The Elevation Tour

Hong Kong’s Lantau Island is full of elevating, enlightening experiences By: Deanna Ting

The Details

Lantau Tours Ltd.

Commission: 15 percent

The New Lantau Island Tour costs approximately $75 per adult and $57 per child ages 3-11. It includes roundtrip transfers to and from appointed hotels, a one-way deluxe-ferry ticket to Lantau Island, Giant Buddha admission charge, lunch and a one-way cable-car ride from Ngong Ping to Tung Chung. The services of an English-speaking guide are also provided, and all transportation on Lantau Island takes place in an air-conditioned motorcoach.

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I’m not afraid of heights — that’s what I tell myself.

I’m sitting in a cable car, some 160 feet up in the air, overlooking the empty and lush landscape of Hong Kong’s Lantau Island. It’s kind of frightening, to say the least but, at the same time, completely exhilarating.


The Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car ride offers amazing views of Hong Kong. // (c) James Wheare
The Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car ride offers amazing views of Hong Kong.


That’s just how I felt after a day’s worth of touring Lantau Island, Hong Kong’s biggest island and home to the famed Tian Tan Buddha or Giant Buddha.

Visiting Lantau was certainly enlightening: Its verdant landscape, with rolling mountains and deep valleys, is a stark contrast to Hong Kong Island’s massive skyscrapers. And instead of muscling your way through bustling sidewalks and streets there’s nary a crowd at all, save for the few wandering cattle who dare to cross the road. It’s definitely a welcome respite from the city’s fast-paced lifestyle, and a must-see for travelers who want to experience a more natural setting, as opposed to the city’s manmade structures.

Lantau Island is so named for its "ragged head" — the numerous peaks and valleys that populate the island. Approximately 75 percent of Lantau is a park, and before the construction of Hong Kong Disneyland (in the northeast corner of the island) and the adjacent Hong Kong International Airport, it was home to sleepy fishing villages. Today, it is home to nearly 45,000 residents, a marked difference from Hong Kong Island’s 1.4 million inhabitants.

My tour officially started at Victoria Harbour, where our group took a ferry to Lantau Island. The ride wasn’t very long, at only about half-an-hour and, before I knew it, we were already there, docking at Mui Wo village, now also known as Silvermine Bay.

I strongly recommend clients take at least one ferry ride while visiting Hong Kong: Sitting in the slowly rocking waves of the South China Sea, watching the city as you float along, is a quintessential Hong Kong experience.

Once we arrived on the island, our Lantau Tours Ltd. guide, Henry, rounded our group into an air-conditioned motorcoach and we immediately set off for our first stop: Cheung Sha beach.

The sandy, two-mile beach is a popular summer hangout for locals and, even when visiting in November, I saw locals and tourists alike lapping up the gentle waves and playing in the sand.

After 20 minutes spent at the beach, soaking up the autumn sun, we headed west to Tai O, a traditional fishing village. Here, residents still live in houses set upon stilts and the majority of older residents — some 2,000 that remain — still thrives off the sea.

The village’s connection to the ocean is unmistakable. Walking through the tiny market, your clients will see (and smell) all manner of different seafood, from salted fish and fish paste to barrels filled to the brim with dried shrimp and dried squid. The local Taoist temple, Kwan Tai Temple, holds a special place of honor for Tin Hao, the goddess of the sea. Walking farther through the village, I saw open storefronts which doubled as family homes, with eager, fluffy Pekingese puppies who couldn’t wait to greet the passersby.

On longer itineraries, clients might even have the opportunity to dine with a resident Tai O family. Doing so will give them special insight into the village’s simple, peaceful lifestyle, a way of living that’s all too rare now.

After Tai O, we set off for Ngong Ping, the site of the Giant Buddha. The sculpture is the world’s largest, seated outdoor bronze Buddha at approximately 85 feet tall. Along the way, you can see him, perched high
atop the mountain. His right hand is raised to deliver blessings, and his head is bent slightly forward, as though he were looking down to greet the visitors climbing upward to see him.

The advantage of going on a guided tour was not having to climb those 268 steps. Instead, our bus drove us directly to the top of the mountain via a narrow road and dropped us off next to one of the eight goddess statues kneeling before Buddha with offerings in hand.

Inside the Giant Buddha, we saw great works of art that chronicled the life of Buddha and even an extremely rare and sacred Buddha relic. I felt lucky to have Henry as our guide, as he explained all that we saw in great detail, giving each of us a better understanding of Buddhism and its significance to many of Hong Kong’s residents.

After our tour inside the Buddha, we took the bus down to Po Lin Monastery, which rests at the foot of the steps. The monastery is frequented by many tourists and locals day in and day out. The air surrounding the temple and its gates are heavy and thick with the smoke of burning incense, so much so that it’s a little overwhelming. And the longer you stick around, you’ll soon hear the murmuring chants of the monks inside the temple.

Here at Po Lin, we feasted on a banquet of vegetarian Chinese dishes, prepared specially for us by the nuns at the monastery. The food was amazing — just what we all needed to lift our spirits and fill our stomachs.

After lunch, we did a 360 by traveling to the nearby Ngong Ping 360 attraction. Housed within the adjacent Ngong Ping Village, this cable car attraction had me soaring to new heights. Although the wait to board my cable car felt a little bit like waiting in line at Disneyland, the wait was well worth it. Just like that, our group was swept off our feet as we embarked on the 3½-mile journey to Tung Chung Town Centre at the northern tip of the island.

The views were absolutely stunning — once I caught my breath — and by the end of the ride, I didn’t want to get out of the car — almost.