I just got back from seeing Wild starring Reese Witherspoon (but more importantly Laura Dern) and let’s just say that it did nothing to douse the flame inside my soul to drop all civilization for a period of time and hike into the wilderness. I’ve had a desire to tackle a huge hike like the PCT or the Appalachian Trail for quite some time, and although it is still in the cards for me in the next few years, that time has not yet come. I’ll just have to satisfy myself with day hikes in Hong Kong for the time being which is better than nothing.
I’ve mentioned in my previous hiking posts about the hikes being quite easy in HK, but I’ve officially found a tough motha trucking hike, man. Picture this: walking to the top of a mountain using only stairs. Stairs. Probably three to four miles of straight stairs. It sucks. But it’s totally worth it in the end. Let me show you. One of the first images that pops up when you google “Hong Kong” is the Tian Tan Big Buddha on Lantau Island. The Buddha is the largest bronze sitting Buddha in the world and they won’t let you forget that fact. It’s quite a site to behold I must say, and totally worth a trek to visit the big guy, however only attempt the hike if you are as stubborn as myself. There are much easier ways to reach the top including the cheap way (a bus) or the novelty (a cable gondola). But, of course, the real way is by foot. I kind of like the idea of taking the tough route to reach a religious destination, even if it’s not my own religion. The first hurtle was finding the actual entrance to the hike. Once you take the MTR to the Tung Chung station, you would think you should head towards the cable car station to find the trail head. You could not be more mistaken. The trail starts in what seems to be an entirely different planet and takes a good 30 minutes just to walk to. Once I finally made it to the beginning, I quickly started to rethink all my choices in life that had brought me to the never ending steps of doom.
“Why did I do this on my only day off?”
“Why am I even in Hong Kong?”
“Why did I ever leave my mother’s womb?!”
Thankfully, a combination of the views, my sheer determination to create a good vlog, and pride caused me to keep putting one foot in front of the other. The trail is littered with markers along the path that tell you your progress. I have no idea what distance they are but it starts at 0 and the end of the trail is 30, so you can imagine the victory dance I broke into when I reached 15. Seriously, I danced. After 10,000 steps and about an hour and a half later, the trail evened out and I caught my first glimpse of the statue in the distance. You know you’re in good shape once you pass under the third cable car tower – that’s the home stretch! The entire hike took about 2.5 hours in total, and that included a part where I got lost and had to back track. The trail has a number of turn offs, but it’s fairly well marked and as long as you follow the distance markers you should be fine. The section that I got slightly lost ended up bringing me to a gorgeous overlook, so I almost don’t consider it a mistake at all. An extra 20 minutes didn’t kill me. As Cheryl Strayed’s mother would say, “Put yourself in the way of beauty.”
The trail offers some spectacular views of the Hong Kong airport and the cable car which you are under for much of the hike. Also, people will call you crazy from the comfort of their gondola. Haters gonna hate, hate, hate. (although they’re kind of right.) I had this horrible vision in the my head of people seeing me struggling on their way up the cable car, spending a couple hours at the top, and then seeing me still struggling on their way back down to civilization again via the cable car. Thankfully, it didn’t take me as long as I had anticipated. Once I finally made it to the top, I was greeted by a few cows and stray dogs. It was random, and I’m not sure why they were there in the first place, but I am never one to frown at any kind of animal interaction. The village at the top is a nice place to refuel and offers everything from cafes to souvenir shops to Starbucks to 7 Eleven. You could easily spend a few hours wandering around up there and visiting the Po Lin Minastary. The area is first and foremost a religious place and that seem palpable especially as you get closer to the statue. As you walk towards the Buddha you are surrounded by smaller statues of historical warriors of the past. I didn’t read about each one, but it’s a fascinating walk down history if that interests you. Then it’s time to walk up the 263 steps (yes, more steps!) to reach what you came to see, the big Buddha! He sits holding his hand out in blessing and peace and is surrounded by smaller, but equally beautiful, statues as seen above.
I stayed up at the top for some time, catching my breath and soaking in the views of the surrounding mountains. I had made it, and in hindsight, the hike wasn’t that difficult. It was totally worth it in the end. I decided to treat myself and take the cable car back down. You can get a round trip ticket or one way. There are two options for the cable car: traditional and glass bottom. I chose glass bottom which is more expensive but worth it in my book. I enjoyed viewing the trail from above and seeing others struggle up on their own journey to self discovery. The cable car is definitely worth doing at least once, but the price doesn’t make it a repeat contender for me. I’ll either hike again or take the bus next time.
So, in closing, was it worth it? Heck yes, of course. Is it for everyone? Heck no, don’t be stupid. If you like hiking and/or a challenge and covet bragging rights like myself then totally do it. However, if you prefer the escalators in life then maybe you should stick to the cable car. Which would you pick: the hike or the cable car? Let me know below!
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