After exploring Central Hong Kong, it was time to check out the surrounding areas. Since Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region in addition to a city (Special Administrative Region means that while Hong Kong is technically part of China, it maintains its own political and economic system), it is actually rather large and has a lot to see and do. To give some idea, the Hong Kong SAR consists of more than 200 islands, of which Hong Kong Island is one.
For our out-of-city-center excursion, Inna and I went to Lantau Island, Hong Kong’s largest island and the home of the Po Lin Monastery and Tian Tan Buddha.
To get to Lantau, we took Hong Kong’s metro system. Hong Kong has one of the best metro systems in the world and outside of Kowloon and Central Hong Kong our rides were above ground, this one along the coast and also across the Tsing Ma Bridge, the longest rail traffic bridge in the world. The ride was beautiful, and very cool.
This is the Tsing Yi North Bridge, as viewed from the Tsing Yi Bridge. Both of these bridges are dwarfed by Tsing Ma Bridge, which I unfortunately could not get a picture of since we rode through it.
There was so much construction going on in Hong Kong, so many projects, so much development. With how much Hong Kong has and how much more it has under construction, visiting this city felt like visiting the future, which is actually kind of sad.
Outside of City Center, Hong Kong’s tall buildings aren’t skyscrapers, but rather condo and apartment complexes. For years, developers have been building gargantuan and hideous buildings like this in order to maximize views for residents in the city. These buildings are so ugly, and there are so many of them, that the the younger generation is starting to push the government to curb these types of developments.
While the metro runs to Lantau Island, it does not go to the major destinations on it. To get to these there are two options: the bus or the Ngong Ping 360, an aerial tramway (pictured above) that is one of the major tourist attractions in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, Ngong Ping 360 is expensive, so we took the bus.
I say unfortunately, but the bus ride was pretty spectacular in its own right.
And we’ve arrived! Ngong Ping Village, home to the Tian Tan Buddha, also known as Big Buddha.
For some reason, there were a bunch of tame bulls roaming around the village. Definitely not something we expected here, or anywhere for that matter.
Built in 1993, the Tian Tan Buddha stands 112 feet tall and is meant to symbolize the harmonious relationship between man and nature, people and faith. Its location, next to the Po Lin Monastery, is a major center for Buddhism in Hong Kong.
Interestingly, the Tian Tan Buddha was built similarly to the Statue of Liberty: a thin outside layer of metal, hollow inside, with everything supported by internal I-beams. The main difference between these two landmarks is that the Statue of Liberty is made out of copper, while Tian Tan Buddha is made out of bronze. Also, the Statue of Liberty is much older.
Surrounding Tian Tan Buddha are six smaller female statues. These women, known as the Six Devas, are posed offering flowers, incense, lamp, ointment, fruit, and music, representative of Buddhism’s six perfections necessary for enlightenment: generosity, morality, patience, zeal, meditation, and wisdom.
Here’s an angled panorama showing the Devas in relation to Tian Tan Buddha. This panorama was really hard to get.
Tian Tan Buddha sits atop Mount Muk Yue, and thus provides spectacular views of Lantau Island and the Hong Kong coast.
For some reason, if you stand in the circle Inna is standing in, face Tian Tan Buddha, and speak, your voice echoes back at you. I have no idea the physics behind this but I know it is true because Inna and I both heard it. We were skeptical at first, but when we heard it we were blown away; it was really cool!
Next to Tian Tan Buddha is the Po Lin Monastery, a 100+ year old monastery and one of the most beautiful religious sites in Hong Kong.
Figurines greeting us at the entrance to the Monastery.
Here it is, the actual monastery. The architecture here is amazing, but unfortunately we could not go inside, as there was a religious ceremony going on during our visit.
Detail work of the Po Lin Monastery roof.
Behind the Po Lin Monastery was the Hall of Buddha, an amazing building, particularly its insides. There were literally thousands of Buddhas inside this building, but we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, so all I can show you is this one, taken through the entrance to the building.
Incense is huge in Buddhism. There was an entire incense garden outside the monastery, plus several other incense pots and contraptions throughout the grounds.
One more picture before we leave the monastery. Here is the Hall of Buddha standing behind the Po Lin Monastery, both lit gorgeously in golden hour light.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Inna? More like Crouching Inna, Hidden Dragon, since I don’t see dragons or crouching tigers anywhere. This picture was taken in Ngong Ping Village, and the people there were lucky Inna stopped by when she did; who else would have protected everyone from this silver-haired sword-wielding madwoman?
We’ve now reached the end of our visit to Landau Island, and with it the end of our stay in Hong Kong. But wait! There’s one more thing I want to show before we move onto our next post.
Mmmmmmmmm. The Chinese food in Hong Kong was amazing!
And now, we’ve reached the end of our Hong Kong trip, although this place was so amazing (its the closest to New York City of anywhere we’ve been), there’s so much more we could have done. But our next destination awaits, and it’s an exciting one, for we are going down under, to Australia!
Even leaving Hong Kong was beautiful, for this is Hong Kong Disneyland, taken from our airplane as we left for Australia.