Tian Tan Buddha (Lantau Island, Hong Kong)

Tian Tan Buddha Statue

The majestic Big Buddha statue, sitting atop the peak of 479 m. high Mount Muk Yue, is sited near Po Lin Monastery.  At ground level, the statue was quite a formidable and imposing sight. Together with many other tourists, we were huffing and puffing on our way up, only catching our breath at a number of stair landings. The view of Lantau Island, the 934 m. (3,064 ft.) Lantau Peak and the South China Sea from the top was ’breathtaking.

This large bronze statue of Buddha Shakyamuni, a major center of Buddhism in Hong Kong and a popular tourist attraction, symbolizes the harmonious relationship between man and nature, people and faith.  The statue, skillfully mastered and conceptualized by the artist to shape the perfect design of the Buddha statue that we see today, was a culmination of the characteristics of Buddhist sculptural art of the Sui and Tang Dynasties (when Buddhism was at its prime).

Taking 12 years to plan and build, this bronze Buddha statue, an outstanding piece in Buddhist sculptural art in recent history, is now a major landmark in Hong Kong attracting numerous local and overseas Buddhists and visitors.  It symbolizes the stability of Hong Kong, prosperity of China and peace on earth.

The author at the foot of the stairs leading up to the Buddha

The Big Buddha Statue, combining traditional bronze art with modern science and technology, embodies the harmonious resonance of Buddhist spirit and modern civilization – a solemn epitome of human beings’ continuous and unyielding pursuit of moral happiness and peace on earth.

Grace (near left), Cheska (fifth from left), Bryan (sixth from left) and Kyle (right) making their way up the stairs

Here’s the timeline of the statues construction:

  • In 1974, the government granted Po Lin Monastery 6,567 sq. m. of land in Mount Muk Yue, at a nominal premium, for the building of the Buddha statue.
  • On December 26, 1981, the Committee for the Construction of the Tian Tan Buddha Statue was formally established, by Po Lin Monastery, to coordinate the project, including the artistic design and concept of the statue, building materials and details of construction.
  • On April 1982, the work on the 1:5 scale, 5 m. high plaster model of the statue, fashioned by Ms. Hou Jinhui of the Guangzhou Institute of Fine Arts, was started.
  • On February 1984, the plaster model was completed, the draft of which had been revisited eight times, following discussions and consultations with the artist responsible for the conceptual design of the statue.
  • On September 26, 1986, the plaster model of the statue was shipped to Nanjing from Guangzhou.
  • On April 1989, the bronze pieces were transported to Hong Kong by sea.
  • On October 13, 1989, the last bronze piece of the statue was put in place and a solemn topping ceremony was held on the same day.
  • On December 29, 1993, which the Chinese reckon as the day of the Buddha’s enlightenment, the statue was inaugurated, with monks from around the world invited to the opening ceremony. Also taking part in the proceedings were distinguished visitors from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and the United States.

Halfway up the stairs

The project was divided into six stages, with Nanjing Chengguang Machinery Plant of the China Astronautics Science and Technology Consultant Corporation principally carrying out the actual casting, finishing and assembly of the Buddha statue.  During the overall project design stage, over 5,000 drawings and 300 technical documents were produced within less than three months. The daily and monthly work progress for the subsequent three years was mapped out and prepared by system analysis.

The enlargement, carried out by the technical staff through a special “survey-controlled box enlargement method,” involved the use of stereoscopic photography to find out the position of the statue in space.  When over 3,900 coordinate points were established, the computer was then used to calculate the enlargement. At the same time, to form the inner frame of the statue, a traditional method of using boxes which were stacked up in layers was used. Then plaster was applied to the outer surface, producing a 1:1 scale model.

 

The body of the statue, cast in 202 bronze pieces after careful studies and surveying, was supported by an inner steel framework and fixed by connecting bolts. Auxiliary supports were used to connect the bronze pieces to the main framework.  The bronze pieces had thicknesses ranging from 10 to 13 mm. and the error margin of each cast piece was less than 3 mm..  Precision molds were prepared according to the different shapes of the pieces.

Halfway up the stairs

After overcoming numerous difficulties, the professional staff, in an effort to portray fully the splendor of Buddha Sakyamuni and to achieve a perfect artistic design, managed to finally cast the face of the Buddha in a single piece. To rehearse for the on-site assembly, a trial assembly was carried out in the plant where any problems that might occur on site were detected and solved.

View of Po Lin Monastery

The Buddha statue was trial assembled separately in three sections (upper, middle and the lower) and various necessary adjustments and trimmings were made to the bronze pieces plus initial mechanical finishing was also carried out.

Jandy with the Big Buddha in the background

 

On arrival at Lantau Island, the very large face piece and two other large bronze pieces were safely transported up to Mount Muk Yue with the help of the Transport Department who provided a large lorry and two large cranes (which sandwiched the lorry in the middle) for this arduous journey up the winding and narrow roads on the island. The arduous task of assembly and welding (the length of weld was over 5 kms.) of the statue was carried out, in open air, from bottom upwards in eight layers.

To ensure that the Buddha statue would not be damaged by strong winds, calculations on the wind pressure, imposed load and material strength of the various parts of the statue were conducted the specialists using computers and the Beijing Institute of Aerodynamics specially created a testing model, utilizing the wind tunnel employed for satellites and rockets, to conduct unidirectional as well as multi-directional wind tests on the statue as a whole and on the various parts.

The Offering of the Six Devas

The optimal coating for the surface coloring of the statue, carefully studied for over a year, was selected from various formulas for surface coloring.  Oozing an air of classical simplicity and solemn dignity, it is not susceptible to fading because of corrosion due to the exposure to the elements.

