Tuesday, June 7, 2011

That is one BIG Buddha

Kate @ the Wisdom Path ------------------------- Kari on the steps to the Buddha

One of the BIG draws in Hong Kong is the Tian Tan Buddha. It’s a BIG draw because it is the home of the BIG Buddha.

I can’t help it. Every time I think of the Buddha…I have to put BIG in all caps. Because, it is one BIG Buddha.

Getting to the BIG Buddha is more than half the fun. The BIG Buddha is on Lantau Island (near the Hong Kong Airport and very near to Hong Kong Disneyland )

The first time I went to the BIG Buddha we took the MTR (trains) to the cable cars. Now, one would think that traveling in cable cars up and over a huge mountain hanging from a tiny steel cable would be the scariest way to travel. The view was beautiful and you can get an “all crystal” cable car, which means it has a clear bottom to really scare the B-Geezus out of you. While a little un-nerving, the view made up for it.

This time, with Kari, the cable cars were not an option. It seems the cars and cable needed a month long maintenance session. Hm. Strangers on our Dolphin trip told us they had heard that the maintenance was necessary due to accidents. I had not heard that, and quite frankly, I don’t believe it. I think that cars that climb mountains need checking once in awhile.

So, Kari and I took the MTR to Tung Chung, and hopped onto the No. 23 bus.


I have written before that the bus drivers have NOT mastered the art of smooth driving…at all. I also ask that you go back and re-read the beginning of my post about going to Stanley.

I have to admit I did not read the ENTIRE description in Frommer’s Guide to Hong Kong about the ride to the Buddha. It was hidden in the middle of a paragraph. They call the ride “not for the faint of heart” Boy, is that an understatement. It was 45 minutes of turns, stops, starts, farm animals and holding on for dear life. Kari and I got the last two seats on the bus so we were in the very back on the bench seat..so we did not have arm rests to hold on to…we braced our feet and prayed the entire way. The ride to Stanley was a cake-walk compared to this ride!

The BIG Buddha becomes visible well before you get there. Well, you catch glimpses of it before you get there. There are vast rolling hills of green and trees that the Po Lin Monastery is nestled in to.

Once there we hopped off of the bus and made our way towards the statue.

So…how BIG IS the BIG Buddha? Here are some of the stats: It was started in 1990 and was finished at the end of 1993. It is 34 meters (112 feet) tall. It weighs 250 metric tons (280 of “our” tons). It was the biggest sitting Buddha until 2007. Rumor has it on a clear day; you can see it from Macau. I am not sure I believe that with the quality of air around here. There are over 260 steps that take you to the base of the Buddha.

There is no charge to go to the BIG Buddha. To go inside the BIG Buddha, you must buy a ticket. For that, you do get served a vegetarian lunch. Kari and I passed. We had our hearts set on Subway.

Walking to the Buddha, you pass 12 warriors. There is also a very fun series of signs that lets you know how far you are from various places in the world. I liked taking Kari’s picture in front of the New York sign.

After getting up the stairs (and taking pictures along the way giving us the opportunity to stop and rest), we walked around and admired the views from almost the peak of Lantau Island.

We worked our way down and made our way to the Wisdom Path. This was a 15 minute walk from the Buddha on a smooth path, but through some very humid woods and through bug central. I knew they were bugs. Kari was convinced there were snakes; we didn’t see any, thank heaven!

The Wisdom Path was built in 2005. It consist s of 38 huge wood pillars that are engraved with part of the Heart Sutra in Chinese characters. Frommer’s says that they are placed in a Figure 8…you cannot tell this from the ground level...and it is supposed to symbolize Infinity.

We were definitely smart by getting to the Buddha relatively early in the day. We also lucked out by being alone on the Wisdom Path. By the time we were making our way back, there were hordes of people coming to get wise. (I felt wiser...do I look wiser?)

In true Hong Kong fashion…what would any destination be without shopping? There are many shops that line a walkway that would have taken us back to the safe cable cars, had they been running. My favorite shop is the chop stick shop (and I do have to admit that when I was there the first time I did buy two pair of shoes)…but Kari and I only had time to glance at one or two shops before heading for the bus.

Because we got to sit in seats on the way down, we didn’t have to cling to each other to stay upright. The ride down was just a little more hair raising b/c the momentum of the bus going downhill made the ride seem faster.

Some of the not – so faint hearted even stood on the way down. That would never ever happen...I would rather wait for the next bus. I don't stand in the city, let alone hurtling down a mountain.

Kari and I ended up at the “outlet” mall (because, once again, what would any destination be w/o shopping?). The outlet malls here need outlets…that’s how high end they are!

The BIG Buddha is just that…one BIG Buddha. It is the center of Buddhism in Hong Kong. It is beautiful, breathtaking, and scary to get to and well worth the effort! I will go back and explore the Island even more.

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