Buddha sites loom large and blissful for visitors
Hong Kong -- Places of worship sometimes turn out to be among the sights that travelers remember most.
That was my experience in visiting two prominent Buddhist sites while in Hong Kong: the world's largest outdoor bronze statue of Buddha, on Lantau Island in Hong Kong harbor; and the Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas in the town of Sha Tin, in Hong Kong's New Territories region.
Seated on the highest point of Lantau Island, not far from Hong Kong Disneyland
and the world's largest airport, the colossal Tian Tan Buddha (so named because its base is a model of a temple by that name in Beijing) was the most awesome sight on our journey. We had caught an earlier glimpse of it from the air at sunset as our plane was approaching Hong Kong.
The statue is 100 feet high and weighs 275 tons. We could see it long before actually arriving at the Po Lin Monastery.
We arrived at the monastery by taking a ferry from Hong Kong harbor to the Lantau Island village of Mui Wo, then taking the No. 2 public bus for a half-hour ride along a narrow, twisting road.
At the monastery, we paid 20 HK dollars (about $2.50 U.S.), which covered access to the Buddha statue, the monastery and a vegetarian lunch prepared by the monks.
The statue sits overlooking a stairway of nearly 300 steps, requiring almost everyone to look straight into the serene face as they climb. The seated statue has the right hand raised, which we were told symbolizes the dismissal of pain and sorrow.
The statue of bronze laid on a steel framework was completed in December 1993 after three years, at a cost of about $68 million. It is surrounded by eight smaller statues of deities.
Our visit, including the travel time from the hotel, required most of a day. Sometime this year, or by early next year, that time should be reduced substantially when a cable-car lift system
will allow visitors to take a public train to the Disneyland train stop (Sunny Bay) on Lantau Island and then ride the lift to the top of the mountain.