web analytics

Big Buddha

On May 17, 2010

and 5,973 miles away from St. Paul’s Cathedral in London is the Big Budhha – which seems a slightly irreverent but nonetheless accurate name for the really big Budhha which sits atop a peak of the mountains on Lantau Island. (Reminds me of an enormous stained glass window in a church in Knoxville, Tennessee which pictured Jesus standing with his hand raised in a gesture much like that of the Buddha’s – despite what I am sure were the reverent intentions of the church congregation, it always reminded my son and me of the Buddy Jesus in Kevin Smith’s Dogma, which really isn’t a bad thing because Dogma is an excellent movie and Kevin Smith’s favorite film is A Man for All Seasons starring Paul Scofield which happens to be my favorite movie as well but I digress. Hell, I didn’t digress, I took an off ramp and headed for a different highway.)

Hong Kong Travel Guides

Anyway – the Big Buddha is one large Buddha and well worth the trip to Lantau Island. Rumor has it that the truly disciplined visitor can reach the Po Lin Monastery on foot; actually it’s not a rumor as we could see quite a few hikers making the trek from our seats in the Ngong Ping 360 tram which for a relatively nominal fee zipped us up to the shopping area/village just below the monastery. We didn’t take the more expensive tram car with a glass bottom and, nonetheless, had a terrific view of the countryside below, the water around and the clouds above the island.

Our tram trip…


view of BB from the tram…

and he only gets bigger…

Upon alighting from the tram car and while making our way toward the Buddha, I was struck by the Gatlinburg-like setting through which we passed on our way to the monastery and BB. Gatlinburg – for those not native to East Tennessee – is town in the Smokey Mountains about a hundred miles or so to the northeast of Knoxville; it’s nearby neighbor, Pigeon Forge, may be better known outside Tennessee for it is home to Dollywood. This is not the first time I’ve visited a well known tourist destination and have remind me of East Tennessee but it is the first time it has happened to me in a place inhabited by monks, kind of like visiting the Vatican and having it feel like Dollywood (I’ve never been to the Vatican, it may indeed be reminiscent of East Tennessee).

There is a theatre where you can a movie will enlighten you about the Buddha, there’s a German beer garden – ?? – and there are those painted stand-ups with the faces cut out so you can take home pictures of yourself in traditional Chinese garb – as touristy and non-monastery as that sounds I must write that one of the pictures I truly miss not haing gotten was of two small Chinese girls with their beaming faces peering through the cut-outs. Their smiles and giggles were so delightfully modern and yet their beautiful faces were so right within the cut-outs – reminds one of how eternal the beauty of a child’s face is.

Equally as disconcerting as the tone of the village was the discovery that the Big Buddha is apparently brought to us not only by the Po Lin Monastery but also by Coca-Cola. Coke ads were everywhere and at the bottom of the stairs leading to the Big Buddha there is an outdoor snack shop where you can enjoy your ice cream treats sheltered by Coca-Cola umbrellas.

There is no fee to climb the steps leading to the Buddha, however, if you want to enter the rooms housing the sacred relics you must buy a coupon to use at the monastery’s vegetarian restaurant. We bought the snack coupon and let me say, you will be hard pressed to find a better value anywhere – but more on that later.

Stairway to the Buddha…

and the Buddha himself…

I don’t know how many steps there were up to the Buddha – fewer than there were to reach the Golden Gallery but more than enough to make one glad to have reached the top. Honestly, though, reaching the top is less compelling than looking up at the Buddha from the bottom of the steps and much less compelling that catching sight of him from a great distance; this may stem partially from the fact that I am not Buddhist. Many of those who made the trip up were and approached him with reverence, prayers and bowing; while I did take pictures of some of these pilgrims, it seems inappropriate to include them here.

After a short time spent viewing the Buddhist relics we made the much quicker journey down to the Po Lin Monastery. As non-Buddhists we were restricted from entering the worship area of the monastery and given the “day out” feel of much of the rest of the site, it was both surprising and gratifying that this part of the village was treated with reverence and quiet.

We strolled the grounds outside the monastery and then went off in search of the place to redeem our vegetarian snack coupons which, of course, was at the Deli Vegetarian Cafe with its cooler full of Nestle ice cream treats.

Having made our choices from amongst numerous offerings we hunted a spot to eat at an outdoor table – all of which sported these signs…

The food was delicious and I don’t know how we would have been able to eat an entire meal based on the size of the snack…

and best of all, it was served with our choice of Coke product.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *