The Long Climb to Big Buddha

Monday, November 28th

If you are trying to get to the Big Buddha, you have to know it's not as easy as just saying, "I want to see the Big Buddha!!"  And if you're trying to see the Big Buddha, it's best to not have an early afternoon flight home.

Our original plan was for the three of us to get up and check out of the Airbnb together.  Kat's flight was earlier than Adele and my flight.  So if we all left together, we could travel to the airport train/luggage drop-off as a group.  Kat would head towards her final destination.  Adele and I would head out to see the Big Buddha.  Great idea!!

Things changed.

Kat's flight was in the late morning, which meant she had to leave so much earlier than Adele and I wanted to wake up.  But the real kicker was that our late afternoon flight was delayed until the late evening.  We changed our strategy the night before.  The two of us decided to see Kat off, then clean up the room and check out by 11a.

Honestly, this was much better plan.  We weren't dealing with our luggage in rush hour on a train (always my concern).  We could be more leisurely as we finished up the last day.  Which was mostly good.  We dropped off our luggage and grabbed some dim sum.  We were close enough to the mid-level escalators and did some wandering.  After a while, we wandered our way out to Lantau Island.

If you're going to Lantau Island, you're really going to see the Big Buddha.  So figuring out where you're going isn't difficult.  Follow the people.  And signs.  But really, you just have to follow the people.

There were a lot of people.

It was about 2p on a Monday and the line to buy tickets to take the cable car to Ngong Ping/the Big Buddha took about an hour.  So, buying your ticket in advance (something we normally do) is imperative.

Once we made it to the ticket counter, there were various options.  Obviously, they want to sell you full day packages.  But to just take the cable car to Ngong Ping, you had two realistic options.  The Standard Cable Car and the Crystal Cabin Cable Car (one with a glass bottom,  We chose the Standard.

It was not the right choice.

The price difference between the Standard and Crystal Cabin cars is only HKD$70.  Less than USD$10-ish.  The line to get on the Standard car took another 30-45 minutes.  The line for the Crystal Cabin was half the time.  For $10 difference??  Take the Crystal Cabin.

Once we got to Ngong Ping, we were already into this adventure for 1.5 hours.  And we hadn't even made it to the Buddha.  It was 330p and we needed to be at the airport at 7p.  Time was not on our side.

Before you get to the Big Buddha, you walk through a street with plenty of food and shopping options.  Do you want a Starbucks??  You're in luck!!  It was...not entirely surprising, but slightly disappointing.  I know gift shops are ubiquitous at any tourist attraction, but it just felt a little more irritating here.  Maybe I was just more prone to the annoyance because it took so long to get here.

The main attraction is the Big Buddha.  Well, the Tian Tan Buddha.  Big Buddha is only his nickname.  But you can't get to see the Big Buddha until you make the last part of the journey.  The 268 steps up to the Big Buddha.  The 112 foot bronze-cast Buddha overlooks the countryside.  And everyone is there to reach the top.

Ok, maybe not this guy.
Before we went to see the Big Buddha, we kept hearing about how difficult it was to reach the top.  So Adele and I, laden with additional bags (carry-on bags for the evening's flight) were slightly concerned we it was going to be a problem to make it up there.

It actually wasn't.

As long as you took occasional breaks, the steps weren't a real issue.  Maybe I'm more fit than I think I am??  No.  No, that can't really be it.

Walking up to the Big Buddha, I was struck by how big it really is.  The statue does just tower over everything.  And for as crowded and irritating the wait was to get here, walking around the base of the Big Buddha was quite serene.

During the walk, you're greeted with six large statues on either side of Buddha.  These statues are posed as they make offerings to to the Big Buddha.

You can walk further into the base of the Big Buddha.  Here, you have to stop taking pictures.  This is an actual shrine where people go to visit and pray.  And you don't want to be a jerk.

There are also places inside of the Buddha where you can make some purchases.  Things like bracelets and statues, most blessed by monks.

Adele and I had decided we would head back around 5p.  Assuming we'd wait in line for the cable car for 10-15 minutes and another 25 minutes to get back towards the Lantau stop.  What we didn't expect was waiting 40 minutes to get on the car.  The Ngong Ping area closed at 6p, so obviously everyone was doing the same thing as us.  Trying to bug out earlier to avoid the rush.

The line moved at a decent enough clip, but seemed longer with the screaming babies surrounding us.  It also didn't help that we were just stressed enough about our upcoming flights.  Is there enough time to get back to the Metro stop to get to the Airport Express to get to the airport in time??

Well, yeah.  But we didn't know that at the time.

Overall, I really enjoyed the experience at the Big Buddha.  Would it have been easier if we'd gone earlier??  Or picked up tickets in advance??  Or chosen the glass bottomed cable car??  Sure.  But we made due with the day we were given.  And even with the stress and amount of time we had to wait just to start our journey, it was an excellent final day in Hong Kong.


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