“The world’s largest outdoor seated bronze Buddha sits serenely atop Ngong Plateau”… This is the official tourism ad for this place on Lantau. Do not expect a quiet place, this is a major attraction for both Chinese and non-Chinese tourists! But it is truly impressive.
The Buddha was built in 1992 and financed mainly through donations. All the people who chipped in are remembered on the wall inside the big Buddha in different ways, depending on how much they donated. Visitors are invited to do the same: for no less than a 500.000 HK Dollars donation, you get a column with a dragon carrying your name!
Po Lin Monastery has been there forever and when Heidi visited it 20 years ago, there was nothing but the monastery in this area of Lantau. Now, there is the Giant Buddha, a convention centre, restaurants AND Ngong Village. Not that it is a real village, but an alley of restaurants, including Starbucks & Zen Taiwanese Bistro, and souvenirs shops… Tourists coming up in the gondola from Tung Chung, the final stop of the M.R.T. (subway) line on Lantau Island have to pass through this fake village in order to see the Buddha and the Monastery.
This MRT hugs the coast in the north of the island and was built to connect the newly built airport with the centre of Hong Kong. This was also new to Heidi who “back then” had to take the ferry to Lantau and landed on Kai Tak airport.
This new airport was built out on the ocean on land gained by dumping garbage into the sea and replaced the famous old one, Kai Tak, which was literally in the middle of Hong Kong. During the final approach, you could watch people on their balconies putting up laundry or cooking. This airport was also known to pilots as one of the most challenging one!
Although exhausted, we went on to visit the fishing village of Tai O, also a place Heidi knew from her last visit. This had undergone the biggest change: the stilt houses still existed, but lots of other houses had been built all around it. The hand drawn ferry had been replaced by a bridge and the street leading off it was lined with shops selling preserved parts of fish, catering to the predominately crowd of Chinese tourists.
This day on Lantau was a nice change from buzzing Hong Kong. Lantau is a green hilly island. Only along the new M.R.T. line can you find high skyscrapers and Hong Kong’s new pride: Disneyworld!