Tian Tan Buddha & Po Lin Monastery: Hong Kong’s gem in the mountains

Escape from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong city and seek spiritual solace at the Tian Tan Buddha & Po Lin Monastery. Constructed over a course of 3 years and finally opened in 1993, the large bronze statue of the buddha is amongst the world’s tallest.

The Tian Tan Buddha
The Tian Tan Buddha

Also part of the complex are the Po Lin Monastery and the Ngong Ping Village. Founded more than a century ago, the Po Lin Monastery is a stunning piece of architecture that draws tourists and pilgrims from far and wide. The easiest and most scenic way to get to the Ngong Ping Complex is by the Ngong Ping 360, a cable car system.

Getting here:

Signs indicating the direction to the cable car station
Signs indicating the direction to the cable car station

Though located on the mountains of Lantau Island, Hong Kong’s great transportation network makes travel to the Ngong Ping complex from Kowloon or Hong Kong Island affordable and quick!

The lower terminus of the Ngong Ping 360 cable car is located near Tung Chung MTR station. Clear signs indicate the directions to the lower terminus from the MTR station.

View during the MTR ride to Tung Chung station
View during the MTR ride to Tung Chung station

by MTR – Alight at Tung Chung Station (Exit B). The Cable Car station is located beside the CityGate Outlets Mall. Walk across the water display at the front of the mall. Then, walk along Mei Tung Street and climb the overhead walkway. The lower terminus is on the other end of the walkway.

The ride up:

Ticketing office, lower terminus
Ticketing office, lower terminus

The 5.7 kilometre cable car system is an attraction in its own rite. Starting at Tung Chung, the cable car slowly ascends to the Ngong Ping complex. Along the route, the cable car crosses a bay and a valley. Sorry acrophobes!

As there’s no entry fee to visit the Ngong Ping Village, the Po Lin Monastery & the Tian Tan Buddha, only tickets for the cable car ride will need to be bought.

Prices (as of 30 June 2015):

Single trip – HKD 115 (adults) / HKD 80 (seniors /65+) / HKD 60 (children / 3-11)

Single trip – HKD 165 (adults) / HKD 85 (seniors /65+) / HKD 115 (children / 3-11)

The upper terminus of the cable car system is at Ngong Ping Village.

View from the cable car
View from the cable car

Recommendation – Try to visit the Ngong Ping 360 on a weekday. Also, as the queue tends to be long after 10am, it is highly recommended to visit it early to avoid the queue.

View from the cable car of Hong Kong Int'l Airport
View from the cable car of Hong Kong Int’l Airport

Sights at Ngong Ping 

NGONG PING VILLAGE

Ngong Ping Village
Ngong Ping Village

Immerse yourself in culture at the Ngong Ping Village. This site, which fairly resembles an ancient chinese town that we so often see in movies, is home to numerous eateries and shops. Street performances are a regular sight here. Make a purchase of more than HKD 150 to redeem a wishing card which can be tied to the Bodhi Wishing Shrine!

 Bodhi Wishing Shrine at Ngong Ping Village
Bodhi Wishing Shrine at Ngong Ping Village

As the Ngong Ping complex receives numerous pilgrims annually – many of whom are vegetarian – most eateries have a vegetarian menu. The bilingual menu in all eateries here make ordering a lot more easier, even if the staff speak little English.

A lovely meal at Zen Noodle Cafe, one of the many eateries in Ngong Ping Village
A lovely meal at Zen Noodle Cafe, one of the many eateries in Ngong Ping Village

NGONG PING PIAZZA

Located directly below the Buddha and between the Po Lin Monastery and the Big Buddha is the Piazza.

The impressive Pai Lau archway built in the Qing architectural style marks the entrance of the Piazza.

Pai Lau archway, Ngong Ping Piazza
Pai Lau archway, Ngong Ping Piazza

The Piazza also contains the Di Tan. Though just a circular-platform with an open space, it is actually a temple dedicated to planet Earth. It is used during religious rituals on certain days. The view from the Di Tan of the Tian Tan Buddha is probably one of the best from below due to its proximity and unobstructed view.

The Di lau
The Di Tan

TIAN TAN BUDDHA

Tian Tan Buddha as seen from the base of the 268-steps stiarcase
Tian Tan Buddha as seen from the base of the 268-steps staircase

Perched atop a lotus-shaped pedestal is the Tian Tan Buddha. Built of bronze and weighing more than 250 metric tonnes, this 34 metre tall statue is the tallest bronze buddha statue in the world. To reach the platform at the top, one will have to scale a staircase with 268 steps.

The interior of the Buddha contains paintings, a bell – which is rung every 7 minutes, 108 times a day,  and a Buddha relic. Access to the interior of the buddha is only allowed to those with a meal ticket. The meal ticket can be purchased at the ticketing booth located directly beside the bottom of the 268-steps staircase.  Costing only HKD 78, it also includes a lovely vegetarian meal at the Po Lin Vegetarian Restaurant located at the Po Lin Monastery. 

3 of the 6
3 of the 6 “Offering of the Six Devas” statues

Directly below the Buddha are Six statues known as the “Offering of the Six Devas” . Each offer the Buddha a different sacred item in the Buddhist faith, including flowers, fruits , incense, music, oinment and light.

 View of the Po Lin Monastery from the Tian Tan Buddha
View of the Po Lin Monastery from the Tian Tan Buddha

Stroll around the platform and enjoy the serenity of the place,  as well as the spectacular view of Lantau Island and the surrounding mountains. On a clear day, it is possible to spot Macau!

PO LIN MONASTERY

Entrance to the Po Lin Monastery
Entrance to the Po Lin Monastery

Founded in 1906 by 3 monks from Jiangsu Province, The Po Lin Monastery is the oldest section of the entire Ngong Ping complex. However, most of the grandiose complex is new, with the older parts simply tucked behind.

The main building
The main building

Huge and magnificent prayer halls with gold plated statues of the Buddha form part of the monastery. Though a tourist attraction, this monastery also serves as a place of worship with prayer services being conducted round the clock. Rules prohibit the photography of prayer halls and monks during prayer services.

An altar inside the monastery
An altar inside the monastery

Interestingly, this monastery is also home to shops serving delicious meals at affordable prices. A must-try is their soy product which has an unusually thicker-than-usual consistency.

The must-try soya milk!
The must-try soya milk!

Extras:

-Devote at least half-a-day to the Ngong Ping complex.

-As quite a distance needs to be covered on foot, sports shoes should be worn when visiting this place.

-Heed all warning signs and respect the culture and rules of the Buddhist faith and the Ngong Ping complex.

– Do not climb any statues.

-Head up there with an open mind!

-Though there is no entry fee for the Tian Tan Buddha or Po Lin Monastery, as a gesture of goodwill, donate a few dollars to the temple by using the donation boxes located at the front of the monastery and Tian Tan Buddha.

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