One of the halls inside the podium

Here are some interesting trivia regarding the statue:

  • The design of the statue was based on the 32 laksanas (“physical marks” of the Buddha as described in the sutras).
  • The Tian Tan Buddha is one of the five large Buddha statues in China and is the biggest sitting Buddha statue built outdoor.
  • The statue was named The Big Buddha because its base is a model of the Earthly Mount of Tian Tan (or Altar of Heaven), the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.
  • Enthroned on a lotus on top of a three-platform altar, it is surrounded by six smaller bronze statues known as “The Offering of the Six Devas,” symbolizing the Six Perfections of generosity, morality, patience, zeal, meditation and wisdom, all of which are necessary for enlightenment.  They are posed offering flowers, incense, lamp, ointment, fruit and music to the Buddha.
  • Every feature of the Buddha statue has a symbolic meaning of religious significance. The face, measuring 4.3 m. by 5.8 m., with a thickness of 13 mm. and a weight of 5 metric tons, was modeled after the Buddha Vairocana of the Longmen Grottoes for its fullness and serene beauty. The clothes and headgear had their inspiration from the soft and smooth flowing lines of the Buddha Sakyamuni image in Cave 360 of the Mogao Caves.
  • For the building of the Buddha statue, the original idea was to use reinforced concrete. However, due to artistic requirements, structural problems as well as the anticipated difficulties in quality and cost control, bronze was finally chosen as the building material.
  • The Big Buddha is 34 m. (112 ft.) tall, weighs over 250 metric tons (280 short tons) and was constructed from 202 bronze pieces.
  • Reputedly the figure can be seen across the bay from as far away as Macau on a clear day.
  • In addition to its exterior components, there is a strong steel framework inside to support the heavy load.
  • Visitors have to climb 268 steps to reach the Buddha. However, to accommodate the handicapped, the site also features a small winding road for vehicles.
  • The Buddha’s raised right hand represents the removal of affliction while the left hand, resting open on his lap, is in a gesture of generosity.
  • The statue faces north, which is unique among the great Buddha statues, as all others face south.
  • One of the statue’s most renowned features inside is a relic of Gautama Buddha, consisting of some of his alleged cremated Only visitors who purchase an offering for the Buddha are allowed to see the relic, entering to leave it there.
  • On October 18, 1999, the Hong Kong Post Office issued a definitive issue of landmark stamps, of which the HK$2.50 value depicts The Big Buddha.
  • In 2000, the Big Buddha Statue was elected as the fourth of the 10 Engineering Wonders in Hong Kong (the others, all public works projects, are the Lantau Link, the Hong Kong International Airport Passenger Terminal and the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre Extension). Of the projects in the private sector, the Big Buddha Stature came as the first.
  • On May 22, 2012, it was also featured on the HK$3 value of the Five Festival set, this one celebrating the birth of Sakyamuni Buddha. The MTR corporation also issued a souvenir ticket featuring a photograph of the statue.

View of Lantau Island and South China Sea

There are three floors beneath the statue – Hall of the Universe, Hall of Benevolent Merit and Hall of Remembrance.   In the show room, there’s a huge carved bell, inscribed with images of Buddhas and designed to ring every 7 minutes, 108 (symbolizing the release of 108 kinds of human vexations) times a day.

View of Lantau Peak

Tian Tan Buddha: Ngong Ping Rd., Ngong PingLantau Island, Hong Kong. The Buddha (as well as Po Lin Monastery) are open daily, 10 AM to 5 PM. Access to the outside of the Buddha is free of charge, but there is an admission fee to go inside the Buddha.

How to Get There: Visitors can reach the site by bus or taxi, travelling first to Mui Wo (also known as “Silvermine Bay”) via ferry from the Outlying Islands piers in Central (pier No. 6) or to Tung Chung station via the MTR, or via the 25-min. Ngong Ping 360 gondola lift between Tung Chung and Ngong Ping. Visitors may then travel to and from the Buddha via the Mui Wo ↔ Ngong Ping (NLB No. 2) and Tung Chung ↔ Ngong Ping (NLB No. 23) bus routes.

Ngong Ping Piazza (Lantau Island, Hong Kong)

New Pai Lau of Ngong Ping Piazza

During our cable car ride to Ngong Ping Village, we already saw the huge Tian Tan Buddha (also called the Big Buddha) statue sitting on the side of the mountain and, after our return from our visit to Tai O Fishing Village, we proceeded to go there.  Along the way, we had to traverse the length of the 1.5-hectare Ngong Ping Piazza.

The author at Bodhi Path

The piazza, where visitors could get started and tour to observe the religions and nature of Ngong Ping, connects with Po Lin Monasterythe Big BuddhaNgong Ping Cable CarNgong Ping Village and the Wisdom Path, a landing with 38 impressive, 8-10 m. high wooden rectangular beams, each beam inscribed with Chinese scriptures that  make up the prayers of the Heart Sutra, one of the most popular Buddhist prayers.

Check out “Po Lin Monastery, Tian Tan Buddha, Ngong Ping 360 and Ngong Ping Village

This intensely Buddhist piazza has four main components – New Pai Lau (built to reflect the northern architectural style of Qing Dynasty); Bodhi Path; Di Tan (Altar of Earth); and a Chinese landscaped garden constructed to echo with the design of Po Lin Monastery.

Stone statue of General Mihira

As we left Ngong Ping Village, we walked through the New Pai Lau, the towering ornamental archway to Bodhi Path, the central walkway paved with lotus tiles, where we were surrounded by Chinese structures that emit an aura of antiquity, appreciating the stone statues of the 1.8 m. high “Twelve Divine Generals” (each weighing about 1 ton) as well as 40 lotus-shaped stone lanterns installed on both sides.

