On April 29, 2009 we left our 60 square foot hostel room in the infamous Chungking Mansions. We walked down the flights of stairs since the elevator was permanently broken, thankful that we hadn’t booked a place on the 20th storey. Refusing the nice Indian men who offered us cocaine and hash on the stairwell, we broke free into the already muggy air and made our way to the harbour, stopping at Subway for breakfast to-go. Our timing at the docks was perfect, and for $2.50 we boarded the 50-minute ferry to Lantau Island. We ate along the way, watching the freighters and the impressive skyline as our ferry chugged through the roiling harbour.
When we arrived at Mui Wo port, we circumvented the hundreds of parked bicycles and the McDonalds, and hopped on a bus to Po Lin Monastery. The ride was a hair-raising 35 minutes, and we got a feel for the mountainous island, which is twice the size of Hong Kong Island, but home to only 100,000 people. For those of you who may be familiar with the movie “The Family Stone,” we were on our way to the monastery that the oldest son regrets not going to see.
The massive Buddha was actually only recently erected, and the whole site is still being built as a pilgrimage destination (and tourism draw, no doubt). The Buddha is bronze and weighs a massive 202 tonnes. It’s the largest seated buddha in the world, measuring 26 metres tall. Those are some big earlobes! Around the main statue are six slightly smaller statues — females offering gifts to the deity. Down at the monastery, the copious amounts of incense smoke made me nauseated and a bit lightheaded. There were mostly Chinese tourists here, and we watched them light incense and bathe baby buddha in small fountains by pouring water over his head three times. The shrines were much like the ones we’d seen in Korea at the temples. The main temple was huge, with a massive bell and fruit and flower offerings everywhere we turned. If you’re ever in Hong Kong, I definitely recommend taking a half day to a day to visit Lantau!