Forget the Cote d’Azur, Hong Kong is the ultimate place to go island-hopping. From the popular bustling, neon lit alleys of Kowloon to the steep business district and hawker-filled streets on Hong Kong Island, there is so much to discover in this pulsating, cosmopolitan city. One island in particular stands out for me. If you want to seek refuge from the commotion on each side of Victoria Harbour, head to Hong Kong’s most popular outlying island, Lantau.
Lantau Island is home to the largest outdoor sitting Buddha in the world. Getting to the Giant Buddha (also known as Big Buddha or in its traditional Chinese name, Tian Tan Buddha) is a journey in itself – you’ll need to hop on board one of the world’s top rated cable car rides, the Ngong Ping Cable Car.
It’s a pretty epic journey over water and hinterland, right up there with Barcelona’s famous Transbordador Aeri del Port in terms of jaw-dropping views. The ride takes about 25 minutes, and it’s easy to forget you’re just a short trip away from one of the world’s busiest concrete jungles. You’ll get a great view out over green valleys and the endless blue of the South China Sea. A far cry from the smoggy Hong Kong most travellers expect!
Po Lin Monastery
This century-old Buddhist sanctum was established by three monks back in 1906, one of whom became Hong Kong’s first Abbot (a monk holding administrative position of a Buddhist monastery) in 1924. Today it’s one of the most famous monasteries in the world.
Over the years the complex has grown from a simple stone chamber into a network of ornamented shrines, temples, buildings and Buddhist artwork. The Main Shrine Hall in particular is a glimpse into the glitzy centre of Hong Kong Buddhism: inside you’ll find three bronze statues of Buddha, representing his past, present and future lives.
The Giant Buddha
Work those leg muscles as you climb the 268 steps to reach the base of Giant Buddha. The climb may be exhausting, but the views are worth burning those calories you gained from eating endless Kau Kee Beef Brisket and Egg Tarts in Kowloon.
Perched upon the peak of Muyu Mountain and towering at 34 metres, the Big Buddha sits in a meditation position upon a lotus pedestal; one of the most important symbols of the Buddhist culture, representing purity and divine birth. The climb may be breath-taking in a literal sense but the 360 degree views on top of Muyu will leave you in awe, especially on a clear day when the Giant Buddha can be seen all the way from Macau!
After the lofty heights of Muyu Mountain, it’s time to head back to sea level with a visit to the traditional fishing village Tai O. Located on the northwest of the island, Tai O is Hong Kong’s last remaining stilted fishing village, home to the Tanka people of Southern China. This ‘Venice of the Orient’ combines small streets and stilt houses over tidal flats that expand out across a coastal plain. With the smell of the sea and fish in the air, it wouldn’t be a trip to a fishing village without tasting the unique seafood delicacies including dried seafood and the local favourite: salted fish from the vendors near the shore. Despite being a four-hour around trip from Hong Kong proper, this coastal village is an off-beat alternative for anyone looking to escape the chaos of the city centre.
They say the best things come in threes and with Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and Lantau thrown into the mix, it makes for a perfect three-course tour.
Feature image c/o Travis, Flickr