Stone statue of General Anila

The “Twelve Divine Generals,” the protectors of the Healing Buddha, are also guardians of the hours of the day, each responsible for a two-hour period.

Di Tan at Ngong Ping Piazza

In addition, they represent the twelve Chinese zodiac signs, as denoted by the different zodiac signs on their crowns. Di Tan, the open space of Po Lin Monastery, is primarily tiled with grey granite paving. The four lotus ponds, built on the perimeter, facilitate the staging of religious ceremonies and rituals held from time to time.

Tai O Fishing Village (Lantau Island, Hong Kong)

Entrance to Tai O Fishing Village

From the Ngong Ping Village, we walked towards the bus terminal and boarded Bus 21 which leaves about every hour or so for Tai O (Chinese: 大澳) Fishing Village, a short 15-min. (6.7- km). drive via the Lantau Trail Section 4 and Tai O Rd.

Check out “Ngong Ping Village

This quaint and picturesque fishing town is partly located on an island of the same name on the western side of Lantau Island in Hong Kong. Despite damage by a large fire in July 2000, Tai O is still a tourist spot for both foreigners and residents of other parts of Hong Kong.

The village’s name, meaning “large inlet,” refers to the outlet for Tai O Creek and Tai O River which merges as it moves through Tai O. On the southwest part of Lantau Island, the Tai O River splits to the north (as Tai O Creek) and west.  At this fork lies the island referred to as Tai O.

The village is located mostly on the banks of the Tai O River. Two pedestrian bridges cross the river on its northern and western forks. The western and northern parts of the island, facing the South China Sea, are uninhabited.

For a short time, Tai O was once occupied by Portuguese during the Battle of Tamao (a naval battle, in 1521, where the Ming imperial navy defeated a Portuguese fleet led by Diogo Calvo).

Souvenir items

In 1729, a fort was built at nearby Fan Lau  to protect shipping on the Pearl River. When the British came to Hong Kong, Tai O was then known as a village of the Tanka, a community of fisher folk who’ve, for generations, built their houses on stilts above the tidal flats of Lantau Island.

Dried squid

During and after the Chinese Civil War, Tai O became a primary entry point for illegal immigration for those (mostly Cantonese) escaping from the People’s Republic of China, some of whom stayed in Tai O.  Tai O also attracted people from other Hong Kong ethnic groups, including Hoklo (Hokkien) and Hakka.

Dried fish

Tai O used to be a very important trading and fishing port, but this is a thing of the past. Currently, while many residents still continue to fish, the fishing lifestyle in Tai O is dying out as it barely provides a subsistence income. Though there is a public school on the island, most of its young people move away when they come of age.  Today, tourism seems to be Tai O’s drawcard with the Stilt Village it’s biggest attraction.

The harbor

Upon arrival at the bus terminus, we walked towards the lively, traditional seafood market.  A feast for the eyes (but, perhaps, not the nose), we strolled through its stalls and alleys, checking out the live seafood tanks and the vast array of dried traditional salted fishshrimp paste, XO sauce, salted egg yolk, laogong bin (husband cake), vegetables (some of which we did not recognize), knick knacks and souvenirs (pearl jewelry) being sold at storefronts.

Boarding our kaido

At the booth of Tai O Boat Excursion Limited, we boarded one its kaidos (small ferry boats that accommodates around 10-12 people) that would take us on an approximately 20-min. tour (which we booked beforehand online) along the river, for a close up view, of activity surrounding the harbor and the daily life in the stilt houses and, then, for a short jaunt into the sea.

Stilt houses along the river

Our ride first took us for a look at the stilt houses (pang uks) right over the waterway. In spite of the houses’ dilapidated look, the village is still a quite scenic and enchanting photographer’s paradise.

The unusual but traditional stilt houses, with its pretty setting on the coast framed by the mountains, is predominant of the old Southern Chinese fishing villages and one of the few remaining places where you can still see them in Hong Kong.

Sun Ki Bridge

All interconnected, they form a tightly knit community that literally lives on the water. There are also cafes and restaurant alongside the river plus some old house boats.

Tai Chung Bridge

After riding around the stilt village, our boat then headed out to the harbor and open sea. Before heading out to sea, we passed underneath the Tai Chung Bridge, a manually operated steel pedestrian drawbridge spanning the narrow creek dividing the town which replaced, in October 1996, a  rope-drawn “ferry,” tended by local Tanka women for over 85 years, which used to be quite popular with visitors. The Sun Ki Bridge, completed in 1979, also connects the village to the mainland.

A pair of fishing boats

As we cruised along the harbor, we saw fishermen coming and going and cleaning and putting away catch and gear, all traces of what this active fishing port used to be. Out at sea, we saw some some beautiful cliffs and rock formations along the coastline of Lantau Island.

The coastline of Lantau Island

Many tourists also come to Tai O to see the sunset and, specifically, to take boat trips to see rare, endangered Chinese white dolphins (also known as “Pink Dolphins”) but it was too early for the former and we didn’t see any of the latter. From afar, we espied the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge (HZMB), the cross-border mega bridge linking Lantau with Macau and Zhuhai which, incidentally, official opened on that day.

Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge (HZMB)

Though Tai O is known as the “Venice of Hong Kong” or “Venice of the Orient,” don’t expect too much of a comparison as its stilt house architecture is a far cry from that of the famous and romantic Italian city.

The author

With Lantau Island becoming much more accessible, through new transportation options, and the new influx of tourists to the Big Buddha and Ngong Ping area, things in Tai O are changing fast.  Though still very much a quaint fishing village, sooner or later Tai O cannot escape the inevitable phase of development that is bound to come. Still, Tai O was definitely worth the trip from Hong Kong.

