Monday, February 2, 2009

Po Lin Monastary and the Giant Buddha

Monday we headed to the Cable Car to take us to Lantau Island. We didn't expect that many people to be there, so we were a little shocked to see a huge line of people when we got out of Tung Chung station. We got in line, and it took us about an hour to get from the station to the cable car in that line. A return trip ticket cost $107 Hong Kong Dollars ("special day price") which is probably about $15 USD. The cable car ride was about 20 minutes and it took us right into Ngong Ping "village".

Ngong Ping village is in no way shape or form something that I would willingly call a village. What it is is a newly constructed tourist trap designed to bring in hoards of visitors and destroy the ambiance and serenity of this would be holy place. I'm not a very religious person, but I have a serious problem with the commercialization of religion. Religion, in my opinion, can not, by definition, be about money making. This place, on the other hand, seemed only to be about money making. To get to the Buddha, you need to cross through this "village" full of Starbucks, plastic wishing trees and souvenir shops.

Once you make it through the hoards of crowds (probably so many because it was new years day) you can make your way up to the Tian Tan Buddha or Big Buddha. This is one of the largest Buddhas in the world. It was only constructed fairly recently, in 1993. Climbing the 268 stairs, for us, was not too arduous. We live in Seoul, which I think could get reasonably be called the stair capital of the world because the subway is so far below ground and there are so few escalators to bring you up to the top. Stairs for me now are nothing. Anyway, we got to the top of the Buddha and had a nice view of Lantau Island.

After climbing back down from Buddha, we headed over toward the Po Lin Monastery. This monastery is about 100 years old. I have a feeling that the monks who originally founded this monastery probably chose the location because it is so remote from everything else in Hong Kong. It was probably a very serene place to meditate and escape from the trappings of crazy Hong Kong life. Today, though, me... mill about peering in through windows watching monks recite their mantras and taking photos everywhere. I must admit, though, that many of the visitors were actually Buddhist, and stopped to make offerings and burn incense. There was incense burning everywhere. It was very cool, and the air, even outside, was thick with burning incense. In the photo below, we found these gigantic incense sticks burning near then entrance. Everything red in this photo is incense, including the red posts in the foreground. If you could see the top, they were burning as well.

After we meandered around the temple for a while, we headed back to the village to get back on the cable car. We had another 45 minute wait in line to get back on. From there we headed back to Kowloon to catch the parade. More on the parade, and Lunar New Year to come.


  1. wow the pictures look spectacular!

  2. That Buddha is crazy, what if it wakes up and starts walking around crushing all of the Starbucks!

  3. I wish it would wake up and crush the starbucks.....

  4. It was so cold when we went on the last week of January 2009. I truly enjoyed the trip.

    Great blog by the way, will keep coming back!

  5. Hi,

    We also went to Po Lin. It's such a great place. Nice blog, by the way. You can also visit my HK chronicles of my trip at LivingTogetherBlog