Tian Tan (Big Buddha)
Tian Tan is an enormous seated Buddha on Lantau Island. The site itself hosts a monastery, the statue, and of course a variety of shops. It is free to visit but the transportation is not; while there are multiple ways to get to it, the Ngong Ping 360 cable car is the most famous way to arrive.
The first time we tried to visit Tian Tan we arrived around 12p and were faced with a line to buy tickets that was estimated to take well over an hour… we quickly jumped out of that line and decided to return around opening the next day.
Thankfully the line was much shorter the next day but it still took over 30 minutes to buy our tickets… We were also rather disappointed that while waiting in line the operators had hundreds of posters describing up-sells (private cable cars, photos, etc) that made it very difficult to know the price of a standard ticket. Plus, employees were constantly trolling the line offering a shorter wait for those who wanted a purchase a more expensive ticket. Even at the actual ticket window the standard price was not clearly described in the printed materials. Thankfully we knew to ask for and proceeded to the next line to get on to the cable car itself.
The ride out to the site was dramatic. From sea level you quickly rise to the tops of the mountains with great views of the airport and sea.
Upon arrival you walk through a shopping “village” and toward the statue itself where you find a daunting staircase with 240 steps…
Stopping for breath along the way we noticed some beautiful prayer cards.
Finally at the top we had a great view of the giant Buddha.
Wanting to get away from the crowds we decided to do one of the short hikes from the hilltop along the wisdom path. The scenery was beautiful with abundant plant life and dramatic vistas.
The wait for the cable car on the way back was much shorter, I can’t imagine what the lines would be just before close! On the return trip we were also able to see a few mountainside waterfalls.
All in all, we’re glad we went, but we would only go back for some of the other hiking trails that start at the site. We would definitely buy our tickets online as the queue for pickup tends to be fairly short.
Various forum postings had advised a trip to Victoria Peak in the late afternoon so that you can take in sunset and night lights in one viewing. It’s also good advice because the lines for the tram to get to the top can be very long (sometimes more than 1 hour). We got to the tram station about an hour and half before sunset and after ~45 minutes loaded on the tram, then up to the landing area. From there we had several sets of escalators (conveniently surrounded by shops, of course) that take you to the outdoor viewing deck. We finally arrived at the top with enough time to enjoy the nice golden light as the sun set.
One thing to note, once you go up to the viewing deck you cannot return if you leave to do some shopping on the many floors below. As the light faded and the city lights got brighter the number of people on the Peak increased, especially on the right side of the viewing platform. Since we had already scouted the area we knew the left side would also work and headed over there.
While the view was nice, I prefer the city view from the Kowloon harbor and I wouldn’t feel compelled to visit Victoria Peak again.