The Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island is more commonly known as the Big Buddha. It was built on top of a hill and can be seen from quite a way away. It was only built quite recently (in the ’90s) and is a bit of a tourist attraction, with a purpose-built ‘village’ of shops and restaurants lining your route to the Buddha. Having said that, it’s on the list of ‘must-see’ things for most tourists to Hong Kong and the cable car up to the Buddha is quite fun.
To get the cable car up, take the MTR Tung Chung line to Tung Chung. As you leave the MTR station, head round the buildings in front of you to the right and you should see the cable car station ahead (called Ngong Ping 360). The cable car costs HK$135 for a return trip, or $94 one-way, for a standard cabin. Both times I’ve been, I’ve had to queue for well over an hour. To avoid this, I would either book online or either go very early in the day (it opens at 10am on weekdays and 9am at weekends and public holidays) or mid-afternoon. I came back from the Big Buddha at about 3.30pm on a weekday afternoon and there was virtually no queue to go up. Booking online will at least fast-track you through the first part of the queue (which goes to the ticket desks) but you will still have to queue for the cable cars.
Once you have made it into a cable car (and had the obligatory photo taken), you can sit back and enjoy a 30 minute trip through the hills up to the Big Buddha. You get a great view of the airport! (the geek in me loved seeing the planes landing and taking off!)
And also the hills and the Buddha…
When you get to the end, walk through the purpose-built Ngong Ping village and out the other side and you will see the Buddha on your right above you. Follow the signs to the steps up to the Buddha itself.
There are quite a lot of steps! I’ve not made it up without at least one breather on the way up! Oh, and there’s a counter at the bottom of the steps where you will be asked if you want to buy a ticket. The Buddha is free, I think the ticket is for an exhibition inside the Buddha, so don’t feel that you need to buy a ticket before you go up.
Once you get to the top you are rewarded with further views of the Big Buddha, the surrounding hills and the nearby Po Lin monastery.
I believe you can go into the monastery, but I haven’t done so.
The view from the Big Buddha is nice, but not very exciting. I don’t think I’ve spent more than about 20 minutes up there in one go. One way to make the most of your cable car journey up that I would recommend is to have lunch at the Zen Noodle Cafe which is in the Ngong Ping village near the cable car station. My friend and I both had the Udon noodles there, which were huge and very tasty – the noodles in particular tasted very fresh! And it was only $50 (approx. £4.20) too.
There are various options for you after your visit to the Big Buddha. You could take the cable car back down and go back to Hong Kong and do something else with your day. You could walk back down to Tung Chung, which I think would take a couple of hours. You could take a number 23 bus from Ngong Ping village to Tai O, which is a fishing village partly built on stilts. I have to admit I wasn’t very impressed with it, it’s quite small and dirty and apart from a boat trip where you “might” see some pink dolphins, there wasn’t anything to do there. Alternatively, if the weather is good, you can take the number 21 bus from Ngong Ping village to Cheung Sha beach. This is a really nice beach and is usually not too busy compared with most Hong Kong beaches. Upper Cheung Sha beach has some great restaurants too (although you might need to book in advance on Sundays or public holidays).
Overall, I’d say that the Big Buddha is very touristy but probably worth doing if you like that kind of thing. If you’re interested in Buddhism and want to see temples and religious sights, then I’d recommend somewhere like the Sik Sik Yuen temple instead.
Thanks for reading!