Location: Lantau Island
Give me 30 seconds:
- You need an entire day on Lantau Island. Half a day just is not enough time.
- Lantau Island is easily accessibly via the MTR Tung Chung station. Then you have the option to take the Ngong Ping 360, cab or bus to the Tian Tan Buddha.
- Wear comfortable shoes. You will walk. A LOT.
- Bring a light jacket because evenings get a little chilly here.
- Take the Ngong Ping 360 and if you can, pick the Crystal Cabin. Promise its worth it!
- The Crystal Cabin ticket also has a different line for boarding up the mountain as well as down. The lines are significantly shorter than the Standard Cabin lines.
- Don't get disappointed if you see fog. The beauty and serenity is all still there. Soak it in.
- Start your day early here. Less lines and fewer people. Saw crowds form around noon so best to arrive way before that.
- You can hike up or hike down back and forth from the Tian Tan Buddha. If the weather is nice, I'd take the Ngong Ping up to the top and hike down so that you get both experiences. One way hike is about 3 hours.
- If you decide to take the Ngong Ping 360 down from the top, note that there are two lines: One for Crystal and one for Standard. Make sure to ask because its not clearly noted. Otherwise you end up waiting in the wrong line.
- Visit Tai-O Fishing Village. Homes that sit on stilts above the water transporting you to a different time period! You can buy the ticket combo at the Ngong Ping ticket office.
You can take the MTR to the Tung Chung Station and walk directly over to the Ngong Ping 360 queue to purchase tickets for the cable car ride up to Lantau Island. Due to my serious jet lag, I again arrived pretty early and there was maybe 15 people ahead of me in the queue to purchase tickets. The cable car is a 57km bi cable ropeway and a 25 minute ride where visitors can enjoy spectacular birds eye view of the South China Sea, Tian Tan Buddha, Lantau Country Park, HK International Airport and Tung Chung Bay. There are three cable car options: Standard Cabin, Crystal Cabin, Private Cabin, each that fit 8-10 people. The Private cabin is about $580USD round trip, so that option was out. Standard is a regular cable car and Crystal is a cable car with a glass bottom. Without a doubt, I opted for the Crystal Cabin, not asking the price difference. BTW, the price difference is like $10USD. We found out later that there are separate queues for Standard and Crystal and let me just say, it was a great extra $10 well spent. The line for Standard tends to be a bit longer, however, there are more standard cabins than crystal. For ever 3 standard cabins, there is one crystal cabin.
The lines to return from Lantau Island back to Hong Kong again are separated by cabin type and the Crystal line had about 1 hour cut down from their wait time versus Standard. If you are taking the Ngong Ping, you must leave Lantau Island by 6:00-6:30pm so you must be in line by that point to leave. If you don't leave on the Ngong Ping, don't worry, there are other options such as tour bus, cab, or walk. I highly suggest the Cabin ride but make sure to check their website before your planned visit. Sometimes due to weather or maintenance, they shut it down, and you don't want to head up there and be disappointed and have to take the bus up. If you have a fear of heights, the Crystal Cabin might not be a good option for you, but its quite an incredible experience!
When you first arrive in Ngong Ping Village, you will walk through various tourist shops and little restaurants. On your left, you will see the Bondhi Wishing Shrine, a tree with many wooden cards handing on it. If you purchase any gifts or items in the village shops valued at $19USD or more, you can write your wish down on a card and hang it on the tree for free. Just present your receipt and let your wishes flow.
There is an adorable little shop that sells tons of lucky cats. Its so cute and they are pretty reasonably priced. (About $7USD for a medium sized cat). I may or may not now be the owner of like 10 lucky cats.
A little way further from the shops and restaurants, there are a series of giant statues of the Twelve Divine Generals, six on each side of the road.
Continue walking further and on the right you will see an insane stairway leading up to the Tian Tan Buddah, the island's main attraction. Be mindful that on super foggy days, you might not see the stairwell clearly and end up passing by it. It was pretty foggy on the day that I went and remember meeting people who walked around the grounds for an hour, not being able to find the stairwell to the Big Buddha. I cant stress enough, wear comfortable shoes, if you plan to go to Lantau island because you will do a ton of walking. Being from New York, you think you walk a lot, but there is plenty of walking here. The stairway to Tian Tan is steep and about 260 steps one way to get to the top. I saw a girl in high heels, probably for some type of photo op, but she was basically in tears with heels in hand, so I'd highly suggest not doing that. There is no fee to see the Tian Tan Buddha.
The day we make the trek up was pretty foggy and really windy, but it added to the adventure. The fog was pretty much everywhere and it gave Buddha and the entire area a mysterious and mystical ambiance. There are three floors beneath the Tian Tan Buddha statue: The Hall of Universe, The Hall of Benevolent Merit and the Hall of Remembrance. There are a number of really interesting items on display in the exhibition hall and if you have the time, I'd suggest checking it out. There is a small admission fee, which goes directly to the monastery.
On either side of Buddha, there are 3 bronze statues known as "The Offering of the Six Divas". Each statue are posed offering flowers, incense, ointment, fruit, music and a lamp to Buddha. These offerings symbolize morality, patience, seal, charity mediation and wisdom which are all necessary to enter into nirvana.
Po Lin Monastary
Located on the Ngong Ping Plateau near the Tian Tan Buddha, the Po Lin Monastery is considered on the most important monastery's in Hong Kong. Surrounded by lush terrain and beautiful flowers, this is a must do on Lantau Island. After walking down the stairs from the Tian Tan Buddha, you can continue walking towards the Po Lin Monastery. Just follow the smell of the burning incense. You will see an area with trees, flowers and plenty of incense stands which is Bauhinia Park. At the end of the park near the monastery, there are some souvenir stands selling various size incense sticks for burning and making offerings to Buddha.
Walking up a little further you will find two shrine halls, the second one being the main shrine hall of Buddha. The hall was built in 1970 and is decorated with flowers, origami and pictures of dragons. You are immediately mesmerized by the three gold statues of Buddha, each representing Past, Present and Future lives. The entire shrine engulfs you in its magnificent beauty, from floor the ceiling, combined with fruit offerings, gold details and lush flowers. Spend a little time here to soak in the tranquility and offer a prayer. Just outside are a few gift shops that sell bracelets made from jade and precious stones that have been blessed by the monks with all proceeds going back to the monastery. They aren't inexpensive, so if you are bargain hunting, you probably won't want to shop here. Out of respect I didn't take any photos inside the shrine but you will be blown away at its beauty, so just go and be surprised.
Tai-O Fishing Village
Tai- O Village is home to the Tanka people and is a small fishing community who have built their homes on stilts above the waters surrounding Lantau Island. The community is really tight knit and its a photographers paradise; the colors, the people, the culture. There are a lot of local seafood places as well as dried seafood being sold almost everywhere. Tai-O is a wonderful place to visit and it will easily transport you to a different era and way of life.
My entire day in Lantau Island was one eye opening experience after another. While the weather wasn't most ideal, I was still able to soak in the peacefulness of the Tian Tan Buddha and get mesmerized by the Po Lin Monastery. My mind was blown at the beauty of the lush island from the cable car ride and hope to come back next time to hike the entire pathway to Tian Tan Buddha. Enjoy your visit and feel free to ask me anything in the comments below.
As always, go JETSETAWAY!