It’s not uncommon for people traveling to Asia to have a layover in Hong Kong. The good news is, you don’t have to sit around and be bored! You can visit the Tian Tan Buddha, or Big Buddha- one of the many things to do in Hong Kong, located approximately 40 minutes to an hour away from the Hong Kong International Airport.
First of all, get an Octopus Card. Not only will you be able transit, you can also buy food without needing to have any cash on hand. This is a great way to get Hong Kong dollar without having to exchange or withdraw money from an ATM. Simply load up your Octopus Card at one of the many 7-11’s in Hong Kong and you are ready to visit the Big Buddha.
To get there, take the MTR to Tung Chung station. Once you get off the MTR, you will then enter a mall called CityGate. The interesting thing about this mall is it has facilities for you to store your luggage!
Next, you either have the option of taking the Ngong Ping Cable Car, or the bus. Your option will depend on your budget, as the price for a round-trip gondola ride is $125 HKD, whereas the bus is only $17.20 HKD. You decision will also be based on your willingness to line-up for the cable car. (Hint: It’s a VERY long line up!).
Once you reach the top, that’s when the fun begins!
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Enjoying the Tian Tan Buddha of Lantau, Hong Kong
The moment you get off the bus and slowly make your way towards the Giant Buddha, you will be greeted by statues of generals, each representing one of the twelve Chinese zodiac signs. Once you pass these statues, you will find yourself in a large open space, where you are free to “collect” good energy or make a prayer while facing the Giant Buddha.
If you are buddhist, or would like to participate in Buddhist rituals, you have the option of purchasing incense from one of the shops near the Po Lin Monastery. Simply light the incense as an offering, and make a prayer at the many stations.
Prior to my trek up to see the statue, I made sure I fueled up on a delicious vegetarian meal at a restaurant inside the Po Lin Monastery. I feasted on mushrooms, and tons of greens, and enjoyed a large soup.
Once I filled my belly with vegetarian food, I began my trek up 268 steps to get to the top. Reaching the top can be challenging for those who don’t exercise regularly, but if you have been traveling for a while, and have done some hiking, you will be perfectly fine.
The View at the Top is Worth It
Once you make it to the top, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of Hong Kong, and of course, an up close view of the Tian Tan Buddha. Make sure you take lots of pictures, before making the trip back down!
If you feel like you haven’t done enough exploring, feel free to take a stroll through Ngong Ping Village, an outdoor shopping district. Here, you can find shops, restaurants and different attractions, such as the Bodhi Wishing Shrine.
When you are finished, simply line-up to take the gondola down again! Rather than eating at Ngong Ping Village, I opted for hot bowl of pasta at the CityGate outlet, before transiting back home. Or in your case, probably the airport if you do decide to visit Lantau Island during your layover.
Just a word of advice: the temperature can drop quite low, especially when the sun begins to set, so do yourself a favour and bring a warm jacket! Having a layover in Hong Kong no longer means lounging around if you don’t want to!
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