Our group took advantage of the free time on our project workday to sightsee instead of researching. We finally made it to my second most anticipated spot – the Tian Tan Buddha in Ngong Ping on Lantau Island. The Buddha is 112 ft tall, and was the world’s tallest outdoor bronze seated Buddha prior to 2007.
The commute to Ngong Ping was about two hours. 10 of us took two taxis to the Hong Kong MTR station where we rode to Tung Chung, the final destination on the yellow line. From there, visitors have the option of taking a bus or the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Cars. We decided to pay the extra money -$130HKD – to take a standard cable car, but opted out of the premium, glass-bottom cable cars that are proudly marketed as the “Crystal Cabins.” Despite having a fear of heights, I felt confident the views from over 1,900 feet in the air would be worth it. But at one point, our cable car passed through some low clouds, adding an eerie, heaven-like white glow to the daunting ride. During the 25 minute, 3.5 mile journey, only two of us had small panic attacks.
Upon reaching the Island, I was slightly disappointed to see a tourist village equipped with Subway, Starbucks, and plenty of gift shops. Something about the Westernization of the small village detracted from the enlightenment I was promised in my welcome brochure.
I was looking forward to eating at the popular Vegetarian restaurant near the Buddha, but our group chose to eat at a standing-room only Taiwanese restaurant to get out of the rain. After the quick lunch, we bounced around from gift shop to gift shop hoping the rain would ease up. The downpour never stopped, but we eventually decided to make the best of our trip and ventured out in the rain to begin the journey to the Buddha statue. Our small umbrellas were not keeping us completely dry, so several of us doubled-up on protection from the rain and invested in cheap, plastic raincoats.
The climb to the top where Buddha sits on a lotus throne is more than 240 steps. Once you reach the top, the views of Ngong Ping are spectacular and the giant Buddha seems even more serene and dignified. It is surrounded by six smaller bronze statues known as “The Offering of the Six Devas” that are posed offering flowers, incense, lamp, ointment, fruit, and music to the Buddha. These offerings symbolize charity, morality, patience, zeal, meditation, and wisdom, all of which are necessary to enter into nirvana.
Access to the outside of the Buddha is free of charge, but we paid an admission fee to go inside where we had access to the three floors beneath the statue: The Hall of Universe, The Hall of Benevolent Merit, and The Hall of Remembrance. One of the most renowned features inside is a relic of Gautama Buddha consisting of some of his cremated remains. Only visitors who purchase an offering for the Buddha are allowed to see the relic.
We spent a few hours in Ngong Ping before beginning the soggy two-hour trip back to the hotel. Six of us ended our day with dinner at a dumpling restaurant across from our hotel.