Po Lin monastery and the “Big Buddha” Lantau Island, Hong Kong

When I first mentioned that I was planning a visit to Hong Kong, the three things that EVERYONE said I had to do were to 1) Go up The Peak on a Peak Tram 2) Take a trip across the causeway on a Star Line Ferry and 3) Visit the Po lin Buddhist Monastery and Big Buddha on Lantau island.

I knew that the Peak and the Ferry would be easily manageable at fairly short notice so on my first morning in Hong Kong decided to make the journey to Po Lin in order to make sure I did not get carried away with eating dim sum and not actually see anything!

The public transport in Hong Kong really is great, I was staying with a friend in Sheung Wan and from there it was just a  short walk to the MRT station where I took a train to Hong Kong station and then changed onto Tung Chung line to reach Tung Chung (funnily enough) Part of the journey is above land, so I watched as the city became a distant dot on the horizon and we were whizzed down the coast past the airport where I had arrived less than 12 hours previously and onto my destination.

From here you take a cable car for around 200 HKD return, with the option to upgrade to a glass bottomed carriage however the queuing system was one of the worst I have seen (almost on a par with a visit to CDG airport in Paris) and by the time I reached the front of the line several hours later I was in no mood to figure out how this was to be done and opted instead for the normal cable car which was just fine.

Around 15 minutes later the distant figure of the “Big Buddha” became visible and I was able to fully take in the beauty and tranquility of this sacred monument. Admittedly this tranquility was marred a bit by the hotch potch of tacky tourist shops in the “village” at the base of the Buddha, the sort of thing you find in a theme park not at a religious site but I made my way through this as quickly as possible and onto the area directly beneath the statue of the Buddha where there were statues of the “guardians” or 12 generals, each topped with an animal from the Chinese zodiac on their heads and brandishing fearsome looking weapons.

The walk up the stairs is pretty steep but the view of the Buddha and indeed the view from the top made it more than worth the effort. After spending a little time in quiet contemplation and taking in the amazing views, I headed back down the stairs and onto the monastery for lunch which I had pre purchased for a nominal sum.

I shouldn’t have bothered really as this was certainly no gourmet feast! The vegetarian food on offer would usually be to my liking but as I was on my own and most dishes were for sharing I missed out on some of the more interesting looking dishes and instead was given the huge spring roll type dish you can see in the pictures along with some bland, rubbery mock meat and slimy mushrooms with bok choy (which admittedly was quite tasty without the mushrooms) But then this was never supposed to be about the food, sharing in the meal time with the other people visiting the monastery and being able to contribute some money to the monastery in doing so was more than enough sustenance for me.

The Big Buddha is quite something and I am glad I made the effort to visit it, if you do go, I would recommend leaving central Hong Kong by 9am at latest as it can get very busy which I imagine could spoil the ambiance somewhat.

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