Hong Kong’s Lantau Island is home to the Giant Buddha, an 112-foot-tall bronze statue that weighs about as much as a jumbo jet. While the site can be reached via bus, taxi or ferry, backpackers may enjoy the adventurous gondola lift available from Tung Chung to Ngong Ping, which also provides access to the site.
The historical Buddha is believed to have been born during the 6th century B.C. into a noble family, whose territory lay on what is now the border between India and Nepal. He renounced the royal life for a pursuit of spiritual enlightenment. The Four Noble Truths that he taught, along with the Noble Eightfold Path necessary for transcendence, became the basis of Buddhism.
Journeys to the sites of significant events in the Buddha’s life began a tradition of pilgrimage that spread as Buddhism spread across the East. Elaborate Buddha shrines were constructed to draw the devoted. This tradition continued with the completion of the Tian Tan Buddha in 1993. Located near the Po Lin Monastery, the Buddha sits on a lotus throne upon a three-platform altar. Surrounding him, six smaller statues are depicted, making offerings to the Buddha.
The main attraction for backpackers visiting the Buddha is climbing the 268 steps that circle the lotus throne. Both the Buddha and the nearby monastery are open to visitors between 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The main temples of the monastery feature red interiors with mythical Chinese creatures painted upon the walls and ceilings. A tea garden is attached to the monastery.
Backpackers are encouraged to buy some cheap backpackers insurance, so that they can feel confident exploring Lantau Island’s miles of scenic beaches, dotted by fishing villages built on stilts. Boat excursions are also available, from which rare and endangered pink dolphins can sometimes be spotted.
Tian Tan Buddha, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
10:00 am to 6:00 pm