How to Get There:

  • From Central, take the ferry from Central Pier 6 to Mui Wo, then Bus No. 1 to Tai O bus terminus. The bus journey takes approximately 50 minutes.
  • From Kowloon, the easiest way is to get there is taking the MTR to Tung Chung Station, then Bus No. 11 to Tai O. From Tung Chung Station Exit B, take Ngong Ping Cable Car to Ngong Ping Village (approximately 25 minutes) then take Bus No. 21 (HK$6.6 on weekdays, for single journeys, and HK14 on Sundays and public holidays) to Tai O terminus (approximately 20 minutes). Sometimes Bus No. 21 fills up quick so, instead of waiting for the next one, consider a taxi (the taxi stands are right next to the bus stop). The taxi ride costs about HK50.At the terminus, walk for around five minutes to the steel drawbridge and then take a stroll along the waterfront.
  • By New Lantau Bus, Tai O can be reached from Mui Wo(Bus No. 1, HK$12 on weekdays, for single journeys, and HK20 on Sundays and public holidays), Tung Chung (Bus No. 11, HK$12 on weekdays, for single journeys, and HK120 on Sundays and public holidays) and Ngong Ping (Bus No. 21).
  • There are ferry piers on Tai O, close to Tai O bus terminus. It operates daily as the following routes connecting Tai O with Tuen Mun(Tuen Mun Ferry Pier, service by Fortune Ferry), Tung Chung (Tung Chung New Development Ferry Pier, service by Fortune Ferry) and Sha Lo Wan (operated by Fortune Ferry).

Tai O Fishing Village: Lantau Island, Hong Kong. Boat rides are offered by the locals and you will have no trouble getting on one.  As soon as you get off the bus or as you walk around the market, you will find somebody peddling their services. The boats depart from many points, including the bridge and the main marina, but they all cover the same main spots.  Prices for the boat rides are negotiable.  You are expected to pay about HK20 per adult (half for children) but, the bigger your group, the more leverage you will have.

Ngong Ping Village (Lantau Island, Hong Kong)

Ngong Ping Village.  In the background in Lantau Peak while on the right is the Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha)

The terminus of our 5.5-km. long Ngong Ping 360 cable car ride  was Ngong Ping Village (Chinese: 昂坪; pinyin: Ángpíng; Jyutping: ngong4 ping4), located on a highland in the western part of Lantau IslandHong Kong. Lantau Peak, the second highest peak of Hong Kong, is at its southeast.

Check out “Ngong Ping 360

The arched entrance to Ngong Ping Village

When we arrived at the village, “360 Ultimate Masters Face-off: Shaolin vs Emei” kung fu show (running from September 29 to October 28) was ongoing.

360 Ultimate Masters Face-off

Featuring kung fu masters from Shaolin and Emei, they performed a marvelous mock up of a vigorous battle featuring three new weapons – the meteor hammer of Shaolin and the fans (an offensive and a defensive weapon) and long-tasselled sword (an aggressive but flexible weapon) of Emei.

Long-tasselled sword

The kung fu of Shaolin is said to be strong and powerful while Emei emphasizes softness and flexibility in their moves. Their battle is a fusion of Yin (Emei) and Yang(Shaolin).

Fans of the Emei

The fairly new Ngong Ping Village, created at the top of the Ngong Ping plateau, was opened in 2005 together with other facilities and tourist attractions that include the Walking with the Buddha (Stage 360), the Monkey’s Tale Theatre and Ngong Ping Tea House, all built to accommodate the influx of tourists now flocking to the Tian Tan Buddha (or Big Buddha) and the Ngong Ping Cable Car.

Monkey’s Tale Theater

This well appointed, 1.5-hectare open-air and culturally-themed village, built at along a “tourist corridor,” serves as the central point for the many highlights and tourist attractions in the area.

Blessing Drums

It has modern facilities, 6,000 sq. m. of shop space and an 18,600 sq. m. piazza between the cable car terminal and the Po Lin Monastery (a youth hostel is located near here), a quick 5-minute walk from the Village. A visit to the Tai O Fishing Village is a short 15-minute ride away from Ngong Ping Village.

Walking With Buddha Show Theater

This tourist trap is complete with a wide array of “themed” souvenir shops, tea houses as well as fast food outlets (Subway, Starbucks, etc.) offering both Western and Asian fare. Monkey’s Tale Theater and the Walking with Buddha Show are short 15-minute audio-visual, multimedia attractions that recount Buddha‘s legends and stories.  We chose to skip these shows and save on the extra ticket costs.

Monkey’s Tale Theater

It also serves as a transportation hub. The nearby Public Transport Interchange has bus lines and taxis for easily getting around to other parts of Lantau.

For visitors who expect to see something more “genuine” and less “commercialized,” it is, by no means, an “old village.” Though built in the old traditional Chinese architectural designs to mirror and uphold the cultural and spiritual veracity of the Ngong Ping area, it has somewhat of a theme park atmosphere and this is what disappoints some visitors. Unless you need to eat (we had a late lunch here), this was an attraction not particularly worth spending time at.

Ngong Ping Village: 111 Ngong Ping Rd, Lantau Island, Hong Kong.cChinese New Year, Christmas and the three days of Buddha’s birthday are among the most crowded days.

How to Get There:  Ngong Ping Village is connected, via the Ngong Ping Cable Car, to the Tung Chung lower terminal which is linked via the Tung Chung Station MTR to the rest of Hong Kong.

