The gigantic bronze statue was built in the early nineties but just because it’s not thousands of years old it doesn’t mean you can’t have an enlightening experience there.
And if you are looking for some history, the Po Lin Monastery (at the Big Buddha location) is just as stunning and was founded in the early 1900s.
There are many ways to get to the Big Buddha, but I recommend the Ngong Ping 360 gondola. It is supposed to be the quickest/most scenic route. But while it is faster than a bus, it is a long gondola. It stretches 5.7 kilometres so the journey took us about 25 minutes.
We didn’t take the ‘crystal’ cable car with the glass bottom and I’m happy we didn’t. You can see perfectly out the windows of the standard cable car and it’s significantly cheaper at $185 HKD for a round trip (compared to $255 HKD in a crystal cabin).
And like I said, it’s a long ride. It took at least fifteen minutes before we even caught a glimpse of the Big Buddha.
There is also a path to hike to the Big Buddha. We didn’t see many people on it, and the few we did see were looking up at the gondola longingly. But, if you enjoy walking (with lots of stairs) and have about three hours to spare, this is an option.
Once you arrive there is a little village with shops catering to tourists. We stopped in one so I could buy myself a miniature bronze buddha, which was not a great deal at 250 HKD. This may not be the best place to buy yourself a souvenir from Hong Kong.
We then decided to check out the monastery, and were quickly drawn in by the sweet smell of incense burning. It almost seemed like a right of passage to go to the monastery, so we purchased a bundle for 15 HKD and lit it up.
I love incense to begin with, but there was something very gratifying about lighting these and then placing them where so many others had placed theirs.
This was just outside the monastery, you cannot go into the actual monastery, but only peer in at the entrance. I didn’t take any pictures because it almost felt as though we were intruding on the monks that were meditating inside. It was incredible to see how focused they were, and to listen to their song echo continuously, with no melody, and no end in sight.
We both walked away feeling grounded, peaceful, and grateful for having witnessed such profound spirituality.
We were now ready for the Big Buddha.
We walked up the 268 steps and then around the perimeter of the Big Buddha. We took time to marvel at all the statues surrounding it, each one presenting a different offering.
We walked around twice before we noticed that you can actually go inside the Big Buddha.
There is a museum inside with ancient writings and art. There was a small fee to go in, but it included a bottle of water and ice cream so it was a pretty obvious choice.
I will say the museum is not all that exciting (and it’s quite small), but given that the Big Buddha itself is not that old, it was nice to see some historic pieces within it.
Walking back down the steps towards the small village we were calm, content, and feeling as though our time was well-spent.
But our day wasn’t over. As we were blissfully sauntering towards the gondola, we came upon a bit of a surprise.
There were wild cows everywhere (where there hadn’t been before), and they had made a complete mess of the place! They knocked over multiple garbage cans, spilling trash all over the path, and they were munching on anything they could find.
It gave us a good laugh and was the perfect reality check after our otherwise tranquil day.
Take the Ngong Ping 360 gondola — it’s the fastest, easiest way to get there.
Don’t bother with the ‘crystal cabin’ on the gondola, it’s unnecessary and way more expensive.
On a windy/cooler day you might want to bring a jacket because there can be a bit of a draft into the gondola cabin.
Unless your heart is set on it, don’t make this the place where you buy your souvenirs. The shops are overpriced.
There are some shops to get snacks, and there is a vegetarian restaurant at the monastery, but other than that there are not many options for food, so I would suggest eating beforehand.
There is a museum inside the Big Buddha. It’s mediocre, but a ticket will also get you a bottle of water and an ice cream.
Go early/on a weekday if you want to avoid crowds.