Hiking at Big Buddha and the Wisdom Path
I’d been wanting to go up to Ngong Ping to refresh my shots of the Tian Tan Buddha for some time. Ngong Ping is on Lantau, a large rugged island laced with some fabulous hiking trails. Exploring the area, looking for good vantage points, turned out very rewarding indeed.
Ngong Ping itself is a plateau. None of the paths in its immediate vicinity are particularly challenging so I pieced together a short route which combines the familiar attractions of the monastery and Buddha with a walk along dappled forest trails and open mountain sides which gave me the views I was looking for. The route also gives a brief glimpse of Lantau’s grandeur.
Many of the paths have names. My route doesn’t follow a single path but rather takes advantage of the converging and crossing of them.
It starts at the cable car terminal. Ngong Ping village is a purpose built tourist village with coffee shops, eateries and souvenirs. A little footbridge which offers a good view of the Buddha across the rooftops of the village can be accessed by a lift on the right or by a flight of stairs on the left,
After passing through the village, turn left through the paifang, a traditional Chinese archway, and into Ngong Ping Piazza. This is a broad open space leading directly to the Po Lin Monastery. It is impossible to miss the Tian Tan Buddha which sits at the top of a long flight of steps on the right. The steps, 260 of them, may look daunting but a climb to the top is rewarded with grand views of the monastery and surrounding countryside.
The monastery was founded in 1906 by three monks visiting from China. The main temple is home to three bronze Buddha statues representing his past, present and future lives. Construction of the bronze Tian Tan Buddha was completed in 1993 and is thirty-four metres (112ft) tall.
Near the steps is another paifang in front of which is a small lane branching off to the right. Just before the lane comes to an abrupt end there is a path to the right which continues to a little T junction. There is a sign post here which points left towards Lantau Peak, the Ngong Ping Fun Walk, and the Wisdom Path. Following this leads past a few small abandoned buildings to a fork in the trail. The Wisdom Path is about 300 metres along the right hand fork.
This winds up and down the hillside in a loop. Along its route are thirty-eight tall wooden pillars, tree trunks that have been split down the middle. Carved on to the smooth inside are verses from the ancient Heart Sutra. Viewed from above the pillars it would be seen that the pillars are arranged into an infinity symbol. If you are lucky enough to be there early, when there are not too many people, it is surprisingly serene and just a little bit surreal at the same time.
At the end of the Wisdom Path there are two paths to your right. The first one leads down through the forest to the Shek Pik reservoir, the path next to it, up to the summit of Lantau Peak itself. The Ngong Ping Fun Walk is sometimes labelled the Ngong Ping Tree Walk. The rationale for this can be seen as it continues, straight ahead, through the pleasant, shady forest. There are numerous panels describing the species that can be seen along the way. After crossing a small bridge the trail reaches a junction.
Read: Hiking for Lantau
The Fun Walk turns left here and makes it’s way back towards the Buddha. To the right is the Tei Tong Tsai Country Trail. Straight across is the Nei Lek Shan Country Trail. This path is actually a circuit that runs around the 751m (2,464 ft) the hill that it is named after. The path climbs for about 180 metres until it comes to another junction.
Turn left here and continue climbing. There are grand views off to the left and presently the Tian Tan Buddha comes into view on a distant hillside. The path continues, sometimes in forest, sometimes open. The views are so good that in one place there is a bench where you can sit and absorb it all. A little further along a viewing platform with an information board points out the names of all the features that can be seen.
Shortly beyond this the path starts to turn north and the cable cars come into view. Finally it drops down a flight of steps where it rejoins the path that skirted around the other side of Nei Lek Shan. A left turn here leads gently downhill back towards Ngong Ping again and more splendid views of the Buddha. Finally the path meets the cable car and continues beneath it for the last few metres back into Ngong Ping village.
The entire route is just a shade over four kilometres. The Buddha statue is illuminated on the first and fourteenth day of the lunar month, ie the new moon and the night before full moon. If you stay for the illuminated Buddha it is worth remembering that the last buses and cable car tend to leave quite early. If you do miss them it takes about thirty minutes to walk down the hill (2.3 kilometres) to the main road where there the number 23 bus goes to Tung Chung about every 15 minutes. The number 1, to Mui Wo ferry is about once an hour. Download the New Lantao Bus Company app for your phone