Just a brief ride with the MTR from Hong Kong Central but Lantau Island seems like a different world. The urban jungle’s madness is entirely replaced by the calm of lush mountains. There were neither skyscrapers nor crowded streets; only a magnificent Buddhist architecture rising from the sea of fog.
While the rest of Hong Kong busies itself with high-rise developments, Lantau Island seems to “take things slow”. Except for its northeastern part, the island was still covered largely by mountains and dense forests. The green dominates here and the only bursts of colors come from the remote Po Lin Monastery and the bucolic villages along the coast.
1. Po Lin Monastery
Tucked between the lush mountains of Ngong Ping Plateau, Po Lin Monastery is the place to seek solace to the soul. It is dedicated to Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, and is one of the most important sanctums in Hong Kong. The monastery is also known for its beautiful architecture which features colorful Buddhist iconography. From the intricate decorations to the imposing statues, visitors will be amazed by the colors of the “Precious Lotus” (literally translated from Po Lin).
A stone’s throw away from Po Lin Monastery is the Tian Tan Buddha – Lantau’s most prominent feature. Completed in 1993 after three years of construction, this 34 meters high statue represents the harmonious relationship between man and nature, as well as between the people and their faith. The statue seems rising from the forest, with the Buddha’s right hand is raised, symbolizing the blessing to all.
- The cable car Ngong Ping 360 is probably the most convenient way to reach Ngong Ping. It departs from Tung Chung Station and takes only 25 minutes to reach the plateau. Another advantage of the cable car is that it offers an aerial view of the entire island.
- There are two types of cars: the Standard Car and the Crytal Car of which floor is made of transparent glass.
- Among the most popular activities in Hong Kong, the queue for “Ngong Ping 360” is pretty long. Depends on your luck, you might get in the car in less than one hour. Please note that booking the ticket online does not grant you immediate access to the cable car.
- If you are not a fan of the cable car, you can take Bus 23 from Tung Chung Station. This option takes approximately one hour.
2. Tai O Fishing Village
Framed by the coast on one side and mountains on the other, Tai O in Lantau has long been the safe haven for the fisherfolk known as the Taka people. The village used to be a bustling trading and fishing port, but business declined as young people started moving out. And tourism has then become the new life source of Tai O.
Dubbed as “Venice of Hong Kong”, Tai O is popular for its historic setting which consists of hundreds of stilt houses. These unusual structures are set above tidal flats and linked together, forming a tightly knit community that literally floats on the water. The village is also known for its lively market in which local delicacies such as giant cuttlefish, salted fish, dried puffer, or homemade shrimp paste are on sale. Though the pungent smells might be slightly overwhelmed, they reflect the fishing heritage of the “Fragrant Harbour”.
- Tai O is accessible by Bus 21 which departs hourly from Ngong Ping. Alternatively, you can take a taxi. It only takes 10-15 minutes and costs about HK$ 50.
- It’s possible to take the Bus 11 from Tung Chung to Tai O. But it’s a lengthy journey.