This is one of those posts where I’m covering a tourist attraction – the Big Buddha on Lantau Island in Hong Kong. The reason is because I live close by, on Lantau Island.
I don’t go into great detail on Ngong Ping and the Buddha itself in this post. Rather, I cover the different ways to get there and the benefits of each – as seen from the perspective of a local.
There are lots of sites online where you can get detailed information on the Buddha, the Po Ling Monastery and Ngong Ping (I’ve linked to one of them at the end), and there’s nothing new or different that can be added by another site!
How to get to Ngong Ping and the Big Buddha
Once you’re in Hong Kong there are two ways to get to the Big Buddha – each with their advantages.
First option: ferry to Mui Wo and then a bus
This option starts at Central, on Hong Kong Island. Go to Pier 6 at the ferry piers in Central – either grab a taxi or walk across the walkway from IFC.
Pier 6 is the Mui Wo ferry.
The Mui Wo ferries sail roughly every 30 – 40 minutes, depending on the time of day.
If the weather is good, I would recommend taking a ‘slow’ ferry, referred to as ‘Ordinary’ in the time tables.
This is because they have open decks at the back where you can sit and get a great all-round view of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the outlying islands as you make the trip across. The trip takes around 50 minutes.
Taking a ‘Fast’ ferry is quicker (about 30 minutes) but there’s no open deck. They are, however, air conditioned, so if you struggle with the heat (which can be oppressive because of the humidity), the Fast ferry may be a better option.
When you arrive at Mui Wo you walk out of the ferry pier and the bus terminus is right in front of you. Head towards the left and look for the Number 2 bus lane:
The bus ride is about 25 minutes and will take you along the South Lantau Road, through two villages and then climbs up the hill to Ngong Ping.
One word of caution: if you get travel sick I recommend you either take your travel sickness pills or take the second option for getting there (covered below)..!
The South Lantau Road is very twisty and even I (who never gets travel sick) have felt a bit nauseous occasionally.
Second option: train to Tung Chung and then either bus or cable car
The second option also involves starting at Central.
This time, go to the Airport Express terminal and take the escalators down to the trains – you want the Tung Chung line.
The train is fast and will get you to Tung Chung in about 30 minutes. From there you have the option of taking the cable car or a bus.
The bus is definitely cheaper – HK$18 one way. The cable car costs HK$160 one-way for a standard cabin where you’ll be sharing with others.
There are two upgrade options: a Crystal Cabin (HK$215, and still sharing) and a Private Cabin, which is not really worth it unless you’re going with a big group of people (it’s HK$3,800!)
The advantage of taking the cable car is the views: Hong Kong International Airport on one side and the Lantau Island mountains on the other (these images are from the Ngong Ping Cable Car website):
If you choose to take the bus from Tung Chung you want number 23, and the bus terminus is right beside the cable car terminus.
Follow the signs for ‘Ngong Ping 360’ when you leave the train station but, instead of taking the escalator up to the cable car terminus, stay at ground level and head round to the right. The bus terminus will be right ahead of you.
The bus trip is also about 25 minutes and you will climb up to the pass at Pak Kung Au (between Lantau Peak and Sunset Peak) and then drop down to join the South Lantau Road.
Once you crest the pass and start down the hill there are great views of the South China Sea and the ferries heading to Macau – to get the best view of this you should grab a seat on the right-hand side of the bus.
A good idea that doesn’t work out too expensive is to take the first option (ferry to Mui Wo and then a bus) to get to Ngong Ping, and then take the cable car back down to Tung Chung and the train back to Central. That gets you the best of everything!
Once you arrive at Ngong Ping and the Big Buddha
Once you arrive, there are three things to see, all within 10 minutes walk of each other.
The Tian Tan Buddha
You will need to climb a pretty steep set of steps to get up to the Buddha itself.
Once there, you can walk around inside and see exhibits and information on Buddhism and the Buddha.
I do recommend making the climb – quite apart from the Buddha itself, the views from up there are spectacular.
The Po Lin Monastery
After climbing down the steps from the Buddha bear to your right through a tall gateway and head towards the monastery.
Built in 1906, it has a beautifully maintained temple with ornate brickwork, joss sticks and a wonderful smell of incense.
Ngong Ping village
This is where the cable car arrives and leaves from.
It has been developed as a modern tourist attraction with coffee shops and souvenir shops – there’s even a cinema there.
This is not my favourite part of the area – it is total commercialisation..!
For more details on the Buddha, the Po Lin Monastery or Ngong Ping village I do recommend you read this article.
Here are some pictures I’ve taken up there:
Have you visited the Big Buddha? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!
The Expat Traveller