 

Ngong Ping 360 (Hong Kong)

On board the Ngong Ping 360 cable car.  L-R: Bryan, the author, Kyle, Jandy, Cheska and Grace

Our fourth day in Hong Kong was reserved for Ngong Ping 360, which consists of a continuous circulating bi-cable aerial ropeway gondola lift system (referred to by its operators as a “cable car”) ride and a themed Ngong Ping Village, plus its nearby sites such as the Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha), Po Lin Monastery, and the Tai O Fishing Village .

Check out “Ngong Ping Village” and “Tai O Fishing Village

The long queue for tickets at Tung Chung Terminal

From Yau Ma Tei Station, we all took the Tsuen Wan line to Lai King where we transferred to the Tung Chung line (Orange Line) and got off at Tung Chung Station. As we all had an Octopus card (their equivalent of Singapore’s EZ-link card) plus Cheska easily found our way around on the MTR, getting there was a breeze. The whole trip took all of 40 mins., passing 9 stations along the way.

Getting our passes at the exclusive Klook VIP counter

Once we got to Tung Chung station, we followed the signage out of the station (Exit B).  Past Citygate Outlets, we found the Ngong Ping 360 cable car terminal. When we got there, the queue was long, with long waiting times, for those purchasing tickets on the spot even if this this was on a Wednesday afternoon. I could only imagine how bad it can get during peak periods. Lucky for us, Cheska used Klook to get us cheaper cable car tickets.  At the Klook VIP counter, she simply flashed the e-voucher to redeem our physical ticket.

At the shorter queue for Crystal Cabin passengers

Once again, in order to avoid long queues, Cheska got us round trip tickets costing HK$210 each on Klook versus HK$255 on the official Ngong Ping 360’s website (tickets available two weeks in advance) which Cheska found reliable and easy to use, especially with her mobile app.

A set of cable cars

Her choice of the crystal cabin (the cable car with a glass bottom) was deliberate as the snaking queue for the standard, non-glass-bottomed cabin, though a fair bit cheaper, tended to be far longer. This turned out to be true. Both sets of cabins circulate on the same cable but their passengers are segregated by queuing systems at both terminals.

Kyle seated on the transparent, 3-layer, 5 cm. thick glass bottom of our cable car

Past the queue, we got on the cable car.  As they usually try to fit in about 7–8 people per cabin (and standing room for another 7) and our group was smaller than that, a couple joined us in our cabin.

Yat Tung Estate on Lantau Island

It was to be a 25-minute, 5.7-km. (3.5 mi.) ride to Ngong Ping Village.  The system has a capacity of 3,500 people per hour in each direction.

Ngong Ping Cable Car Angle Station

The lift system runs across eight towers (including the stations) with five of the towers located within the country park. From Tung Chung Terminal, our cable car ran across Tung Chung Bay to Airport Island Angle Station on Chek Lap Kok, where it turns through about 60 degrees before returning across Tung Chung Bay.

Ngong Ping 360’s magnificent views

It then ran up the Lantau North Country Park to another angle station near Nei Lak Shan (Nei Lak Shan Angle Station), before finally descending to the Ngong Ping Terminal.

Hong Kong International Airport

It changed direction twice at the two angle stations, one on the south shore of Chek Lap Kok; the other west of Nei Lak Shan within the Lantau North Country Park.

Boardwalk at Lantau North Country Park

Waterfall at Lantau North Country Park

During the 25 minute journey, we had a stunning bird’s eye view, from our windows as well as from our transparent, three-layer 5 cm. thick glass floor, over the verdant landscape of North Lantau Country Park, the South China Sea, the southern shore of Hong Kong International Airport, the Tung Chung valley, Ngong Ping Plateau and surrounding terrain and waterways. As we approached Ngong Ping, we saw The Big Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery.

Kaido cruising Tung Chung Bay

Ngong Ping Cable Car: Runs daily, 10 AM to 6 PM.

Madame Tussauds Hong Kong

Madame Tussauds Hong Kong. The wax figure of the founder is at left

Madame Tussauds Hong Kong is part of the renowned chain of wax museums founded by outstanding French artist Marie Tussaud (1761-1850), well known all over the world for her wax products).  It was opened in 2000 at the second floor of the Peak Tower (on Victoria Peak) on Hong Kong Island in Hong Kong. Since its opening, it has drawn the attention of numerous visitors.

Bryan, Kyle and Cheska mixing it up with Bruce Lee

In September 2005, in an effort to bring an interactive and immersive entertainment experience to visitors, it began its renovation, at a cost of HK$20 million (US$2.6 million) and, on May 18, 2006, reopened, adding a further 700 sq. m. (7,500 sq. ft.) of exhibition space on three floors and five themed areas.

The late King of Pop Michael Jackson

Though this was my second visit to The Peak, it was only my first visit to this museum. Upon entry, we journeyed through each incredibly lifelike wax figure of “stars,” stopping to immerse ourselves with K-pop culture at K-wave Zone, practiced our kung fu moves with Bruce Lee at Kung Fu Zone, glammed it up with Taylor Swift and Madonna on stage, enjoy the patterned world of Yayoi Kusama, and took selfies with some of the world’s most respected historical and political leaders.

