Saturday, January 31, 2015

Tian Tan Buddha

The plan today was to pack up early from the hotel, head to the airport to check in and drop our bags off, and then explore Lantau Island and visit the Tian Tan Buddha.  We thought we'd have all morning and afternoon to be out and about but that all changed when we lost our car keys.  We didn't need our keys in Hong Kong but we were preparing for our late return to Saudi and wanted to make sure we had everything.  You would think that as often as we travel we would have all things travel/ packing related down to a science.  A specific place for everything.  A organized packing list.  A check list of important things to have.  Well, we don't.  And because we don't we learned this trip why we should be more organized especially while traveling.  This trip we made two big mistakes, the one was misplacing the car key and loosing precious explore time in Hong Kong because we spent over an hour tearing about the luggage and our hotel room.  The other one was traveling with an expired debt card.  Yikes!  No debt card meant no access to cash.  Ugh!  We survived the majority of our trip with the cash we brought with us and using credit cards where possible but it got to our last day and we only had a little cash to survive on for transportation fares and food. 
All that being said, it looked like we weren't going to make it to see the sitting Buddha.  We had arrived at the transportation station where you could either take a 30 minute bus ride up Lantau Island peak and over to the Buddha or you could take the cable car.  Ideally, we wanted to take the cable car but we were now down to only 3 hours before we had to head back to the airport and the line to purchase a ticket for the cable car was 1.5 hours long and then it was a 30 minute trip.  There was NO way that was going to be possible.  It was looking like the whole trip was going to be cut out and we were going to head to the airport, Brad likes to play things safe and I like to take our time down to the wire.  After much debate, we purchased our bus tickets (there was also much hesitation because of the curvy roads up we had a feeling one or both of the boys would end up getting car sick) and headed up to Tian Tan Buddha.  I'm happy to report we made it up with no issues from either boy (the way down however, did not prove to be as successful : (  ).
We arrived at the top of Ngong Ping.  It was cooler up here but luckily we kept our jackets out of the luggage before we left it at the airport! The sun was shinning and the scenery was beautiful and I was just so happy that we made it despite the rocky start!
To get off the bus and see the world's largest outdoor bronze sitting Buddha up on a hill was an amazing sight! 
Then we walked over to the steps and to see the 268 steps you have to climb to get up to the big buddha was another sight to see!
I climbed these 268 steps with a 35 pound baby boy strapped on my back!  I got my workout today!
I was super happy to make it to the top!!!  My legs were happy too!! :)
Brewster family selfie with Tian Tan Buddha!
Tian Tan Buddha got its name because its base is a model of the Altar of Heaven or Earthly Mount of Tian Tan, the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. It is one of the five large Buddha statues in China.  This sitting Buddha symbolizes the harmonious relationship between man and nature, people and religion. The Buddha statue sits on a lotus throne on top of a three-platform altar.  See Brad and the big kids up there on one of the platforms?  You can purchase a sack lunch that allows you to go to the very top alter to eat beside the Buddha if you want.  We skipped this option.
The Buddha is surrounded by six smaller bronze statues known as "The Offering of the Six Devas" and are posed offering flowers, incense, lamp, ointment, fruit, and music to the Buddha

From the platform of the Buddha you could look down at the Po Lin Monastery.  We were headed there next.
The monastery is known as the "Buddhist Kingdom in the South," and serves as an international Buddhist retreat, and is one of the largest and most well known in Hong Kong
Most of the area is open to the public to walk around so we took some time to take in the beauty of the buildings and their surroundings!

 You are also allowed to go into the temples as long as prayer is not going on.
As I was researching our trip one of the Must Do items that was highly recommended was eating a vegetarian lunch at the monastery.  When we first made our way to Ngong Ping it didn't look like we were going to have time for lunch.  I was having visions of our botched Elsa and Anna meeting at Disney and trying really hard not to get disappointed.  My vision of the day was changing starting with our mode of transportation up to the peak.  I knew both Brad and I were working really hard to negotiate and work out a plan that worked for both of us and met both of our needs.  As we were standing at the bottom of Tian Tan Buddha and trying to figure out what to do next Brad decided to check our plane tickets one more time....
Good thing he did!!  Turns out our flight time had changed and we didn't even realize it!  We had an extra 2 hours!  That meant that we could eat lunch and head to the airport with a bit more wiggle room than we had thought!  Yay, win/ win for both of us!
And I'm so glad we were able to experience this!  There are 2 set menus to choose from and they serve it family style.  The food was so delicious and the atmosphere was amazing!  If you ever go to Hong Kong I highly recommend this for a lunch spot!
While we were eating we heard the monks "called to prayer".  The steps were closed off so you could no get to close to look but we were able to see them walking around, some playing instruments, and chanting.  It was an amazing experience!
Taking advantage of the beautiful green trees for a photo opt!  Don't get many of these living in the Land of the Sand!
At the entrance of the grounds to the monastery there is a large incense area with extra large incense you can light.  Here is a little description I found as to why incense are burned.
Worshipers at the temples light and burn sticks of incense in small or large bundles, which they wave or raise above the head while bowing to the statues or plaques of a deity or an ancestor. Individual sticks of incense are then vertically placed into individual censers located in front of the statues or plaques either singularly or in threes, depending on the status of the deity or the feelings of the individual.  I believe it is used to purify as well as a method to carry your prayers up.

From the incense area you get a great shot of Tian Tan Buddha!  Doesn't look 34 meters tall from here though!
The path from the main area to the Buddha is lined with statues from the characters representing the Chinese calendar with an explanation of what each one is believed to protect.

Despite the rough start to our day, our day ended perfectly!  This was a great last stop on our journey through Hong Kong!  My advice to anyone traveling to Lantau Island is to give yourself enough time to fully experience the place!  A full day would have been better, we wouldn't have been rushed.

And this concludes our time in Hong Kong!  We are so sad to go (Ethan cried on and off the whole way home that he wasn't ready to leave Hong Kong!) but we leave with so many wonderful memories!  If you are looking for a place in Asia to visit, Hong Kong comes highly recommend by the Brewsters!  A great mix of culture, so many things to do, kid friendly, adult friendly, a little bit of something for everyone!  Good Bye HK!  Thanks for the memories!

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