and this experience has made me a true believer that it is), here’s my top tip – do not attempt to climb the 268 steps mid afternoon in 30 degree heat after eating the biggest bowl of chow known to man – it’s HARD work!
But when we got to the top, albeit sweating, puffing and fighting the urge to vomit, it was so worth it! The statue is 34 metres (112 ft) tall, weighs over 250 metric tons, was constructed from 202 bronze pieces and erected in 1993. It’s certainly is a sight to see, especially up close. The Buddha is surrounded by “The Offering of the Six Devas” which are 6 Buddhistic statues praising and making offerings including flowers, incense, lamp, ointment, fruit, and music to the Buddha. These represent generosity, morality, patience, zeal, meditation, and wisdom, all of which are necessary for enlightenment. You can also head into the Buddha as there are 3 floors below which you can explore – The Hall of Universe, The Hall of Benevolent Merit and the Hall of Remembrance. In order to gain access to this area I believe you must purchase a meal ticket at the nearby Po Lin Monastery. Unfortunately, as we had already eaten we did not buy the ticket or go inside. I wish I had done more research before our visit as looking back now (blumming hindsight again) I wish we had.
Wandering done and up close pictures taken we started the decent back down which I guarantee is 100% easier than going up. Once at the bottom we treated ourselves to an ice cream bought from the handily positioned shop. Just to make you aware that cattle and water buffalo roam free on Lantau Island and guess what, they love ice-cream too! We were happily minding our own business when a cow charged Mr ESLT for his sweet treat 🙂 There are of course loads of other great things to do and see on Lantau near the Big Buddha but we simply didn’t have time, due to spending two hours queuing for the cable car, to explore everything. That being said we did see what we came to see which was the Big Buddha and having seen other ‘Big Buddhas’ in other parts of the world, I thing this is the best one I have had the pleasure of seeing.
Interesting Fact – Buddha usually faces South. Not this one, Big Buddha on Lantau faces North!