Pilgrimage to the Tian Tan Buddha

Sometimes you don’t have a lot of time to explore a city. In this case, i was already routed to have a multi-hour layover in Hong Kong, so i decided to extend it for a day. Without much time, or much knowledge of the area, I decided to take the Nyong Ping gondola lift to Lantau Island, where i would be able to visit the giant bronze Tian Tan Buddha at the Po Lin Monastery.

The weather was foggy and seemed like it might rain, but i only had one day for this experience, so i went anyway. The Gondola, which they called a Cable Car, had a glass bottom and a friendly sticker on the window reminding passengers not to bring pets or other live animals inside.

As we ascended the mountain, strong winds shook the tiny cabin, and the fog outside grew dense and cold. By the time i got out, the sky had darkened.

I still had to climb 108 steps to reach the Buddha.

One by one, i tentatively plodded up the stairs, trying to be reverent, yet mindful of the impending rain. When i finally stepped onto the top platform, i took several deep breaths of appreciation. It had not rained! I slowly circumnavigated the immense statue, looking out onto misty mountain forests as i had only seen before in paintings… Serene simplicity.

I found myself again, after walking the circular path, at the top of the stairs, at the doorway to the shrine. After a momentary pause, the sky suddenly rumbled and shattered, and rain began cascading from above. The timing was perfect, a tremendous and humbling finale to my pilgrimage.