Hong Kong: Po Lin Monastery and Giant Buddha
Address: 大嶼山昂平昂平路寶蓮禪寺, Hong Kong.
Open: 10am – 6pm
The Po Lin Monastery used to be a rather quiet affair, and was tucked away in the mountain unnoticed until the giant Buddha was erected. Standing (well, sitting) 34m high, he looks over his people and attracts pilgrims from all over Asia. Getting to him is an adventure in itself, because from Tung Chung Station, you need to take a long ride on the Ngong Ping Cable Car. The sweeping views of the misty mountain this affords are like something out of one of those cool Chinese films about pandas you would have watched as a child. The carts are fully-ventilated, meaning you’ll freeze to death as the winds whip in, but if you’re hungover or motion sick, your fellow passengers will find the floor grates quite a blessing.
The statue itself is majestic, but its surrounds are a complete tourist trap, complete with a Starbucks and ridiculous Buddha paraphernalia imported from China. The Po Lin Monastery is opposite the Buddha, and is famous for offering a delicious vegetarian banquet cooked by the monks themselves. Sadly, like most vegetables posing as meat, the food is mostly inedible with the exception of the lotus chips and rice, but the hundred stray dogs running around will appreciate any bits you toss them.
Despite the swarm of touristy shit at the Buddha’s base, it really is a worthwhile attraction to visit if you’re in Hong Kong, even if just for the cable-car ride alone. Just make sure you’ve trained for the stairs for at least a couple of months beforehand.