One of the most popular destinations for families in Hong Kong is the Tian Tian Buddha, better known as The Big Buddha. This is a 34-meter bronze statue that faces north to overlook mainland China as a guardian. While it might look older, it has actually only been around since 1993. Still, it has become one of the most popular religious sites in all of Asia, so you (and your children) must be respectful of that.
Near the Big Buddha is the Po Lin Monastery, an important working Buddhist sanctum.
Getting to the Po Lin Monastery in Hong Kong
There are many ways to get to the Big Buddha, it just depends how you want to go about and what you will feel comfortable doing.
Take the MTR to Tung Chung
The easiest and cheapest way will be to take the MTR to Tung Chung, leaving the station at exit B. This is a very busy station that has many of transport options for Lantau, including buses and the Ngong Ping Cable Car. These are the two main options, and thus, lines can be quite long. The best bet is to go early to avoid having to wait in line.
Take the 23 Bus to Ngong Ping
From the Tung Chung MTR station, you can easily walk to the bus terminal leaving through exit B. Go to Bus 23, which goes directly to Ngong Ping Village and the Big Buddha. The busses are full and the journey takes almost an hour, so you might want to bring something to entertain children.
Ngong Ping Cable Car
Another option is the Ngong Ping Cable Car. Once again, leave the Tung Chung MTR station from Exit B. The Ngong Ping cable Car leaves from the Tung Chung station and will go right to Ngong Ping Village. This is a shorter route and will only take about half an hour each way. Note that there are two options for the cable care, a more expensive one with a crystal cabin and a standard cabin. Don’t feel badly if you don’t have the extra cash, both rides are memorable.
The cable car operates from 10 am to 6 pm on weekdays and 9am to 6:30pm on weekends.
Note that there is some maintenance on the cable cars, so you should check their website for details as you plan your trip. If the cable car is down, busses will likely have a longer line.
Things To Do At Ngong Ping Village
Both the cable car from Tung Chung and the bus will take you to Ngong Ping Village, home of the Big Buddha and other touristy and cultural locations.
From the village, you can see the Buddha at a distance. You can also grab a snack, shop at the souvenir stand, and use the restroom.
For children, it could be beneficial to stop and enjoy the short film Walking with Buddha which is shown at the information center. The film not only tells about Siddhartha Gautama’s path to enlightenment and why this is a cultural site, it also goes over some of the rules. For children who are old enough to understand, it will make the experience that much more meaningful. The movie runs every half hour, so you may have to wait, but it would be worth it.
It only take about ten minutes to walk to the Big Buddha, so make sure to take your time and enjoy the views. There will be many people there, so make sure to keep an eye on your children. There are also many stray animals around, so make sure to keep everyone close – while most of them are safe, there could always be problems.
The Big Buddha
There are a lot of steps – 268 to be exact – to a viewing platform where you will get the best views of the Big Buddha, Lantau Island, and the Po Lin Monastery. It is free to walk up to the Big Buddha, but note that there will be many people there taking photos and hanging around – it can get quite chaotic.
An Important Place Of Worship
Once again, you have to note that while there will be many, many tourists there, the Big Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery are religious sites for the people there and for many people who are visiting. This means there will be people making incense offerings, people chanting, and people meditating. It is important to talk to your children about respecting those people.
If you wish, you can buy incense at nearby stall to make an offering of your own. You can use one of the candles to light the incense.
Where to Eat At Po Lin Monastery
Near the base of the Buddha, before you climb up the steps, you will see people selling tickets to get a vegetarian lunch at the Po Lin Monastery. This is a great way to introduce your children to the cuisine of the area, but it isn’t your only options. Many people will just get snacks at the Monastery and go elsewhere for their meals.
Many hotels will book you meals at the nicest and most highly rated restaurants in the area.
There are also some booths and counters around the Big Buddha where you can get cheap and good food. The amount of people trying to get food really varies depending on the time of the day and the season. Still, you should expect to wait for some time.
You’ll find a lot of tea options, mushroom soups, nuts, vegetables, bean curds, and egg rolls here. However, most people will go on and on about the desserts, which seem to be the favorite option.
Many people will bring their own food to the village and there is plenty of space to enjoy a picnic.
Another popular activity is to walk on Wisdom Path. This is a bit of a walk (about 15-20 minutes), but it will be worth it if you can handle it.
Along the path, you will see 38 steles engraved with the Heart Sutra prayer. This is a centuries old prayer. The tiles are laid out in an infinity pattern, but it is a very nice walk.
Hiking Lantau Island
If you are up for even more walking (note that walking shoes are absolutely mandatory for everyone on the trip), there are many hiking trails that scatter all over Lantau Island. You will see quite a few people hiking here, but you should note that you should stick to the beginner trails unless you know what you are doing. You can hike to the Big Buddha if you want, but that is for people who have a lot of experience hiking both uphill and downhill.
Most people choose to hike on the Lantau Trail, which loops around the island. You can’t hike the entire thing (43 miles) but you can catch a section of it. There are plenty of blogs online that will tell you which ones work best for your children and you.
Tips For Visiting Big Buddha In Hong Kong With Kids
There are quite a few ups and downs to visiting the Big Buddha with your kids. If you think your kids won’t enjoy Chinese food, you should either plan to bring your own food or eat in Ngong Ping Village, which has a few fast food places.
Make sure that your children are okay with walking and doing steps. This means putting them in comfortable clothes and shoes that they feel comfortable walking around in. Strollers aren’t going to be a good idea on the steps and a sling to hold your infants is probably the best bet. A stroller might be helpful down below.
How much time you really need depends on what you want to do. If you want to hike, it could be an all day event. If you want to only see the sights and then move on, you can do it all in about 4-5 hours. Remember that travelling will take some so you should figure that in – and add an hour for waiting in line.