We loved Lantau Island so much that we decided to go twice! The island has much to offer and could have spent many more days exploring the whole place.
Lantau Island is the largest in Hong Kong, twice the size of Hong Kong Island! It is often referred to as ‘Hong Kongs’ Lung due to abundant forests and relative scarcity of high-rise buildings. Despite recent developments in the Tung Chung area and the airport, the population density is comparatively low here.
You can spend time here going to Disneyland; visiting Tai O fishing village; or hiking the many trails through the national parks that cover 50% of the island.
We decided to visit the arguably most famous landmark on Lantau Island: The Big Buddha. Officially called the Tian Tan Buddha, it stands at 34 m tall and is one of the largest bronze seated Buddhas in the world. Pretty cool.
The best and most popular way to get there is on the Ngong Ping 360 cable car!
The Cable Car
The 20 minute cable car journey takes you over some of the most beautiful scenery on the island.
The first stint takes you over Tung Chung bay with clear views of the sea and the airport.
After leaving the bay, you start to climb the mountains and get a closer look at the stunning valleys and hills of the Lantau Country Park. With a glimpse of the bridge to Macau, the worlds largest sea crossing.
Most surprising of all is the final turn at the peak of the journey. You can glimpse the Buddha for the first time: perched on top of a hill, protruding from the trees. I was blown away when I first saw it – it really was massive!
Tian Tan Buddha
Surprisingly, The Big Buddha is not a historical landmark and in fact was constructed recently, in 1993. (I like to think that is recently as thats a year after I was born, but that is of course over 20 years ago….)
As such, the Ngong Ping Village that goes with it is likewise not old and was in fact constructed to accommodate the vast numbers of visitors to the Buddha. So, it’s a bit touristy and ‘fake’. We didn’t really spend much time here but against the odds found some where that wasn’t crazy expensive to eat!
The Buddha was even more awesome up close.
A deceivingly long staircase up to the statue is hard work but totally worth it.
We felt so small against this colossal figure, not to mention amazed by the views of green mountains, Po Lin Monastery and Shek Pik Reservoir.
Po Lin Monastery
At the base of the Big Buddha you will see the Monastery; considered one of Hong Kongs most important Buddhist sanctums.
As you walk to the entrance you will see the many offerings of incense and people praying. It’s easy to forget, that whilst a popular tourist attraction, this area is of important religious value to many.
The Monastery itself is a rich and colourful complex, its gardens peaceful and quiet. I really enjoyed wandering the grounds and taking in the lavishly decorated halls and carefully tended gardens.
The Wisdom Path is a landscaped installation of wooden columns inscribed with the calligraphy of the complete verses of the Heart Sutra. There are 38 giant wood columns measuring 8-10 metres tall. They are arranged in an infinity symbol and follow the natural slope of the mountain.
It is just a 10 minute walk away yet curiously far less busy than the previous two attractions. It seems like it is not particularly well known among tourists but that was only to our advantage, as we had the place virtually to our selves!
Clouds began to gather whilst we were exploring and before we knew it we were surrounded by mist. It made our experience very ethereal and mythical.
On our second visit, I found the vastly improved visibility made for a very different atmosphere on the wisdom path. I was really pleased I got to experience both. As much as I enjoyed the mysterious look of the mist, nothing beats seeing something in brilliant sun shine.
Tai O Fishing Village
On our second visit we visited Tai O, a quaint and picturesque fishing village despite the large numbers of tourists that frequent it. I wasn’t expecting the village to be as genuine and authentic as it was! The pretty, mountainous setting, the traditional seafood markets and stilt houses made for sensational photography opportunities.
The boat ride took us through the waterways between the stilt houses, which gave us a good look at this way of living. Afterwards we were treated to a high speed dash out to the open sea, in the hopes of seeing a Pink Chinese Dolphin. Of course, I was under no illusions that we would actually see a dolphin. Particularly as the boat ride was advertised as 20 minutes long. We couldn’t have been at sea longer than 5 minutes however, the ride was very enjoyable all the same!
However, I almost forgot that despite this being a tourist attraction; we were in fact wandering around peoples homes and livelihoods. I was starkly reminded of this fact when I pointed my camera into someones small balcony, only to be met with someone putting out their washing. I instantly guilty and slightly weirded out by this village and how it has been essentially taken over by tourism. It left me wondering what the locals truly think, but I didn’t get the opportunity to ask.
A few words on Logistics…
On our first visit we were woefully unprepared and arrived at Midday. This meant we had to queue for over 2 hours. If you want to fit in The Buddha, Wisdom Path and Tai O I highly recommend that you arrive at the opening time to beat the queues. Opening times can be found here.
The first time we got the cable car, we opted for the Crystal Bottomed Cabin. I will say that the although the crystal cabin was cool, it wasn’t great for people afraid of heights (me). The novelty also began to were off after a time. I found myself more interested in the views from the windows rather than the floor.
The second time I visited I opted for a normal cabin and didn’t feel like it made a huge difference.
There are a number of ticketing options available including various levels of packages. You can also book online and skip the queue if early morning aren’t for you!
The first trip we just got a single trip and just bought a bus ticket from Ngong Ping back to Tug Chung.
The second time we opted for a package deal that got us a return cable car ride; a return bus ride to Tai O from Ngong Ping; and boat ride in Tai O. This cost about £40 but I believe definitely value for money. Especially if you are on Lantau Island all day and want to see all the attractions.
What do you think of our time on Lantau Island?
Let me know in the comments section!
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