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Po Lin Monastery and the Big Buddha

SL and I arrived at Tung Chung, and we started to hem haw – should we trek for 3-3.5 hours or queue up for for the cable car in order to get to the Ngong Ping plateau, where the Po Lin Monastery and the Big Buddha are located? It was already past noon, the sun high in the sky, and the queue for the cable car didn’t look too bad (it ended up being a 40-minutes wait). And I admit it, I was feeling lazy too. Cable car, it is!

Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha

Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha

The 6km-ride from Tung Chung to Ngong Ping plateau took about 20-25 minutes, over uninhabited peaks and rather magnificent view. We could also see the trekking trail just below us, and spotted the occasional walkers heading downhill towards Tung Chung. Clearly, they’d been up at the Lantau Peak much earlier in the day and were ready to wind things down.

We arrived to the Ngong Ping Village, which was actually much too sterile and too fake with its sole aim of being a tourist attraction. There were shops selling overpriced souvenirs, recommendations of kitschy activities and photoshoots etc, none of which we found interesting, except for the Honeymoon Dessert which we even have a discount coupon to. Unable to resist, we stopped for a dessert break and had some durian pancakes and tapioca pudding. ;)

Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha

Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha

Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha

Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha

Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha

Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha

A short walk away, we crossed under a white gateway to enter the compound of the Po Lin Monastery and here, the shadow of the Big Buddha loomed large. Completed in 1993, the Tian Tan “Big” Buddha is an extension of the monastery, and some 268 steps took us up close and dwarfed by this bronze statue. It is surrounded by six dewas with offerings that symbolise charity, morality, patience, zeal, meditation and wisdom.

We could visit around it from the platforms on the exterior, but for visits of its interior and to view relics of the Gautama Buddha, the access is restricted to those who paid an admission, or have purchased offering or a meal. There is also a mausoleum at the “ground” level, where the famous Cantopop singer Anita Mui was interred. (By the way, the view of the surrounding peaks from the platform of the Big Buddha is not too shabby at all!)

Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha

Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha

Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha

Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha

Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha

Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha

We headed next to the Po Lin Monastery, founded in 1906 and is today one of the largest Buddhist retreats. The prayer halls here are vibrant in colour, and decorated with dragons, fairies, lotus and other mythical figures. In its main hall sits three bronze Buddhas, representing the past, present and future selves, surrounded by lanterns and banners sewn with scripture texts.

More recently, a Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas had just been completed and consecrated, aimed to house ten thousand statues, a Scripture Library and a Dharma Hall. On the day of our visit, however, some kind of prayer day must be taking place, for there were hundreds of monks chanting at the courtyard in front of the main hall, before proceeding to the new Grand Hall, officially rendering the hall closed to public for at least a couple of hours.

Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha

Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha

Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha

Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha

Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha

Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha

The Po Lin Monastery and the Big Buddha could be a place of solemn prayer, and perhaps they are on certain special days where pilgrims and monks come together to pray and to chant the scripture. However, on any typical day when tourists are transported continuously under the Ngong Ping 360 tourism initiative, it would just feel like yet another curiosity to visit and that’s about it. Such a shame really, for it is a beautiful place filled with charm; the spectacles theatre, the souvenir gimmicks and so forth in the so-called Ngong Ping Village are ruining it.

All posts in this series:
Hong Kong: What can I do in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong: First impression: Hong Kong
Hong Kong: More dim sum, please
Hong Kong: Postcards: The (Victoria) Peak
Hong Kong: Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden
Hong Kong: Wong Tai Sin Temple
Hong Kong: Po Lin Monastery and the Big Buddha
Hong Kong: Tai O fishing village
Hong Kong: Postcards: Stanley
Hong Kong: Chinese desserts galore
Hong Kong: Occupy Central with Love and Peace
Hong Kong: Hong Kong by night
Hong Kong: So many markets
Hong Kong: How to gain a few kilos in a week
Hong Kong: Once upon a clear sky in Hong Kong



Category: Asia, Hong Kong, Travel

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4 scribbles & notes

  1. sila says:

    wow… amazing. i would have queued for the cable car too :)

    also, i totally forgot that anita mui died so young. RIP…

    • Lil says:

      Hehe… but if the queue is a couple of hours long, then I’d rather walk. Don’t forget, the cable car ain’t free either ;)

      Seems like yesterday when I used to listen to her songs. Such a shame to have lost such a talented performer so soon. RIP.

  2. med says:

    We took the cable car too hehehe…great view from it though ;)

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