Lantau Island is the largest of the islands in the greater Hong Kong area and also where the airport is located. It is a 35 minute boat ride from the pier. I have always loved getting around by boat and it’s pleasant to just be on the water and look out the window, and in this case, know that we are getting out of the city for a while.
The boat docks near a bus station and from there we took a coach up to the Tian Tan Buddha, or affectionally nicknamed Big Buddha, and the Po Lin Monastery. The road winds its way past a small town, a fishing village style area and posh apartments that I assume are for folks who prefer to live remotely in a lush, green, quiet environment and commute to the city for work.
The bus climbs the steep hills and eventually reaches thick forested mountain terrain. The first opportunity we had to see the Buddha is from a distance. It is majestically perched on a hill surrounded by jungle. The bus parked and we poured out with all the other sightseers and worshipers.
We were unaware that this time of year is a week long vacation for mainland Chinese starting October 1st with National Day, celebrated with a large fireworks display. My point being the Tian Tan Buddha is a popular place for families to visit and the weather was good for the first part of the day, so the place was buzzing with people from all over the world. Some were paying their respects with prayer and incense sticks the size of my thigh, others were coming to see the beautiful sight that is the Buddha, the largest bronze Sakyamuni Buddha in the world.
We walked the 268 steep steps it takes to reach the top, all the while soaking in the enormity and grandeur of the statue as well as the serene expression on his face. The position of the right hand is meant to symbolize removal of affliction and the left hand is a gesture of generosity. The Buddha is sitting on a lotus and is surrounded by 6 large statues called “The Offerings of the Six Divas”, the offerings symbolize generosity, morality, patience, zeal, meditation, and wisdom, all of which are necessary for enlightenment.
We then headed to the Po Lin Monastery. I have always loved Chinese roofs and this was my first experience going into a Chinese monastery. I was excited to see the statues and gold…everything. The colors used in the temples and monasteries are bright and happy. The moulding and decorations are intricate and there is so much to look at. Our final stop was the Ten Thousand Buddhas Hall and it’s exactly what the name suggests. Pictures are not permitted in the hall, but imagine a large room lined with little 2inch tall Buddha statues from floor to gold guided ceiling. There are a few much larger statues in the center of the big room and cushions for people coming to worship.
By early afternoon the weather was turning dark. The forecast was an approaching stage 3 typhoon. So, we made our way back to Hong Kong Island, quickly adjusting from the green peaceful hills to the high rise jungle.