Tian Tan Buddha

Lantau Island: A Different Side of Hong Kong

Aug 30, 2014 - Julie

Lantau Island is actually the largest island in Hong Kong – yet it has only been sparsely settled, with recent developments attracting more residents. Thus Lantau Island shows a different side of Hong Kong, a calm and natural side. It seems like a whole other world as compared to the urban metropolis that is Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.

Ngong Ping Cable Car

This is arguably my favorite part of going to Lantau Island. Ngong Ping Cable Car is a gondola connecting Tung Chung to Ngong Ping Village. The views on the 25-min cable car ride is breathtaking. Ocean on one side, lush mountains on the other, as the gondola carries you into the heart of Lantau Island. Some cable cars have glass floors (crystal cabins) which are worth paying a little more for a true 360-degree view.

View from Ngong Ping Cable Car with HK Airport in the background.
View from Ngong Ping Cable Car with HK Airport in the background.
Lush mountainside view of Ngong Ping Cable Car with Tung Chung in the background.
Lush mountainside view of Ngong Ping Cable Car with Tung Chung in the background.

Tian Tan Buddha

First glimpses of the giant bronze Buddha can be seen during the Ngong Ping Cable Car ride. As you walk through Ngong Ping Village, the Buddha becomes bigger and bigger, until right at the steps leading up to it. It is then that the sheer size of the statue hits you.

Carlos with Tian Tan Buddha.
Carlos with Tian Tan Buddha.

He looks to be sitting in the skies, surrounded by clouds, peaceful and serene. Six smaller bronze statues surround him below, with offerings in hand for the Buddha.

Bronze statues with offerings for Buddha.
Bronze statues with offerings for Buddha.

This was my third time to Tian Tan Buddha, but Carlos’ first. He had a great time.

Po Lin Monastery and Wisdom Path

Not far from Tian Tan Buddha, Po Lin Monastery is a place of worship. Despite my third time visiting, for the first time, I burned incense and worshipped Buddha.

Carlos at Po Lin Monastery.
Carlos at Po Lin Monastery.

Wisdom Path is a 15-min walk from Tian Tan Buddha into the trees. Wooden columns are set in a figure-8 pattern into the mountain side. Each wooden column is carved with calligraphy of Buddhist scripture.

Carlos at Wisdom Path.
Carlos at Wisdom Path.

Tai O

This was a part of Lantau Island I had not seen before and definitely the most interesting. A small fishing village on the west side of Lantau Island, it couldn’t be more different than the rest of Hong Kong. We spent a few hours just walking around the area – sometimes you forget that you’re in Hong Kong because it seems like some remote village by the sea.

The small fishing village of Tai O.
The small fishing village of Tai O.

Many locals live in houses raised on stilts over the water covered in what looks like aluminum metal. It was a very strange sight. The houses were usually not very big or tall, yet still separated into several floors. I couldn’t imagine living in a small, metal house over the water.

Stilt houses in Tai O covered in aluminum.
Stilt houses in Tai O covered in aluminum.

For many locals, their livelihoods were right outside their house. We found locals making a purple paste that we quickly realized was shrimp paste due to the smell, a tradition in Tai O. Others sold seafood and drinks along the road for tourists.

Shrimp paste left to dry in the sun at Tai O.
Shrimp paste left to dry in the sun at Tai O.

Tai O does have some spectacular, unobstructed ocean views. Mangrove trees grew all along the shore, which I have never seen before. It’s pretty clear that people in Tai O live the simple life.

Ocean views at Tai O.
Ocean views at Tai O.

I’m glad we had the chance to see a side of Hong Kong that most people probably don’t know about. It was such a stark contrast to what Hong Kong is usually known to be, and it’s always fascinating to see how people live in a way that you’ve never imagined. Lantau Island was a wonderful day trip!