Friday, July 22, 2011

[HONG KONG] Ngong Ping 360

Tung Chung is the last MTR station to the west and that is where you get off to transfer to the cable car going to Ngong Ping. You can take the bus if you are acrophobic or simply strapped out of cash. You can also walk. I saw a trail going up the mountains that you could follow, but that would take a lot of time and energy. The view is fantastic up there, what with waterfalls and cliffs everywhere. Add the breeze and it’s almost heavenly.

I think it’s weird that I still have mild acrophobia despite the various adventures I’ve had involving heights. I guess having more high altitude thrills is the answer for me to finally get rid of it. The cable car ride lasts half an hour or so. It gives you many aerial views of different areas like Lantau and the airport. The crystal cabins have glass floors which allow unrestricted view of where you would crash if the cable car malfunctions.

Once you reach the cable car station at Ngong Ping, what welcomes you is a small village of shops selling souvenirs. I honestly thought it would be some sort of cultural village with indigenous people, but no. It’s a village of shops. You see the Giant Buddha from afar and there is some sort of viewing deck with battle weapons on display. You got it right: Photo-op. There is only one path leading to the exit on the other side which leads you to the Giant Buddha and to the Po Lin Monastery.

You pass by a Boddhi Tree near the entrance for tourists who take the bus. It says you can make a wish. But you have to purchase something worth HK$ 150. Okay. Wow, Buddhism and Capitalism just got married, and the Boddhi Tree is the coin bearer. I don’t know how Buddhism works but I made a wish anyway for my uncle who passed away last year, who we fondly call Tito Buddha. I hope you have found your peace.

Before you reach the exit there is a display of cable cars from all over the world with a description of their history. Exit the gate and you'll find yourself in a road. Deciding where to go is easy because most of the tourist attractions are easily visible. You then enter a big white archway. I don’t know what it is called but it is similar to those big red gates in Japan that are not really gates because they are open. They just sort of mark the entrance to a temple. This one is white and the path to where it leads is lined up with different figures, which look like guards from another realm. I think one of them is named Mahavira. The description explains that they somehow represent the times of the day. Interesting. You then reach some sort of circular terrace. To its left is another one of those aforementioned gates leading to the Po Lin Monastery. To the right are the steps going up to the Giant Buddha.

I just had a quick tour of the monastery. Since I'm not a Buddhist I no longer entered the main hall. After snapping pictures here and there, I was done. They offer lunch meals for around HK$ 65, vegetarian, I suppose. And then began my hike to the Giant Buddha. Do yourself a favor and bring a bottle of water with you. It's an exhausting climb but the view of the Giant Buddha getting closer will inspire you to go on. Upon reaching the top you'll see three more statues each to the left and to the right. I have no idea who they are. Enjoy the view below. If you get thirsty or hungry you can buy snacks. If you're drenched in sweat you can buy a souvenir shirt under HK$ 100. There's some sort of “cemetery” inside where incense is lit for the dead whose pictures are plastered on the wall. No picture taking allowed.

There's one more tourist spot called the Path of Enlightenment. Oh no, I think I'm totally inventing names! You get the gist. It's on the other side of the hill so I didn’t go there anymore because I was already famished. After buying a bottle of water I went back to the entrance and rode the cable car back to Tung Chung Station where a Citygate Outlet mall is waiting. I ate at Food Republic and headed to Disneyland.

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