We decided to be tourists around Hong Kong today. So off we went to see the Big Buddha on Lantau Island and the Po Lin Monastery. Good choice. It was a lovely, relatively low-humidity day and we got there early.
The trip was a mix of old and new, commercialism and simplicity. The MTR (subway)brought us to the island, and then we took a glass-bottom tram to the Buddha.
The tram station had all the feel of an over-the-top amusement park, and we walked in lines and snaked through dividers to enter the tram car. Once in the car, it was quiet and we started off over the hills and then out over the water. We were probably 600-800 feet high over the water, and then the tram started up the mountain. Below was lush vegetation and many birds. We could hear the birds in the trees as we went over the tops. The ride lasts about 25 minutes and after climbing higher and higher up the hills, we reached the top and could see the Buddha sitting even higher kind of floating above the trees.
Once you leave the car and start the walk to the Buddha, you have to go through an amusement-style village street. Very weird and obviously not part of the Monastery. There were Starbucks and several different noodle shops and souvenier shops along the way and amusemen-park-style music playing the same obnoxious tune over and over again. At the end of the street, it opens up and you can see a lovely working monastery beautifully cared for and a big sign telling you “go to the big Buddha.” You smell incense and every garden is meticulously cared for, and there are big dogs lazing around in the grass and sleeping in the sun. There are 240 steps to the base of the lotus that the Buddha is sitting upon. It is serene and calming to climb the stairs. At the top, there were 40 or so monks, nuns and Buddhists in active prayer, working their way clockwise around the base of the Buddha.
We spent quite a bit of time here taking in the view and considering where we were. At one point Steve says, “can you believe we are living here?” And, I can’t quite believe it.