Ngong Ping village and surrounding area has so much more to offer than the usual tourist traps. Dig a little deeper and there is some serious fun to be had.
From the outside, Ngong Ping 360 cable car and strange fake high street look to be a second rate Disney. The village was always there, and so was the temple, then someone saw the golden opportunity to unironically make some money out of the monks and built a massive cable car straight through the beautiful Lantau hills. My wife got chatting to one of the store owners who inhabited the original village and she said she used to walk all the way to Tung Chung before the road was fully completed. She's make the trip for amenities they couldn't provide for themselves on a wet, windy and blessed mountain top. This mountain top does provide a lot. At the time of our visit, she was growing chilli, tomato, cucumber, papaya, something I didn't recognise and my wife didn't know the translation for and some lettuce. Do pop in for a cold drink and they'll set you up with a table and chairs which gives you time to admire her cucumbers.
Back before the protests and then the virus, queues for this hanging people carrier could last up to 4 hours. Once you had finally completed the $235, 25 minute journey, you were greeted by – you guessed it, a gift shop. Nothing screams Buddhism like a gift shop. Then there's the fake high street with more gift shops, a Starbucks, a 7Eleven and the most traditional of spiritual restaurants, a Subway. Luckily most of these were closed on my last visit.
Ignore the shops and look instead to the buddha and surrounding temples that are breathtakingly beautiful. The large temple at the back was repainted a few years back so now shines resplendently in the sunlight. Make sure to walk through the first one, then go up the steps and through that one too. The temple at the back (through the temple and the temple) has a room festooned with stunning golden Buddhas. Photography isn't allowed, but donations are. There's also a really cool tree and a carp pond that are worth checking out. I didn't include a picture of the tree so you can gasp on the first viewing like I did.
We already know about the temples and the world's largest sitting Buddha, what we want to know about is the rest of it. The cool stuff. And there is plenty of that...
Firstly, when you get off the cable car and out past the quality merchandise (!), take a left and out onto the road down a little ramp. From there you can follow the path into the woods that takes you all the way back down the hills to Yay Tung and Tung Chung down using the emergency access route. I'll cover that another day. (it's worth the walk.) But we're not doing that today.
Today we're going rock climbing!
Follow the road to the middle, so it looks like you're going to walk out towards the sea, and at the end of that road are some fun rocks to climb with great views of the surrounding hills, the coast and Ngong Ping village. As always with these things, be mindful of snakes, sunstroke and don't go alone.
Once you've finished up there, head back towards the the rescue trail. At the gate that says 'don't go this way', turn right and follow that path up the hill. Near the top, there is a path on the left where you can scramble up to a gorgeous view point. We decided to take picnic and spend a very windy afternoon counting cable cars.
If you don't fancy carrying all your food up a scree slope or mountaineering, then head back through the main square after rock climbing.Go past where the steps take you up to the Buddha and walk out the back. There you can find the Lantau Trail that leads up to the top of Lantau Peak (many, many steps) the Wisdom Path (I don't really get it) and also some cool abandoned villages. Take the path to the right, opposite the Wisdom Path and this will lead you in a scenic route (with a toilet) back to the main square again.
Right - back in the main square. Hungry and don't want a synthetic sandwich? Hit-up Zen Noodles, the little restaurant to the left of the square opposite Subway. They do really decent portions of noodles with fried chicken; breaded pork; veggie options and the usual sides like spring rolls and chicken wings.You don't feel robbed at the end of the meal and the folks that run the place are lovely. Think a main is about $78 or thereabouts. The Japanese further around with the lady who waves the giant creepy hand is also good. Their English is better but it's little more expensive.
If you live on Lantau and can afford to do so, buy an annual pass for the cable car. We must have used ours upwards of 15 times. I think it's $550 per annual pass and I use it very regularly, even picking the kids up from school at 4.30pm and heading up to Ngong Ping for dinner. Make sure you get the last car back at 6pm, otherwise your options to descend are a long sweaty walk or the Vomit Comet NLB bus.