Hong Kong: The 268 steps to enlightenment

The sight of 10,000 small, gold Buddhas is just as spectacular as the 34m tall, bronze Big Buddha, writes Suzette Laboy.

Take the 268 steps to reach the tip of the lotus flower where the Tian Tan Buddha sits. Photo / 123RF
Take the 268 steps to reach the tip of the lotus flower where the Tian Tan Buddha sits. Photo / 123RF

Hong Kong is a crowded, busy place, but there is a way to escape the city, visit a giant Buddha and feel like you're nearly floating in the clouds.

You may have to put up with long lines in order to get there, though.

Ngong Ping Village is on Lantau, Hong Kong's largest island.

The mountainside village can feel a little like a Disney attraction with crowds and souvenir photos. But it's also the site of the century-old Po Lin Monastery, complete with temples and statues.

The most popular way to get there is the Ngong Ping 360, a cable car that soars over mountains and sea on a 5.7km route. It's not for those afraid of heights, since the cable car sways slightly as the winds pick up, the closer to the peak you get. And the lines for tickets can stretch for hours, though you can book online. The view includes plateaus, valleys and hiking trails, and a sitting Buddha on the horizon.

At the top, walk past the shops (or grab a copy of that picture taken when you stepped into the car) and head for the bronze Tian Tan Buddha statue, also known as the Big Buddha.

Completed in 1993, this 34m tall bronze statue rests on the peak of a mountain.

Take the 268 steps to reach the tip of the lotus flower where the statue sits, passing by praying Buddhists along the way. Several other statues overlook the landscape and village below. A small museum tells the story of Buddha and sells prayer beads blessed by monks.

This high up, clouds seem within reach. The wind is cool and inviting. Enjoy the views before climbing back down for another photo (or selfie) with the Buddha in the background.

Buddhists worship throughout the grounds and the scent of burning incense fills the air.

Inside, the Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas is a spectacular sight: the thousands of small, golden Buddha statues. Outside, the gardens are fragrant with the smell of tea leaves. Stop for a bite at the vegetarian restaurant or try some street food, from fried noodles to sticky rice filled with meat.

Continue your path to enlightenment by taking a short, leisurely hike through the quiet hills to the Wisdom Path overlooking the mountains and sea. Benches offer a perfect spot to rest, meditate and take in the views. The path is lined with wooden columns forming the infinity symbol, with a Buddhist prayer written on them in Chinese calligraphy.

The cable car will take you back to crowded Hong Kong, but the night-time views are also worth the trip.


Getting there: Wendy Wu Tours offers three nights in Hong Kong for $99pp when booking selected China trips.

Details: Lines for the Ngong Ping 360 cable car are notoriously long. You can purchase tickets online ahead of time. Travel time is about 20-25 minutes. Or use bus or taxi, which takes about the same time as the cable car. Tours are available, as are tickets for single rides (if you prefer to hike one way).

- AP

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