Yayoi Kusama

Here are some interesting trivia regarding this museum:

  • It is the first Madame Tussauds museum in Asia (the others are in Shanghai branch, which opened in 2006, and the third in Bangkok, which opened in 2010).
  • The museum houses over 100 wax likenesses of internationally known personalities and local celebrities to date, and 11 interactive zones.
  • Asian figures take up more than a third of the total (16 are Hong Kongers) and Asian celebrities and superstars have often graced the unveiling of their wax likenesses, with sizable groups of their fans tagging along.
  • The wax figures are featured in a range of themed settings such as Hong Kong Glamour, Music Icons, Historical and National Heroes, The Champions and World Premiere.
  • The figure of Miriam Yeung (well known for her fun-loving and bubbly personality), unveiled on November 2006, is the first in the world designed to giggle via in-built sensors.
  • The figure of Connie Chan Po-chu, unveiled on August 2006, was the first figure to appear in full Chinese regalia. The model’s costume was inspired by the musical Only You, set in the Yuan Dynasty, in which Chan formerly starred.
  • The figure of Bae Yong-joon, unveiled on May 2006, is the first Korean star to be included in a Madame Tussauds exhibition.
  • The figure of Andy Lau, unveiled on April 2005, was the first animatronic model that was crafted out of silicone rather than wax. Lau’s animatronic heartbeat was modeled on a similar system installed in a replica of Brad Pitt at Madame Tussauds Amsterdam.
  • In 2019, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach will be the first Filipino to have her wax figure in Madame Tussauds Hong Kong.

Hong Kong celebrity Lee Lai Shan

Celebrities and historical figures from Hong Kong include Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Kelly Chen, Cecilia Cheung Pak-chi, Aaron Kwok Fu-shing, Donnie Yen Ji-dan (added on April 30, 2010), Janice M. Vidal (added on July 18, 2007), Sandra NgLee Lai Shan, Andy Lau Te-wah, Leo Ku (added on April 4, 2007), Miriam Yeung, Sir Ka-shing Li, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen (added on April 7, 2008), Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing, Joey Yung, Anita Mui Yim-fong and Leon Lai-ming.

Japanese sumo wrestler Chiyonofuji Mitsugu

Other Asian celebrities and historical figures include Lin Chi-ling, Jay Chou and Teresa Teng from Taiwan; Michelle Yeoh from Malaysia; Ayumi Hamasaki, Shigeru Yoshida and Chiyonofuji Mitsugu from Japan; Jet Li (added on September 28, 2010), Yao Ming, Liu Xiang, Connie Chan Po-chu, Sun Yat-sen (added on July 2007), Yang Liwei (added on July 2007), Li BingbingDeng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Mao Zedong (added on July 2007) and Hu Jintao from China; Lee Kuan Yew from Singapore; Saddam Hussein of Iraq; Sukarno (added on June 5, 2014) and Joko Widodo (added in 2017) from Indonesia; Amitabh Bachchan, Varun DhawanShah Rukh KhanMahatma Gandhi and Narendra Modi from India; and Bae Yong-joon, Suzy and Lee Jong-suk from South Korea.

India’s hero of non-violence Mahatma Gandhi

Chinese President Li Jin Ping and First Lady Peng Liyuan

Actors, actresses and directors on display include Angelina Jolie (added on September 27, 2007), Brad Pitt, Cher, Eddie Murphy, Audrey HepburnElizabeth Taylor, Mel Gibson, Meryl Streep, Jodie Foster, Harrison Ford, Johnny DeppMacaulay Culkin, Marilyn Monroe, Vin Diesel, Benny Hill, Robert PattinsonPierce Brosnan, Anthony Hopkins, Humphrey Bogart, Gérard Depardieu, Hugh Grant, Joanna Lumley, Alfred Hitchcock, Bruce Lee and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Cheska with Angelina Jolie

David Beckham, Muhammad Ali, Tiger Woods, Maria Sharapova, Stephen Curry,  and Ronaldinho (added on December 2007) represent the world of sports.

Tramcar at the Fashion Zone

The brand-new Fashion Zone, opened last July 10, 2017, consists of three themed areas (Backstage Studio, Billboard Superstar and Runway) and features features AR (Augmented Reality) technology.  On hand are the stars of the  catwalk Elle Macpherson, Kendall Jenner and Naomi Campbell as well as fashion designer Victoria Beckham.

Tennis star Maria Sharapova

David Beckham, Ronaldinho and Yao Ming

Animated World, officially launched in April 2017, brings together famous animated characters such as Yo-kai Watch, McDull and Madame Mak, Marvel Avenger superheroes (Hulk, Ironman and Spiderman), Hello Kitty and Balala the Fairies. 

Animated World: Jandy in the clutches of The Hulk

Iron Man with fan Jandy

Historical and national heroes from the Europe, U.S.A. and Africa  include Sir Winston Churchill, John Howard, Diana, Princess of Wales, The Duke of Edinburgh; Elizabeth II; The Prince of Wales; The Princess Royal; The Duke of Cambridge (added on August 7, 2007) and William Shakespeare of the United Kingdom; Luciano Pavarotti of Italy; Nelson Mandela of South Africa; Albert Einstein, Bill Clinton; George W. Bush; Barack Obama (added on January 20, 2009) of the USA; Mikhail Gorbachev of Russia; Adolf Hitler of Germany; Pablo Picasso of Spain; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart of Austria; Rembrandt van Rijn from The Netherlands; and Marie Tussaud herself.

The author seated between the Duke of Edinburgh and Queen Elizabeth

Music icons include Elvis Presley, Freddie Mercury, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, The Beatles, Tina Turner, Twins, Westlife, G.E.M. and TVXQ. 

Grace as the fifth Beatle

Madame Tussauds Hong Kong:  Shop P101, Peak Tower, 128 Peak Rd., The Victoria Peak, Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong.  Tel: +852 2849 6966. Website: www.madametussauds.com/hong-kong. Open daily, 10 AM to 10 PM. Admission:s HK$140 (adults) and HK$70 (children aged between 3 and 11 years old).

How to Get There: Take bus 15C from Central Pier 8 or walk from MTR Central Station Exit J2 to take the Peak Tram from the Peak Tram Lower Terminus on Garden Road; or bus 15 from Exchange Square bus terminus (near MTR Hong Kong Station, Exit D); or minibus 1 from the public transport interchange at MTR Hong Kong Station, Exit E.

