Escaping The City: Po Lin Monastery

Take your time to head up the long flight of stairs and explore the area around the Buddha at the top.

Hong Kong is well known for its crowded and bustling city life. Fortunately, the dense nature of Hong Kong’s urban areas means that the majority of Hong Kong’s land is open space. In these spaces, there is some truly spectacular geography. Set high in the hills of Lantau Island on the Ngong Ping Plateau is the Po Lin Monastery, an ideal scenic destination for a day trip away from Hong Kong’s city life.

A short ride on the public metro system, the MTR, takes travelers to Tung Chung, the real beginning of the journey. From here, there are three options dependent on how much money you have in your pocket and how much free time you have. You could choose a free but lengthy hike, a cheap bus ride, or a more expensive but speedy cable car ride. On the day I visited, we were running later than we had planned. So we had to bypass the three hour hike due to concerns that it would get dark on our way up. Additionally, the serious nature of the hike was clear by the spandex-clad and pole-bearing hikers returning down the hill after a long day.

Nixing the hike, we opted for the bus, and soon arrived at the Po Lin Monastery. The Ngong Ping Plateau offered surrounding views of mist-shrouded rolling green mountains, characteristic of postcard-perfect views of China. The main attraction here is the big Buddha. Take your time to head up the long flight of stairs and explore the area around the Buddha at the top. Inside is a small area with various displays to look at as you walk around.

Back at ground level, a short walk in the other direction takes you to the Po Lin Monastery. There, you can find ornate decorations and burning incense left by visitors. Although the monastery is a tourist attraction, it is important to be respectful of the wandering monks and the visitors who have traveled far to worship here. Even for those not too familiar with Buddhism, the entire site will still evoke a sense of awe and peace.

Once visitors head back to the cable car station and bus depot, they will suddenly be reminded of the fact that they are still in Hong Kong. A shopping mall will await them and shock them back into reality. Unless you are seeking overpriced chopsticks or a Subway sandwich, you should do your best to steer clear of this area and head back into the city.

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Anton Walker

Born in Aarau, Switzerland and grew up in San Diego, Anton always goes for a run in a new city - it's the best way to explore and see areas that sight-seeing routes won’t cross. As a huge car person, he always tries to pick up car magazines in different countries that he visits as souvenirs.

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