Buddha's path

Buddha's path

Hong Kong is a wonderland that offers so much to the tourist it is difficult to make a choice. From the minute we landed from our Dragonair flight and walked into the ultra-modern new airport in Hong Kong, which occupies the complete Chak Lap Kok Island measuring one sq mile; we knew we were going to experience the most amazing sights.
From our hotel Novotel Citygate in Tung Chung which is five minutes from the international airport, we could see the cable cars moving across to a far away hill top and that is where we were heading on our arrival. That’s where the scenic Ngong Ping 360 Village with the biggest bronze Buddha in the world was. The whole trip to the village was an exciting adventure from the minute we went to the Tung Chung Cable Car Terminal.

Beauty from air

One hundred and nine cars glide up and down from Tung Chung to Lantau Island where the Ngong Ping 360 village is situated. Built two years ago, the cable car trip was a scenic delight. Twenty five minutes of visual pleasure in the 10 seater cable car which can carry seven standees took our breadth away. Crossing the Tung Chung Bay at a height of 900 metres this trip by road to the Village would have taken an hour over some steep hair pin bends, but we would do it in a few minutes.

Moving at a comfortable speed, our first sight was the Hong Kong International airport from Tower 3 of the cable car, then nature’s beauty unfolded at Tower 4 when we caught a glimpse of the Lantau North country. Our first glimpse of the Tian Tan Buddha perched high on top of the mountain was from the Nei Lak Shan Angle station of the cable car just before we arrived at the beautiful Ngong Ping cable car Terminal. Catching all that aerial beauty on camera kept us busy but we weren’t aware that we were being photographed by the ‘smart monkey’ in the cable car too. At the terminal it was amazing to immediately see our digital photo staring down at us from the wall.

A shoppers’ paradise

The fairyland that is Ngong Ping 360 Village offers a mind boggling line up of activities before one reaches the Buddha statue. The whole village tour can be a 90 minute experience, starting at the Ngong Ping village where shoppers can go crazy picking up fabulous shoes, clothes, food, souveniers, play game and browse though the artefacts.
We were obviously searching for typical Hong Kong memorabilia and gifts so our first stop was the Souvenier To Go store where embroidery, ceramics and brassware drove us crazy with admiration. For ornate jade, pearl and crystal we realised that the Gift Station was the perfect stop but it was an up market outlet.
Now what is the most typical item that one can gift from Hong Kong? It has to be chopsticks and there was a whole Chopsticks Gallery with different styles from Korea, Japan, China and Vietnam. And I always thought chopsticks were just two sticks you eat with!
I wanted something truly Chinese antique so stopped by the China Art Window where there was a vast collection of pots, plates, jades and Buddha statues and they matched my wallet. Chinese embroidery is well known and Red Plus had lots of it for the home and apparel; while Wooden House presented superb wood work.

Chinese confectionery is a class apart so Aji Ichiban meaning “the best and superior” had all the Asian delicacies like fish wafers, sweets, prawn crisps; but Woo Kee Loong Cake Shop had freshly backed crunchy peanut centered apkeng tong or duck neck sweets, dinosaur-shaped dumplings and lobster sugar — rather quaint in their names but very delicious.
‘Walking with Buddha’ is a great multimedia experience tracing the history of Buddha from birth to enlightenment. Besides the visual story we walked down a path where pendent lanterns lit up on branches of the Bodhi Tree and into a Palace where Siddharta Gautama was born and lived. Then we passed through the beautiful forest where the young prince lived. The interesting part was the simulated stinging rain and wind as we moved into the ‘cave’ where Siddharta became the Buddha.

Passing into the next scene we saw the past move into the present. Then into the temple which showed the contrast between modern life and serenity. We picked a leaf from the basket placed in this section where a simple message made us contemplate on life. We were then led into a hall where we laid the leaf at the feet of a semi-transparent Buddha statue as an offering. Finally through the path of enlightenment we saw the evolution of Buddha’s teachings where the Four Noble Truths on the walls are the essence of Buddha’s teachings.

A quick stop at the Nature Centre gave us an idea on natural herbs, we learnt the intricacies of Hong Kong’s tea culture and history at the Ngong Ping Tea House, spent 15 minutes watching the sound, light and animated ‘Monkey’s Tale’ at the theatre, grabbed some snacks at the Wing Wah Chinese Cake shop and headed towards the largest sitting Bronze Buddha in the world.

The bronze marvel

The Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery are the highlights of Ngong Ping 360 Village. Named Tian Tan since the base is the model of Tian Tan the Temple of Heaven in Beijing; the Buddha has his right hand raised representing the removal of affliction and the left hand gently resting on the knee and it depicts human happiness. The statue is the world’s largest seated outdoor bronze Big Buddha.

Costing $ 68 million, the statue was constructed from 202 bronze pieces and work on it was started in 1990 and finished on December 29, 1993, which is the birthday of Sakyamuni. The statue weighs over 250 tonnes and soars 34 metres into the air. Sitting atop 268 steps, the Tian Tan Buddha is positioned on a lotus throne overlooking Ngong Ping Village and the Ngong Ping Plateau.

The statue is magnificent as it looks down from its perch. Climbing up the 268 steps took us a good 10 minutes as they were quite steep; but once on top, the statue with its many inscriptions all around was an awe inspiring sight. The reversed swastika on the statue, however, baffled us a bit, but it is believed that it appeared on the chest mysteriously when the Buddha started his preaching.

The size of the statue makes it easy to see even from Macau on a clear day. What is quite unusual about this statue of Buddha is that it faces north, while all other statues face south. We visited the three floors at the bottom of the statue which are named the Halls of Benevolent Merit, Remembrance and Universe where it is believed that the relic of Sakyamuni consisting some his alleged cremated remains are. There was a beautiful carved bell with images of Buddha in the showroom designed to ring every seven minutes that is 108 times a day to symbolise the release of 108 kinds of human vexations. 

Imagine the Ngong Ping Village is just one of the hundreds of places to lose one’s self in Hong Kong and we had just seen one of them in a day. Will I need 365 days to see the others? Hope it happens soon!

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