Hong Kong Cultural Centre (Hong Kong)

Hong Kong Cultural Center

The Hong Kong Cultural Centre (Chinese: 香港文化中心), a multipurpose performance facility, is one of the most iconic cultural buildings in the city.  Together with the adjacent historic historic Clock Tower,  they are tourist favorites for grabbing photos of Victoria Harbor.

The center is located on the southwestern tip of Tsim Sha Tsui, on the former location of the Kowloon Station of the Kowloon-Canton Railway. Adjacent to the centre on the west is the Tsim Sha Tsui Ferry Pier of the Star Ferry, while to the east are the Hong Kong Space Museum and Hong Kong Museum of Art.

Check out “Hong Kong Space Museum

Built and operated by the former Urban Council , its construction was started in 1986 and the venue was officially opened on November 8, 1989, in a ceremony officiated by Charles, Prince of Wales and Princess Diana who unveiled a commemorative plaque.

Auditoria Building

The center opened with the International Celebration of the Arts, a special program that ran from November 5 to December 6.  The program showcased Hong Kong musicians, Kunju opera, Cantonese music and performances by a range of international artists including the Cologne Opera, the Alban Berg QuartettSadao Watanabe, and the first Hong Kong appearance of guitarist John Williams.

Studio Theatre

Since 2000, it has been administered by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department of the Hong Kong Government.  Today, this curved and concave shaped building is the go-to venue for a wide variety of cultural performances such as international touring theatre shows, world-class concerts, opera and performances. The trademark beige bricks of the building also make it a popular background for wedding photo shoots.

The 2,019-seat Concert Hall, the home of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, is an oval two-tiered auditorium.  The acoustics in the Concert Hall are often praised for elevating any musical performances thanks to its high quality oak panels and ceiling.

It includes an adjustable acoustic canopy and curtains and houses an 8,000-pipe, 93-stop pipe organ, the largest mechanical tracker action organ in Asia.  Built by Austrian firm Rieger Orgelbau at the cost of $10 million, it was installed from August to November in 1989.  It has been recorded by Christopher Herrick on Organ Fireworks VIII.

The Grand Theatre, designed for large scale opera, ballet, and musicals, has 1,734 seats in three tiers. The annual Hong Kong Film Award presentation ceremony also takes place there. The Studio Theatre, with 300 to 496 seats (depending upon the set-up), can accommodate smaller-scale theatre and performance works.  The center also has an Exhibition Gallery, 4 foyer exhibition areas and 11 rehearsal and practice rooms.

Hong Kong Cultural Centre: L5, Auditoria Building, 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Tel: +852 2734 2009. Website: www.lcsd.gov.hk.

How to Get There: The centre is adjacent to the Star Ferry Pier (you can also take the Star Ferry from Central or Wan Chai to Tsim Sha Tsui and walk to the centre) and the Star Ferry bus terminus served by Kowloon Motor Bus. It is also within walking distance to Tsim Sha Tsui Station (Exit E) and East Tsim Sha Tsui Station (Exit L6 or J), which serve the Tsuen Wan Line and West Rail Line respectively.

 

Hong Kong Space Museum (Hong Kong)

Hong Kong Space Museum

The Hong Kong Space Museum (Chinese: 香港太空館), a museum of astronomy and space science managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department of the Hong Kong Government, is one of the most famous and outstanding landmarks in Hong Kong. Conveniently located on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront (next to Hong Kong Museum of Arts and HK Cultural Centre), Mr. Joseph Ming Gun Lee of the Public Works Department was the chief architect of the project.  Construction started in 1977 and the museum opened on October 8, 1980.

The planetarium and other equipment, worth HK$3,050,000, were purchased from the Carl Zeiss Company. With the aid of interesting hands-on exhibits and advanced equipment such as seats installed with multi-language and interactive systems, coupled with lighting effects and environmental decorations, the exhibition introduces astronomy and space science in a vivid approach.

The planetarium’s dome

The museum, occupying an area of 8,000 sq. m., has two wings.  The East Wing consists of the core of the museum’s popular planetarium, the first local planetarium for the popularization of astronomy and space science education and the first planetarium in the world to possess a fully automatic control system at its Stanley Ho Space Theatre (boasts the first OMNIMAX film projector in the eastern hemisphere) beneath it.

The planetarium’s rather unusual, easily recognizable and striking egg-shaped hemispherical projection dome, a famous landmark on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, has a diameter of 23 m.. Also beneath the planetarium is the Hall of the Cosmos, the Hall of Space Exploration, workshops and offices.

Hall of the Cosmos

There is also a mockup of the nose and cockpit section of the Space Shuttle orbiter.  The West Wing houses the Hall of Astronomy, a thematic exhibition hall on the first floor; the Lecture Hall; a gift shop and offices.

Hall of Space Exploration

The “Hall of the Cosmos” (showcases the Universe from near to far, travelling from the solar system that we are living in, to the stars, Milky Way and galaxies further away and exploring the science and evolution of the universe all along the way), on the ground floor, and “Hall of Space Exploration” (depicts the development of space exploration and space technology), on the first floor, covering a total area of 1,600 sq. m. (17,200 sq. ft.), houses a hundred exhibits, about 70% of which are interactive, enabling visitors to learn through a series of entertaining and educational experiences.

Stanley Ho Space Theatre

The museum houses a large collection of meteorites and offers an extensive range of activities for both adults and children, producing 2 planetarium shows as well as introducing some of the best foreign OMNIMAX and 3D Dome Shows productions, using the digital planetarium projection system, in Hong Kong.

The museum also organizes plenty of extension activities each year including Astronomy Carnival, Astronomy Happy Hours, fun science lab sessions, astronomy competitions, lectures and astronomy film shows, etc.

