Lantau Island, Hong Kong

Lantau Island is the largest island in Hong Kong. In case you don’t know where it is, you have already stepped onto it the moment you landed at Hong Kong International Airport. More well known for Hong Kong’s airport, Disneyland and the Big Buddha, Lantau is also a great place for hiking and beach lazing.Although I’ve been to Hong Kong several times, I never did take the time to visit the Big Buddha. So in November of 2013 I took the chance for a day trip to see the Big Buddha statue. Getting there is pretty easy. You just have to take the MTR to Tung Chung station. This is the place where you find the Citygate shopping outlets too and you will find many brand name shops here catering mainly to the Chinese tourists.

Take a short walk and follow the signs to the cable car station to buy your tickets. There are several types of ticket packages depending on whether you want the standard cable cars, or glass floor cable cars (crystal cabin), and tickets that combine several tourist stops (Ngong Ping 360). I opted just to visit the Big Buddha and a normal cable car. It gets very crowded at the cable car station and you should come early in the morning to avoid long waiting times (more than 2 hrs is typical).

Queuing for the cable car to Ngong Ping. The crowd was already starting to build up. I waited for around 45 minutes to board the cable car.
Queuing for the cable car to Ngong Ping. The crowd was already starting to build up. I waited for around 45 minutes to board the cable car.

I couldn’t have picked a worse day to visit. Typhoon Haiyan was battering the Philippines that day and although the eye of the typhoon was more than a thousand kilometers away, it was disrupting the local weather here, and periphery storm systems were bringing strong winds, rain and mist into Hong Kong. One thing to note is that the cable car does not operate when there is a typhoon warning.

The cable car ride is around half an hour, and passes over water and mountains for a nice view of the scenery.
The cable car ride is around half an hour, and passes over water and mountains for a nice view of the surrounding scenery.
Mist covering the hills as the cable car went up. The wind was very strong and I could see the cable cars swaying quite a bit.
Mist covering the hills as the cable car went up. The wind was very strong and I could hear it whistling through the windows. The cable cars were also swaying to and fro every time a strong gust hit. I really can’t imagine how its going to be like when there is an actual typhoon.
You get to see the airport along the way.
You get to see the airport along the way.
Hong Kong International Airport is actually built on a man made island.
Hong Kong International Airport is actually built on a man made island.
Looking back at Tung Chung, the starting point of the ride.
Looking back at Tung Chung, the starting point of the ride.

After about half an hour, I arrived at Ngong Ping. This is a small theme park village next to the Big Buddha. On that day, most of the stalls were closed (maybe I was too early, or the weather was really bad). I decided to have an early lunch before setting off. As a tourist place, the restaurants are expensive compared to Hong Kong, so if you are on a budget, bring your own food.

Ngong Ping. It was kind of quiet when I arrived.
Ngong Ping. It was kind of quiet when I arrived. The Big Buddha can be seen on the right hand side.
Walking through Ngong Ping. It's a cultural themed village.
Walking through Ngong Ping. It’s a cultural themed village and very touristy.
There is a wishing tree too.
There is a wishing tree too.
Better known as Tian Tan Buddha, this is the largest bronze Buddha in the world.
Better known as Tian Tan Buddha, this is the largest bronze Buddha in the world.
You have to climb up the steps to the base of the Buddha.
You have to climb up the steps to the base of the Buddha.
Even with the bad weather it was still crowded.
Even with the bad weather it was still crowded.
From the top you get a 360 degree view of Lantau Island. Below is Po Lin Monastery.
From the top you get a 360 degree view of Lantau Island. Below is Po Lin Monastery.
Po Lin Monastery is where a lot of Buddhists come to pray.
Po Lin Monastery is where a lot of Buddhists come to pray.

The visit to the Big Buddha will take you probably half a day. Besides this, there is Tai O fishing village (which I didn’t visit) where you can go for seafood (at tourist prices). Or you can take the cable car back to Tung Chung and shop at Citygate Outlets.

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