Hong Kong, Day 4 – Ngong Ping
Day four woke up to a slightly overcast sky but not so threatening. We had a full day planned, going up to Ngong Ping via cable car and visiting the Big Buddha there, and then continuing on to Disneyland.
First off, breakfast. Every day as we walked through the Grand Century Shopping Mall to our hotel, we would pass by this cafe and bakery shop. I told my sisters we should eat there one day but then we never had a chance to try the bread and pastries on offer. Finally, on this day when we had to get an early start, I had my wish come true and we had breakfast there.
Something’s got to be said about looks being deceiving though because although the cafe looked like a decently classy place with an assortment of mouth-watering bread and pastries, the service left a lot to be desired. Maybe we were too early and they do not deploy many staff in the morning, but that would be strange because people might want to have breakfast before work and it was a weekday. We had to wait quite awhile to be attended to and then served. The food wasn’t spectacular which was a disappointment after all that drooling from me 😛
Anyway, off we went on our little adventure.
Ngong Ping is the highland in the western part of Lantau Island. We took the MTR and don’t ask me how but after making a few switches at various stations, we finally arrived at Lantau station. A brief walk got us to the Ngong Ping 360, a tourist attraction comprising of the Ngong Ping Cable Car and Ngong Ping Village. After experiencing the Macau Tower walk on glass panel, none of us was brave enough to take the crystal cabin cable car, which has glass bottom, so we took the standard cabin.
The station staff will snap a picture of you before your cable car take off towards the mountain. The picture is available for sale when you reach your destination and it costs HK$100, if I’m not wrong, just like at Madame Tussaud’s where I bought the photo we took with Jackie Chan’s wax model.
The whole cable car ride took about 30 minutes or more and it was smooth going. There was no rain despite the overcast sky. We shared the cabin with 2 ladies from Malaysia, I think, and a man who turned out to be a shell jewellery stall owner (or worker) at the Ngong Ping Village.
Our stop was the Ngong Ping Village, a retail and entertainment centre. Upon reaching the little village with its touristy charm of little shop houses, restaurants and small kiosks, we found the sun to be at full blast. None of the overcast sky was evident there which was good for sightseeing, although the sun was slightly overbearing. We went into a souvenir shop (Walking with Buddha Souvenir Shop) for some air-conditioned comfort and got us some good-luck charms, some carved out of jade-like stones, and others made of nice glass beads.
We browsed the village and stopped at a rustic little eatery to have some Chinese desserts of soya bean curd and peanut paste before continuing up the slop towards Ngong Ping Piazza. This is where the spiritual and scenic attractions of Ngong Ping are found, including the Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery, Ngong Ping 360 (the cable car station) and the Wisdom Path (which we did not visit).
The entry of the piazza is marked by the Pai Lau ornamental archway and as you enter it, you’re walking the Bodhi Path, the central walkway lined on both sides by the statues of the Twelve Divine General (sorry, no pic of the statues). The Generals are protectors of Buddhism and they each guard two-hour section of a day. They also represent the twelve Chinese zodiacs signs and the sign that each General represents is carved onto his crown.
– The Pai Lau archway
– The Bodhi Path
Reaching the Di Tan, the open space facing the Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha (Tian Tan Buddha) where religious ceremonies are held, we were faced with the daunting task of tackling the steps that would take us up to the Big Buddha . Irene and Lina both elected to stay at the foot of the climb because they’d both been up there on their previous trip and Irene’s knees wouldn’t allow the climb anyway (she’d been suffering from knee pain).
So while the two LZBs sat at the base of the climb enjoying some grilled cuttlefish we bought from one of the little kiosks, Stef went up with me since it was my first trip there.
We were positively panting by the time we got to the top and had lost count of how many steps we had climbed. Wikipedia said a total of 240 steps leads up to the Big Buddha but we thought there were more and we were right. This site http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/see-do/culture-heritage/chinese-temples/big-buddha-and-po-lin-monastery.jsp says there are 268 steps 🙂
– Statues of The Offering of the 6 Devas, each offering flowers, incense, lamp, ointment, fruit, and music to the Buddha
Going down the steps wasn’t any easier for us, in fact, it was even more strenuous since we had to be careful not to trip and fall and start a human avalanche, and walking down the steps put a lot more strain on the knees. Stef joked that it would be easier and faster to roll down the steps but that would be a disaster. I still haven’t visited Disneyland yet!
By the time we reached the foot of the climb, my legs were shaking and my knees creaking LOL
We had another round of dessert, this time at a popular dessert chain that we can even find in Singapore (it’s called Honeymoon dessert here). That served as our lunch for the day.
Then we visited the Li-nong Tea House where I bought 3 tins of Chinese tea, Rose Pu-er, Jasmine tea and Long Jin.
The tea house is surrounded by a little pond and has little fishes and turtles in the water. A small bridge connects the house to the main path. The rustic charm and fresh mountain air combining with the ancient look of the tea house gives a feeling of being back in ancient times.
I thoroughly enjoyed the sightseeing here. The view up in the mountain is magnificent and gives a feeling of tranquility as one walks leisurely through the Bodhi Path. Would’ve loved to spend a quiet afternoon sitting in the tea house, enjoying the brew and view, but we had to continue on with our Disneyland visit. Well, maybe next time!