Ngong Ping 360 is a tourist attraction most famous for housing The Big Buddha of Hong Kong, but the experience includes a spectacular cable car ride and other cultural attractions. Ngong Ping is on Lantau Island, which is still part of Hong Kong, but its seclusion makes it feel like a different place altogether. It’s an ideal day trip to see the calm, outer edges of Hong Kong and escape the chaos of downtown.
I long for peace after spending a few days in the city, and Ngong Ping was the perfect place to go.
After exiting Tung Chung MRT station on Lantau Island, we boarded a cable car and took a scenic 5.7 kilometer ride over a lush mountainous landscape. It became even more exciting when we spotted the big, bronze Buddha sitting serenely on the hill in the distance. (Can you see him?)
After stepping off the cable car, we walked through a Chinese themed village stocked with souvenirs and commercial coffee- for those who find their spirituality in sipping Starbucks- but that was the extent of tacky tourism. The rest of the journey was ours to create. We exited the village, and Buddha came into view.
The Big Buddha, also called the Tian Tan Buddha, is one of the largest seated Buddha statues in the world. He sits atop an unfolding lotus pedestal on Mount Muk Yue with his right hand raised extended to show no fear. And we feared not; we climbed the 268 steps to the top as dragonflies zipped around us.
Not only was Buddha overwhelming in his size and serenity, but the 360º views at the top were stunning. The hills unraveled around us, and nature presented us with her most crisp color palate.
Around the perimeter, six bronze Devas kneel in front of Buddha. Although smaller, I was just as taken with these kind creatures, who offered to the Buddha.
I came with the sole intention of seeing the Buddha, but Ngong Ping offered more than I expected. The bottom stairs spill onto a spacious piazza nestled in the mountains.
It was so random and awesome that cows were wandering and lying around the grounds, and they seemed pretty comfortable with cameras and selfie sticks.
Po Lin Buddhist Monastery is across the piazza. We walked through several structures with bright colors and ornate designs. Although Po Lin is a large attraction for both Buddhist disciples and tourists, it was very peaceful and enjoyable. It’s well tended to, down to the beautiful rose bushes and gardens.
Many come to Po Lin with incense offerings, so its heady aroma was thick in the air. Small incense, large incense, incense with designs… I even saw several sticks that were taller and thicker than my legs.
In search of fresher air, we took a 15-minute walk through the woods to the Path of Wisdom. This winding path is surrounded by 38 wood pillars with engravings from the Heart Sutra. It’s a sweet, simple path that may just inspire a few yoga poses. There’s other hiking trails around this area, too.
I appreciate the wisdom that peaceful, spiritual places offer us. With our lives so burdened by tragic news stories and and social media, I crave these places of peace where it’s so easy to enjoy, admire, appreciate, and just be.
We bid goodbye to Buddha and let the cable car carry us back down the mountain.