While planning what to do while in Hong Kong, there were a few spots that seemed like must-see places that I added to my list. One of those places was Lantau Island, home to the Tian Tan Buddha (commonly known as the Giant Buddha) and Tai O Fishing Village. There are some other things to do on the island–Po Lin Monastery, Tung Chung Fort, Disneyland. But I had only so much time and so much to see, a common problem when traveling.
First, I had to actually get up to the Ngong Ping Plateau, where the Buddha is located. You take the MTR to Tung Chung station, and then you have several options. Probably the more scenic way to go, is the cable car. There are also bus rides. Now, I didn’t know beforehand about the bus rides, since most people only talked about the cable cars online, so when I bought my ticket, I bought it round-trip. This ended up being a mistake, as I did not use the cable car to get back down. Since I ended up taking a bus from Ngong Ping to Tai O fishing village, I then would have had to take a bus back up and then take the cable car, which seems like a bit of a hassle. Paying for a bus back up was almost the same as just paying for the bus from Tai O to Tung Chung, so I ended up not even using my return ticket, wasting about $10 US. To anyone wanting to visit the sites of Lantau Island, unless you really love cable cars, I’d recommend getting a one-way ticket up, and then taking a bus back down to save money, and also enjoy the scenery from two different perspectives.
The cable car was quite nice, though. You have a great view of the water and mountain scenery, and you get glimpses of the Buddha in the distance as you draw near Ngong Ping. Unfortunately, since I was by myself, I was sandwiched between groups of strangers, with a Chinese couple on my left and a Japanese couple on my right. I overheard the Japanese couple wondering if I was there alone. It was a little awkward to hear them talking about me, but they of course did not know I can understand a bit of Japanese, and this was just another obstacle as a single traveler. To be honest, I didn’t think much of it until they started talking about me. I get easily distracted while taking photos, and can spend a lot of time trying to get good shots, a fact which has annoyed my friends on several occasions. Perhaps my camera is my only true travel companion.
As soon as you get off, you’ll find yourself in a very clean, attractive, touristy area. There are lots of nice, little shop for food and souvenirs. A note of caution: I went during February, so even though the weather wasn’t too cold, I had to contend with the wind on Lantau Island. I almost bought a jacket I didn’t need, just because I was really cold for about an hour. I started to warm up after walking around a bit.
On the way to the Buddha, there is a lot of beautiful architecture, as well as many statues, including statues of the Twelve Divine Generals. You may also see some dogs or cattle wandering about, which was quite interesting.
The Tian Tan Buddha itself is quite a grand site. It’s 34 meters tall and made of bronze, a symbol of the harmonious relationship between man and nature, people and religion. (I got that bit off of Wikipedia.) To reach it, you must climb a large stairway that may leave you huffing and puffing a bit. It is also possible to buy tickets to go inside the Buddha, but I opted out of doing this, as there is a small charge.
It really is quite huge and magnificent. The Buddha sits on a giant lotus and his ear alone is probably the size of a large person. It’s possible to walk all the way around the statue to enjoy not only different views of the Buddha, but also of the surrounding mountain landscape and surrounding six smaller statues known as “The Offering of the Six Devas.”
After walking back down the many steps to the Buddha, I found a bus down to the Tai O Fishing Village. It was lovely, and I’m glad that the weather was so nice, but I couldn’t help but feel like they had made a tourist attraction out of the everyday lives of the people who lived there. There was a certain guilt I felt, exploring the village with my camera. I tried to be unobtrusive and respectful as I walked around, taking photos of the area and the many scenic stilt houses which the town is known for, but ultimately I am just another tourist.
There are several boating tours available, offering to take people to see the white dolphins that are local to the area. I didn’t take the tour, but I kind of wish that I had. Nonetheless, I crossed the bridge into Tai O and found myself in a small market.
Perhaps the nicest thing about the island was the laid-back, tropical feeling, although I’m sure that is only an illusion to the tourists such as myself. The residents of the island are really only just scraping by and the fisherman’s way of life is slowly dying out. Sometimes, when I visit certain places, I can’t help but wonder if they’ll still be there ten or twenty years from now. After visiting Taipei in February, I got wind of a rumor going around that Shida Night Market was closing down. The rumor proved to be mostly false, but for a while I was wondering whether my last night at Shida Night Market had truly been my last night. Your moments abroad become all the more cherished when you stop to realize that you may never visit these places again, whether it be because you do not get a second chance to return or because they cease to exist.
I wandered a bit, and did not run into too many people. Luckily, I don’t think February is exactly a peak tourist season. I was able to enjoy some peaceful meandering. Eventually I found a path to Fu Shan Viewing Point. I got excited, thinking that maybe I’d be able to see the dolphins without paying for the boat ride. I began my ascent into the hills, passing by some interesting scenery as I went–grave sites!
I ended up not seeing any dolphins, but I did have a lovely view of the village. There were very other people on the path, and after a while, none at all. I was the sole person up in those hills, looking down at the scenery below. It felt like I was standing on top of the world. Then I ate a Twix bar.
After a while, I walked back down again. I was a bit tired by then, but there was still some parts of the village that I had yet to explore, so I kept going. It’s amazing how motivating curiosity can be.
Well, this has been quite a long post. I hope I didn’t bore anyone! I’m also sorry it took so long to write. A lot has been happening recently–I went to a concert (more on that soon) and also on a short trip to Okinawa (which I plan to write about after I get to the many other things I plan to write about).