Hong Kong – Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery

This is a throw back from last year, since COVID 19 has shat all over my travel plans this year, I have been torturing myself looking over photos of places I loved.

Like most people, when I first thought of Hong Kong I thought of the heaving metropolis, full of neon lights and skyscrapers. Take a relatively short bus ride into the lush green mountains in Lantua Island and you’re in a different world.

Tian Tan Giant Bronze Buddha, with 268 steps

You can take a bus from central Hong Kong or a cable car, to bring you to the summit where you’ll find the Tian Tan Buddha. My traveling companion and expedition photographer (my sister, Bronagh) fibbed when we set off, telling me that our bus would leave us at the top. This turned out to be a filthy lie, and I almost met my death after climbing these 268 steps in 32 degree heat (top tip, do this before lunch and take your time, they are as steep as they look). On the upside, once you can breath normally and your heart doesn’t feel like it’s going to burst any more, you’re treated to a spectacular view of the mountains and Po Lin Monastery.

View from the Tian Tan Buddha

There is also a small village and shopping area at the base of the Buddha if you haven’t bought enough tourist tat in the city. Walk along a paved avenue with statues of Chinese deities and you’ll reach the Po Lin monastery.

Po Lin Monastery

Like most Chinese monasteries, it’s richly decorated and serene. It has manicured courtyards where pilgrims burn giant incense sticks in huge wracks and pray. Beautiful, calm and smelling fantastic, the monastery is the perfect antidote if a couple of days in busy Hong Kong has left you feeling a bit frazzled.

You can also buy lunch at the monastery, there is a small cafe that sells snacks and light bites. I spoke to other visitors who ate there, and they enjoyed the food. We went for the “deluxe ticket” set meal in the monastery’s dining room (I had almost died after all, after climbing the “Big Buddha”). This was reasonably priced set meal with 7 or 8 dishes including pumpkin soup, mushrooms with leafy greens, vegetables plate, bean curd rolls, spring rolls, and tofu in lemon sauce and endless pots of tea. I’m not vegan, but probably could be if this was the sort of food served daily.

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