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February 9, 2006
Most people will be surprised to find out that Lantau Island is about twice the size as the densely populated Hong Kong Island. The highest peak on Lantau (Lantau Peak, or Fung Wong Shan) is also about twice as high as Victoria Peak. Lantau is quite mountainous and has been a relatively quiet member of the Outlying Islands until recent developments have elevated its profile. The new Hong Kong International Airport at Chek Lap Kok was constructed upon landfill at Lantau. The Big Buddha at Ngong Ping was built in 1993 and has lured countless visitors to it and the Po Lin Monastery. Then there’s the new Hong Kong Disneyland theme park, which debuted in late 2005 in the Penny’s Bay area near Discovery Bay. The Tai Yue Shan (Big Island Mountain) of Lantau will never be the same.
Ngong Ping is a fine place to visit for the spectacular scenery itself. The site is not along the island coast but situated in the mountainous interior, so most visitors will get to appreciate a scenic looping bus ride on the way from the ferry or bus terminal. I always like to visit the Tian Tan Buddha statue first and then head to Po Lin Monastery, but choosing the reverse course works fine as well. There is no cost to climb the 260 steps to the Buddha, except a bit of physical labor, of course. There is a ticket booth where you can purchase meal tickets to the notable vegetarian restaurant if you desire the well-rounded Buddhist experience, but I declined (if you buy a meal ticket, you can visit the museum for free). This statue holds the distinctive title as the largest seated bronze Buddha in an outdoor setting. Its podium consists of several levels and numerous statues of figures presenting offerings to Buddha. The surroundings are quite impressive from this elevation, and you will enjoy the interplay of the statues with the mountainous backdrop. Note that the Buddha’s face is cast in shadow instead of sun in the afternoon, so go early for more enlightened Buddha photographs.
Po Lin Monastery is very colorful, and don’t forget to have the vegetarian meal if you bought a ticket. Stroll amongst the different buildings and observe some of the ceremonial rituals practiced by visitors.
Lantau is dotted with population clusters like Mui Wo, Tai O, and Tung Chung. The latter is rising thanks to its proximity to the airport, as the “New Town” there has increased the population of the entire island.
There are numerous ways to get to Lantau, and they seem to be adding new connections to the already elaborate public transit network. An MTR station connects Tung Chung to the airport and to Hong Kong Island, although a more leisurely ferry ride from Hong Kong adds to the overall experience. A new cable car “skyrail” under construction between Ngong Ping and Tung Chung should lure even more visitors to Lantau.
From journal Bill in China - HONG KONG (Outlying Areas)
April 22, 2001
From journal Hong Kong and Beyond