Hong Kong – outside the big city at Big Buddha and Tai O

With one free day in Hong Kong, there is only so much you can do. There are several options for popular tourist attractions. Despite Hong Kong being a rather small area, there is still a lot of ground to cover. Since we were stuck in a city during our previous day in Macau, we opted for some “non-city” attractions while in Hong Kong. That sounds unlikely if you have ever seen a picture of the skyline. However Hong Kong has an amazing countryside outside of the urban areas.

Transportation done properly

Hong Kong has some of the best transportation in the world. It puts the US to shame, with the possible exception of New York City. The train system is especially extensive and you can take the train to some out-of-the-way places.

Tian Tan Buddha

Our first stop for the day was the Tian Tan Buddha statue, commonly referred to as the Big Buddha, located on Lantau Island near the airport. It is accessible from the Tung Chung stop, at the end of the Tung Chung (orange) line.

Cable Cars – a novelty

Another interesting thing about traveling internationally: cable cars seem a lot more common. I don’t see them in the US very often (unless you count ski lifts). For some reason my wife loves cable cars. So whenever we have the chance, we take a cable car. There are a few different methods to get to the Big Buddha in Hong Kong, but the cable car is certainly the most scenic. It’s also another great indication of the great transportation network in Hong Kong.

View from the cable car on the way to the Big Buddha in Hong Kong - 10-16-2019
Transport to the Big Buddha – Hong Kong airport and Tung Chung in the background

In addition to the cable car, you can also take a bus or hike to the Big Buddha. The bus is cheaper (and slower) and hiking is free (and much slower), but the cable car is totally worth it just for the view. We saw a few people hiking the path below and it looked exhausting.

The cable car ride is about 25 minutes, so you get a good bang for your buck. As you approach the end of the ride, the Big Buddha statue and Temple become visible with the mountains in the background. It’s a great photo opportunity so keep your cameras (and smartphones ready). Unfortunately I didn’t have my “professional” camera on this trip, so I couldn’t get a good picture. A zoom lens is a good idea.

The Big Buddha

Walking from the end of the cable car takes you through a bit of a tourist trap. There is a stone walkway with several shops, but it was nice to have an option to fill up on water. The walkway leads to the steps to the Big Buddha. You can see the Buddha statue easily from the bottom of the steps. After a few minutes (or longer depending on your fitness) of climbing the steps, you arrive at the statue.

Near the start of the steps to the Buddha

The Buddha is surrounded by another walkway with several smaller statues. It is also set on the top of a mountain, so you get a good view of the water and surrounding mountains.

Tian Tan Buddha

The walk from the cable car and up the steps was moderately strenuous. The entire time we were there I was trying to imagine how the statue was constructed. It’s at the top of a giant set of stairs which are on top of a mountain. It must have been quite an effort to build.

Some of the smaller statues surrounding the Big Buddha

Our next stop was just a short bus ride away at Tai O.

Tai O Fishing Village

Tai O is an old fishing village located at the western tip of Lantau Ialand. Most residences are stilt houses perched above the water. It’s an Asian Venice. The major avenues at Tai O are canals. The only way to get around is by boat or walking.

As we were walking through Tai O, my wife asked me why I liked a place like Tai O. It’s unique for sure, but I had to think about it for a minute. Tai O is keeping up with its traditions in the face of an extremely modernized area. It’s probably not easy to do, but that is this tiny village’s way of life. I respect their fortitude. What are they supposed to do? Pack up and become computer engineers?

The village certainly didn’t look wealthy relative to the urban centers nearby. However the residents were very friendly and the food was very fresh of course.

Tai O has also developed a tourism industry of their own. You can take a boat tour through the village or into the harbour to see dolphins.

Pictures from Tai O

After a long bus ride back to the Tung Chung station, we headed back to the urban core of Hong Kong. It’s quite a city; more skyscrapers than any other city in the world. There are too many options for food and nightlife. However I wanted to point out a couple of really interesting places that most people probably don’t get to see (or even know about) when they go to Hong Kong. And they are easy to get to!

See Hong Kong for yourself

We spent three nights in a hotel in Hong Kong near Tsim Sha Tsui (Hung Hom area). This is one of the busiest areas in the city. Despite only having one free day during our time in Hong Kong, we still were able to get out of the city and see a couple of great sites.

The only big thing we missed was hiking to the top of Victoria Peak; another “non-city” activity. However Hong Kong has something for everyone: outdoor or indoor. Transportation is easy, and most people speak fluent English. Hong Kong is full of tall buildings and mountains, so there are limitless opportunities for great views too.

View from the hotel in Hung Hom – notice the lack of traffic