A big curiosity of Lantau is the Giant Buddha of Nong Ping (also called Tian Tan Buddha). A famous landmark in Hong Kong, it is a place especially frequented by Asian visitors (Westerners do it more because it is a “must do”).
How to get there?
The most convenient (and expensive!): the cable car
Situated on the island of Lantau (where is also the airport), the monastery and the statue can be reached in two different way. The most popular one is to take the cable car ride to the top, riding across several ridges on what must probably be one of the most scenic rides in Asia. The cable car also gets full marks for convenience as it is just a few steps away from the MTR station of Tung Chung.
The cheapest way: ferry and bus
The second, a bit less convenient solution is to take a ferry from Central pier to Mui Wo, and then get a ride on a bus for 40 minutes. This latter solution is quite interesting as you get to enjoy the skill of bus drivers negotiating the tight curves on this mountainous island, but it takes quite some time. Expect also a long queue on the return if you are visiting on a week-end.
What is there to see?
The Giant Buddha in itself is not a big deal historically or artistically as it was something built quite recently (1993), but it contains a number of symbols of Buddhist belief (among which, what is alleged to be cremated remains of the Buddha himself, which are probably as authentic as 90% of Catholic relics).
When you arrive by cable car, you arrive at a sort of fake village, Nong Ping village. Nothing genuine to see there, just a number of souvenir shops and restaurants, and some shops trying to commoditise Buddhist stuff.
Overall, there is neither a lot of solemnity, nor a lot of peace in the Po Lin Monastery, mainly because it is what CNN calls a “tourist trap”. Selfie-takers by far outnumber anybody visiting for religious purposes. Visit it if you must, otherwise it is alright to give it a pass.
Feral cattle: don’t play with!
A bit of a warning here: a lot of feral cattle can be seen hanging around Po Lin monastery. While in appearance harmless, these cattle are however wild animals; I always cringe when I see tourists patting, posing right near to them or even tapping (hard!) on their muzzle.
As they are feral, you should keep your distances at all times and not touch them. And please don’t feed them, as this is extremely dangerous for them; during hikes on Lantau island, I could see trash cans raided by cows who risk swallowing plastic bags or lose feeding habits. Feeding cattle is dangerous for you and for them.