Hong Kong Space Museum: 10 Salisbury Rd., Tsim Sha TsuiHong Kong.  Tel:+852 2721 0226. Website: hk.space.museum. Open Mondays –Fridays, 1 – 9 PM; Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays, 10 AM – 9 PM; closed on Tuesdays, the first two days of the Chinese New Year and at 5 PM on Christmas Eve and Chinese New Year’s Eve.
Admission: HK$10 (standard). Concession (HK$5) is applicable to full-time students, people with disability (and one accompanying minder) and senior citizens aged 60 or above. Children under 3 years old will not be admitted. Free admission on Wednesdays (visitors are required to queue on site for admission by session). Full-time students and museum pass holders are eligible for free admission to the exhibition halls and need not purchase tickets, but are required to book the admission session online before the visit (except Wednesdays). Booking will be available within one week of the visit.

How to Get There: Take the MTR to get to Tsim Sha Tsui Station. Get out of the station through Exit E and cross the road. Walk 150 m. to Salisbury Road. You’ll see the museum across the road. Then use subway to cross Salisbury Road. When you exit the subway, walk a little along Salisbury Garden. You can also take MTR East Tsim Sha Tsui Station.  Get out through Exit J, then walk about 10 mins. to the museum. Via Star Ferry Pier, from Central or Wan Chai to Tsim Sha Tsui, walk for approximately 10 mins. to the museum.

Tin Hau Temple (Hong Kong)

Tin Hau Temple

The peaceful Tin Hau Temple, at the western end of Stanley Main St, past a tiny Tai Wong shrine and through the Stanley Plaza shopping complex, stands on a highly propitious Feng Shui site next to Starbucks and McDonald’s on Stanley Promenade in Stanley. The walk going there was worthwhile for the sea views.

Censer (incense burner)

Founded by 1767, it is said to be the oldest building in Hong Kong. In 1942, during the Japanese attack on Stanley, two Japanese bombs hit the temple but did not explode, miraculously saving the crowds of people sheltering there. Since then, the temple has undergone a complete renovation but its interior is still traditional.

There are over 70 temples dedicated to Tin Hau in Hong Kong and this unusually designed temple is, of course, a dedicated place of worship for the goddess of the sea.

It has nearly 20 other eminent gods and goddesses (including Guanyin, Che Kung, Wong Tai Sin, Guan Yu and Hung Shing) uniquely arranged on a bench around the walls, with the goddess Tin Hau in the of center. The temple is especially busy on the 23rd of the 3rd lunar month, the birthday of the goddess.

Wall lined with deities

No visit to Tin Hau Temple is complete without a look at the genuine tiger skin hanging on the wall, said to frighten off evil spirits. Said to weigh 240 pounds, it is 73 inches long and 3 feet high.  In the 1940s, this tiger appeared in Stanley when the local villagers were celebrating with performances of Chinese Opera.

It was shot by Mr Rur Singh, an ethnic Indian policeman, in front of Stanley Police Station in 1942. Singh  presented the skin to the villagers and, since then, it has been exhibited in the Tin Hau Temple for more than half a century.

Tin Hau Temple: 119 Stanley Main St., Stanley, Hong Kong.

How to Get There: From Central’s Exchange Square, take buses No.6, 6A, 6X, 260 or 262. From Causeway Bay’s Tang Lung Street (Corner of Percival Street and Hennessy Road), take green minibus No.40

 

Murray House (Hong Kong)

The 3-storey Murray House, a masterpiece Classical architecture of the  Victorian Era first completed in the present day business district of Central way back in 1846, is one of the oldest surviving public buildings in Hong Kong. It stood witness to more than a century’s historical vicissitudes in Hong Kong.  Murray House originally housed the military officers’ quarters of the Murray Barracks of the British forces stationed in Hong Kong. During World War II, Murray House was, for 44 months, a command center of the Japanese military police, a torture and interrogation center and also the execution place for some Chinese citizens.

Murray House

Starting in 1965, the building was used as offices by several government departments including the Rating and Valuation Department. Believed to be haunted, exorcism ceremonies were held in the building in 1963 and 1974 (televised). During the 1970’s and 1980’s, the local economy took flight and the plot of land on which Murray House stood became valuable property. In 1982, Murray House was dismantled to give way to the new new Bank of China Tower and, for 15 years, more than 3,000 blocks of the building were labeled and cataloged for future restoration and stored in Tai Tam. However, some raw materials like chimneys were lost during the demolition.

Historical plaque

Eventually, a permanent home by the sea was found here in Stanley but the whole redevelopment project was a challenge that took substantial manpower and resources. Just like toy building blocks, the granite blocks were reassembled, their positioning precisely calculated. The building was reopened on April 2, 2001.

The author at Murray House

Today, Murray House, a major milestone in Hong Kong’s heritage restoration history and an important icon at Stanley, houses some fine restaurants that offer different international gourmet food at the first and second floors. The ground floor, which once housed the Hong Kong Maritime Museum (established in 2005, then moved to Pier 8 in Central in February 2013),.has a long corridor, in the middle of which is a little exhibition of Murray House’s history. The first level has heavy stone walls with flat arched openings while the second and third levels have lighter Doric  and Ionic columns to allow better ventilation. in response to the Hong Kong’s subtropical/monsoons climate, all floors have verandas on all sides.

View of the waterfront

Murray House: 96 Stanley Main St, StanleyHong Kong.

How to Get There: From Central’s Exchange Square, take buses No.6, 6A, 6X, 260 or 262. From Causeway Bay’s Tang Lung Street (Corner of Percival Street and Hennessy Road), take green minibus No.40