Last Sunday, I took the trip to Tung Chung with my girlfriend (now my wife) to ride Ngong Ping 360. This is a cable car ride which takes about 30 minutes and spans from Tung Chung to Ngong Ping village and provides short cut to the Big Buddha / Po Lin Monastery. In the past, going to the Big Buddha (also known as Tian Tan Buddha) will require a bus ride from Tung Chung or Mui Wo Pier. The Big Buddha is an awesome sight to see, so imposing that even if you are in a considerable distance, you can still see this giant structure, the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue at 34 meters tall and weighs 250 tons.
I mentioned a few times in this blog about the well publicized problems of Ngong Ping 360 where cables have snapped, tourists have been stranded in the middle of their rides that a PR company must have a big task in its hands.
We got to Tung Chung at 2:30pm. The climate was humid and the sky is filled with strato-cumulus clouds. The queue was considerably long, like the long lines I see in The Peak on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. But because we were holding complimentary tickets, we were led to another line which brought us to the redemption counter; it must have taken us 20 minutes to reach there if we didn’t have those tickets on hand.
After claiming the ticket, two 10 dollar gift coupon and attraction guides, we spent another 10 minutes to finally get the ride. Most of the passengers were mainland tourists while there are also several Westerners whom I think are also watching the Olympic equestrian events in Shatin.
Then when it was our turn to take the ride, it was a pleasant experience after the long wait (those at the back should have felt worse). Each cable car can accommodate up to 17 passengers although typically only 9 or 10 people are allowed in. The cable seats are facing each other so you can’t help but glance/befriend/stare the other passengers during the trip. We were seated with our backs in front so it wasn’t a pleasant experience looking out of the window twisting our necks a further 90 degrees. (Is this part of the 360 experience at Ngong Ping 360?) I guess you just have to wait for the next ride if you want to sit on one side.
A great view of Tung Chung Bay, the airport island (yes, Hong Kong’s airport is a man-made island, reclaimed from the sea) and greeneries around Lantau island. We were hanging about 250 feet above the ground at some point and we can see hikers making their journeys and enjoying the sights at the same time. There are two angle stations which allow the cable to take a different angle towards the destination. The first is at the airport island and the other is at Nei Lak Shan where some passengers can get off and go hiking at Lantau trail.
It’s an amazing ride although it’s kind of scary if you remember the news of the snapping cables and malfunctioning pulleys.
When we reached Ngong Ping after the 25-minute ride, it was mid afternoon and we got some udon for lunch at one of the restaurants in the village. The village is actually just a collection of shops selling food and souvenirs. I was not surprised to see a 7-Eleven shop; almost everywhere in Hong Kong you’ll find this one.
Our ride doesn’t include theatre viewing so we were content on exploring The Big Buddha and nearby Po Lin Monastery, frequented by Buddhists and tourists from everywhere. I think there are still areas that need to be improved especially from Ngong Ping village to the Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery.
Overall it was a nice experience, the only drawback I saw was the long queue and the seating arrangement which made me a little dizzy (I won’t consider this one if I was on the right seats).
However, I still recommend taking the cable car ride at Ngong Ping 360 as one of the things to do before you leave Hong Kong, whether you are a tourist or a long time resident.
By the way, thank you Ginny for the tickets!