I loved the hustle and bustle and constant energy of Hong Kong but wanted to explore further afield so I boarded a train and headed north to Sha Tin. The train was old and rather grungy but my first class carriage was comfortable and almost empty. I was the only westerner and the only woman in the car and at each stop, the conductor would come in, smile and nod. He spoke no English and I no Chinese, but smiles are understood in all languages.
When I got off the train, there were a number of signs for the monastery and it took about 15 minutes to reach by foot. It's perched on a hillside and looks out over Sha Tin. It's a very pretty and peaceful site BUT there are lots of stairs to climb to reach the top. One travel guide said there were over 400 and I would agree, although I didn't have the breath left to count them.
Although it is called The Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, there are now over 13,000 of the clay statues of Buddha because people keep adding to them. Although similar in size and shape, a closer look reveals differences in poses. They are reverently stacked on shelves filling the walls of the temple.
In front of the Temple are large colorful statues of some of Buddha's followers as well as a 9 story pagoda filled with more statues.
There weren't a lot of other visitors about and it almost felt like I had the place to myself. The Temple has a number of terraces and from them you can see across the valley to the Amah Rock, a famous landmark. Legend says this rock was once a woman who climbed the hill to watch and wait for her husband's return. He never returned and the gods eventually took pity on her and turned her to stone as a reward for her patience.
Behind the main Temple, a smaller one houses the body of Yeut Kai, the monk who founded the monastery. The whole area feels very peaceful and serene and is a perfect place to relax and unwind.
The monastery is part of an organized day trip that you can book through your hotel or a travel agency but I enjoyed doing it on my own since I had more time to wander around.
Trains run regularly to Sha Tin from the Kowloon station and my first class, return ticket was under $10.00. A word of caution - the restrooms at stations outside can be very basic - just a hole in the floor - so be prepared.
Sha Tin is quite a large city with many hotels. As well as the monastery, it is also well known for its horse racing track, one of the largest in the country.