On the plane from Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong I’d read about a giant Buddha statue on Lantau Island that could be seen from the air when flying in. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to spot it from the air, but I was still interested in visiting it. Especially when I discovered that the most exciting way to get there was by cable car. And not just any cable car – 5.7km of cable car. Now that I had actually spied from the plane, the thick cables running from peak to peak across the bay. I remember pointing out to John that I wouldn’t mind going on that.
And so, after visiting Wong Tai Sin Temple & Chu Lin Nunnery in the morning we took the metro again to Tung Chung, the last station on the yellow line and the point from which the cable car – Nyong Ping 360 – begins. It’s not difficult to find, and up the escalator we went. By this point I was wondering if there was anywhere in Hong Kong that didn’t have escalators. Not to complain of course – if you’re familiar with my blog you’ll remember that I’m not overly fond of stairs.
There was a bit of a queue for tickets, which gave John time to find free wi-fi and check in on Facebook. They offer a range a of day passes and tours, but we weren’t interested in the tacky themed village and really just wanted to visit the Buddha statue and Po Lin Monastery. So we just bought a return standard cable car ticket. They have two options – Standard or Crystal Cabin. The only difference is that the Crystal Cabin has a glass floor so you can look down. We guessed that there would be fewer of those and the line would be longer, and that the floor was probably covered in footprints. We were correct on the first two and unable to verify the third. The standard ticket was HKD $135 each, so it’s not cheap – but when we considered how much a 5.7km cable car trip anywhere in Australia would cost we realised that AUD $20 is actually pretty reasonable.
We didn’t have to wait long to get into the cabin, which we shared with five others. Of course they take your photo once you get in, hoping to sell them to you at the top. The trip itself took about 25 minutes, gliding over the islands and mountains, across the bay and past the airport. The view was spectacular, but the glass on the windows was quite dirty and this combined with the reflections made taking a photo to do it justice difficult. And after waiting in the Hong Kong heat for our tickets, we thoroughly appreciated the gentle breeze as we sailed through the air. Each time we’d see a mountain coming we thought that must be the end and it was almost over. We weren’t disappointed to find that it wasn’t.
It did of course have to end eventually, and we were soon enough at the entrance to Nyong Ping Village. The village is entirely artificial and I must admit I didn’t really have any interest in it. It’s set up to sell light shows and multimedia presentations, as well as tacky souvenirs, to tourists both foreign and domestic, and we walked quickly through on our way to see the Buddha.
The Tian Tan Buddha, informally and generally called the Big Buddha, is actually relatively new – having been built near the significantly more ancient Po Lin Monastery in 1993. The Buddha sits a massive 34 metres high, atop – of course – 268 steps. John’s reaction to the stairs made me suspect he bears a similar lack of appreciation for them as I do. Still, at least with these stairs we knew that something worthwhile was waiting up the top.
The Buddha, seated on a lotus throne and weighing 250 tonnes, was the largest outdoor seated bronze Buddha until 2007, when a bigger one was built somewhere. Still, being the second largest in the world is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. And he’s certainly presiding over an incredible view, so I doubt he’s complaining. From the top of the peak on which he sits you can see all around, and it’s worth the steps for that alone.
Not a bad view at all!
Stuart also enjoyed the view.
Heading back down we walked over to the Po Lin Monastery, the oldest monastery in Hong Kong. Unfortunately it’s currently undergoing restoration and was covered in scaffolding and surrounded by construction material. This was disappointing for us, but will probably be better for anyone visiting HK after December 2013, when the restoration work is scheduled to be finished. Still, we visited the Vegetarian Deli [I found that a little strange, as I’m pretty sure that it’s not really a deli if it doesn’t have meats] and bought some spring rolls and wontons for a delicious and very cheap snack. It was soon time to head back to the cable car and back to Hong Kong.
We stopped briefly to watch some of the ‘Martial Arts Extravaganza’ being performed in the village. The crowd was huge, so we figured we’d be better to get back onto the cable car before the performance finished and the hordes descended upon the queue.
For some reason, just as we were almost at the end of the journey back we stopped. We couldn’t understand the explanation as it was only in Chinese, but were a little concerned when we started going back towards the island. Then we stopped again. When the car was just sitting there it was awfully uncomfortable, as there was no air movement and it was hot and sticky. We went back and forth a few times until finally we made it to the terminal and could get off – a great relief! We were both quite exhausted by this time, and still had to get the train back to Mong Kok for a much needed shower before dinner.
If you’re ever in Hong Kong, it’s worth a visit just for the cable car. It also seems to be especially popular with families, particularly the day tours they offer with boat rides and shows and other activities.