Hong Kong, Part 5 – Ngong Ping and Tian Tan

Author’s Note: This is the last of five posts looking to the past, to my trip to Hong Kong in September of 2008. Some of the details may be a little fuzzy because it was twelve years ago.

One of my favorite parts of this trip was going to Ngong Ping, for the Po Lin Monastery (which I forgot to walk inside of), and Tian Tan, the giant Buddha. To get there, you take the MTR to Tung Chung station at the end of the Island line. I want to point out just one more time that the MTR logo looks a lot like the Psi Corps logo. I’m just sayin’.

After you leave the MTR, you walk across a courtyard to the Ngong Ping 360, which is a cable car system. I quite like their mascot.

Boarding the cable cars is pretty standard fare for anyone who’s ever been on a cable car before.

One of my friends told me she took a curvy and terrifying bus up to Tian Tan. This way is better, in my opinion, but if you’re afraid of heights you might disagree.

The cable cars go past the Hong Kong International Airport first. The old Hong Kong airport had a single runway and planes basically flew directly into the busy Kowloon downtown- this must have been terrifying.

The newer airport seen here is an artificial island, created in part by flattening two other smaller islands and reclaiming some seabed. Construction of this airport added 1% to Hong Kong’s total surface area by the time it opened in 1998.

The cable car continues onward through a bunch of mountains until you get to Ngong Ping.

At 25 minutes long, the ride is long enough to make friends with your fellow cable-car riders.

It’s really quite spectacular.

Once you clear the bay, the cable cars go over footpaths up the mountains.

The cable car deposits you at Ngong Ping Village, a short walk from the Big Buddha. Lantau Peak (Fung Wong Shan,) the second highest peak in Hong Kong, is visible behind the Buddha.

This is the entrance to the Tian Tan Buddha. The Po Lin monastery is just across the way there, and I was so excited to see the Buddha that I completely forgot to look at the monastery. (This is not my most embarrassing tourism fail, but it’s pretty close.)

The stairway up to the Buddha has 240 steps. I realized about halfway up, while my legs were feeling like lead, that I am not in good shape.

Tian Tan is the world’s largest outdoor seated Buddha, though not the largest Buddha by a big margin. This bronze big boy is 85 feet tall from his base, on a lotus atop another platform.

Surrounding the big Buddha are six smaller (but still very large) bronze statues known as “The Offering of the Six Devas” that are posed offering flowers, incense, lamp, ointment, fruit, and music to the Buddha. Wikipedia says that these symbolize the Six Perfections of generosity, morality, patience, zeal, meditation, and wisdom, all of which are necessary for enlightenment.

When I set out to see Tian Tan, I thought it was an antiquity. I thought, “here’s a Buddha who’s been here for hundreds of years.” Boy howdy, am I an idiot. Tian Tan was constructed between 1990 and 1993. My niece is older.

Oh, and there’s a gift shop in the base, because of course there is.

In the “things Steven finds amusing” department, this book was in one of the gift shops in Ngong Ping:

What’s the biggest bronze statue you’ve ever seen?

41/52 (and 20 of 30!)

Home, Soon.

I’m in my fifth week in Tokyo, my final week. This week will be fun.

Fun thing #1: I get to see some old friends from Germany. Tuesday is dinner with Tuuli and Henri, friends from Regensburg, who moved to Japan a while before I left Germany. Wednesday is probably dinner with Charlotte and some of her friends.  Charlotte lived in Frankfurt, moved back to the UK a while back, but she’s traveling through Japan for two weeks on vacation with a friend.

Fun thing #2: My supervisor from Mr. Company is replacing me here, and she arrives on Wednesday night. We overlap for two days, which means I get to show her around. I like playing tour guide, and I forgot how much fun that can be.

Fun thing #3:  In five days, I’ll be back in the air, headed home.  I’ve missed home so much.  I’ve missed my girlfriend Amelie a ton, and I’m looking forward to having proper snuggles.  The most human contact I’ve had since my arrival in Japan has been the occasional handshake.

I fly out of Narita on Saturday, and I’ll land in Detroit an hour before I left.  International flight time travel for the win!   Here are some of the things I’m looking forward to:

  • I mentioned Amelie up there-  I’m super stoked that I get to go see movies with her again- movies and dinner are one of our favorite dates.  I missed out on Pitch Perfect 2 and Tomorrowland.  Ant Man is coming up though, and that’s excellent.
  • I’m looking forward to catching up with my family in real time.  I missed a lot of things while I was here-  my oldest niece had a birthday dinner at Melting Pot with almost all of my family, and I hate that I missed it.  My youngest niece had a recital, and I hate that I missed that too.
  • I get to go back to Tijuana Flats!  After five weeks, I’ve got Taco Lust like you would not believe.
  • I miss driving my car.  I kinda forgot what it feels like.  Last week, I remembered very suddenly that I have satellite radio in  my car.  I’d forgotten.

In a week or two, I’ll start to post more about my time in Japan.  I saw a great deal here, and I have a lot to share.  Until then, I’ll leave you with this picture of me at the Daibutsu (Great Buddha) in Kamakura, just outside of Yokohama:

hangin-with-Daibutsu