Hong Kong is made up of islandsOne of Hong Kong’s must-see islands is Lantau Island, home of a really Giant Buddha and Tai-O Fishing Village. . But to get there you need to take a romantic cable car ride.
As it happened, the one week I was in Hong Kong, was the one week they had bad weather… a lot of rain, clouds and low visibility.
When life and travel seasons aren’t optimum, there’s no sense crying over what you can’t change. Instead, it’s time to put on the soggy galoshes, go with the flow and make the most of it. So I didn’t let a little bad weather spoil my sightseeing.
Let’s just say, it gave my experiences a more romantic and mystical flavor.
Taking a Romantic Cable Car ride to Lantau Island.
At the entrance of the Nong Ping Cable Car terminal, an attendant in a green vest approached me to sell me a discount tourist package. At first, the jaded traveler in me, wasn’t sure if it was a scam, so I was cautious. But the salespeople are official dealers of the cable car service. The discounts they sell offer worthwhile all-day packages for sightseeng and getting around on the island.
Tip: I got the 360 degree Nong Ping circuit package. It included a cable car ride to Nong Ping Village, with coupons, a show at the Monkey Tale Theater, a boat excursion at the fishing village and bus transportation through the island and back to the station. For a little extra, you can book a private cable car, a guided tour or if you’re a daring soul, I recommend the crystal cabin car. Visibility wasn’t great that day, so I decided against the latter.
Of the many of things to do and see on Lantau, the cable car ride was one of my favorite highlights. It was the best cable car ride I’ve been on, beating out Disneyland, a Tahoe ski lift and even, uh….even the giant buddha at Nong Ping (but that’s only because I’ve seen giant buddhas before!) . The ride takes about a half hour and it takes you nosebleed-high over the river and mountains.
Now about the “romantic” part…
There are times as a solo traveler, you’ll find yourself amongst wooing couples, who will fill you with the inevitable urge to want to vomit in your mouth.
A word of caution…this is a romantic ride. It’s a perfect for a “first date” and for honeymooning couples. If you’re a couple, dive right in; you’ll love it! I had two dating couples in my car, who loved taking photos of themselves, nuzzling and regressing their speech to baby-talk. The rain and the thick rolling fog on this day, only enhanced the mood, lending to it a mysterious air as we rode into the fog and into the unknown.
All love syrup aside, I still recommend this ride.
Passing through Nong Ping Village
A half hour later, the cable car released me from it’s drippingly lovey-dovey prison. Woof!
I arrived at Nong Ping Village, a constructed village of souvenir shops and restaurants. The village is primarily a rest spot for tourists, who visit the Giant Buddha and it’s a bit of a tourist trap. There’s a cute Monkey Tale Theater that my ticket gave me free admission to, several souvenir shops and restaurants and if you spend over $150 HKD at one of the shops, you can get a wish card to add to the Bodhi Wishing Shrine (photo below).
The “wishing shrine” is said to grant the wishes written on the card… and who doesn’t love that kind of wishful thinking. I didn’t spend anything to get a “wish card”, but I enjoyed reading the wishes of others.
A Pilgrimage to Lantau Island’s really giant Buddha
The Tian Tan Buddha is a giant bronze Buddha that sits in a lotus flower on the top of Hong Kong’s second highest mountain peak. It was constructed in 1993 and stands 112 feet tall.
On a clear day, it is said to be seen all the way from Macau.
This day wasn’t that day.
When I arrived, the Buddha was very visible. But five minutes into my climb, the fog swallowed up the humble giant, making the beacon of the “Middle Way” hard to see. Ironic.
It goes to show you that the Middle Way of Buddhism is occasionally, an elusive path to find.
Fortunately, I got photos beforehand and after. It’s hard to tell which I prefer…
The fog was definitely thick, so everything had a wonderfully soft and beautifully mystical glow to it. It was refreshing to see things as shadows and hushed secrets. I did not regret the weather one bit. It made me realize how travel is often so unpredictable and each seemingly setback can present a better opportunity.
Lunch at Po Lin Monastary
Not far from the Buddha there’s Po Lin Monastery and temple.
While I occasionally enjoy visiting temples, the main attraction for me was it’s vegetarian cafeteria restaurant. Being that Buddhism preaches non-violence, some Buddhist sects are vegetarian. In some ultra strict sects, even eating vegetables can be considered “harming a live entity”; thus, foods can be made from root vegetables, instead.
Anyways, outside the restaurant, there’s ticket booth where you buy your meal ticket. A server seats you at a table and they bring out 4-5 courses (rice, soup, 2 vegetable dishes and deep fried spring rolls).
How was the food?
At $8 USD, it wasn’t cheap, but the food was more than enough to fill. They brought pots and dishes big enough to be shared by two or more people, so for a single person, it’s almost too much. The menu changes daily. Maybe it’s the luck of the draw but when I went, the food was less than flattering than other monasteries I’ve eaten at. The best dish was the spring rolls.
Still, it’s a way to stave off hunger during your sightseeing.
For those who would prefer something lighter, there’s a snack shop outside the dining room. The shop sells snacks, such as noodles, fried spring rolls, dumplings, etc…
The restaurant is open from 11:30 to 17:00.
After visiting Nong Ping and the Buddha, it was time for my next excursion adventure on the island…. I was off to see Tai-O Fishing Village.
Information and Getting There:
Take the MTR from Hong Kong island, eastwards to Tung Chung station. When you exit the station, the Ngong Ping Cable Car terminal is not more than a block away, outside the pavillion.
Website and discounts: www.discoverhongkong.com
Nong Ping Website: http://www.np360.com.hk/en/
Next up: A walk around Lantau Island’s oldest fishing village >>