Tips for climbing to Ngong Ping (Big Buddha) HK
I've spent a lot of my time in lockdown reminiscing and looking at the pictures of when I could travel. I was supposed to be doing a tour of China in February 2020 (talk about bad timing) because East Asia is definitely one of my favourite places I've visited and I'd love to see more of it. I've been to Hong Kong three times now and I'd return in a heartbeat. I've been out so often as my sister has lived in China for over five years now - she lives about an hour from Hong Kong, so it's the perfect meeting place without having to worry about visas.
Hong Kong is a beautiful place to visit - if you love travelling and haven't been yet, I'd seriously recommend adding it to your list. There are still things I've not had the chance to see and experience yet, so will be booking my trip back again as soon as I am allowed to.
However - I want to keep this a fitness post, not a travel one... (although that might not be a bad idea!) and tell you about one of the best hikes that I've ever done. When you visit Hong Kong, one of the main tourist attractions is the Ngong Ping 360/Cable Cars/Big Buddha experience.
You travel to the town of Tung Chung (which does have an excellent shopping centre and food court straight off the MTR) and can ride the cable cars up to the Ngong Ping Monastery with incredible views of the airport, landscape and traveling through the cloud to reach the top where you'll find shops, a 3D cinema, beautiful temples, roaming bulls, a delicious vegetarian restaurant at the back of the temple and of course, the 'big buddha'.
Each time I travelled on the cable cars, I noticed people walking the small path below. The fitness freak inside me thought each time 'I'd love to walk that!' so eventually managed to do it on my third trip out. I had to try and convince my partner to do it with me, he seemed up for it the day before, then less so on the morning of, then convinced me that we should take the cable cars, then to do it walking back instead. But by that time, he was tired and had already accumulated a blister - I was desperate to it, so I said I'd meet him at the bottom and he took the bus.
So, I have not walked UP the Ngong Ping trail - only DOWN. This will be a guide for coming down but obviously will work in reverse if you are going up.
- The trail is about 5K - but it feels a lot longer
- Coming down took me about 1.5 hours - another 60 minutes to walk from the bottom back to the Tung Chung MTR
- This is quite a difficult hike - my legs were stiff for 2-3 days afterwards
- I did this in December - the weather conditions were dry, pleasant and quite warm
- There is nowhere to get food or water on this trail, so make sure you have supplies
So the trail begins near to the cable car station, you will see the path. They are also numbered as you go down, which is incredibly helpful. (I think the number posts start at C35 down to C00 along with the grid reference and directional arrows to Tung Chung and Ngong Ping.) and the path is very easy to follow and very clear. General rule - if you follow the cable cars you will be going in the right direction. You may often get hecklers shouting 'crazy' at you - I had several!
You will walk through beautiful forest and the path will start to descend. You will see some incredible views and wildlife too. Before you know it - you'll look behind you and see how far you've actually travelled when you see the Big Buddha in the distance behind you.
This path is super steep - and I was pretty breathless by the time I reached the top! Even though most tourists choose to take the cable cars, this is quite a popular path and I do remember seeing quite a few people on this trail. Carrying on - you'll also start to see and incredible view of Hong Kong airport too.
After this, you will come to the steepest path of the walk. There is also a 'warning barrier' as you approach - the path is fine, it's just steep and made from wooden steps and I imagine would be slippy if it is wet, so do take care. Also, don't drop anything; it's a long way down and there is no way of retrieving anything that you accidentally drop here! These steps do start to take their toll on your hamstrings but the view of the wooden steps in the forest is a very beautiful one.
Above: Steep trail warning Below: Wooden steps in forest scenery
I do remember really enjoying this part of the trail and the views did continue to be stunning - I don't remember in great detail where it was on the hike, but you do go past a helicopter landing pad at some point around here. You'll also reach the cable car 'half way' building, so the mid point where the cable cars go through an indoor checkpoint type thing.
After these steps you will feel how much you have descended down the mountain and the ground will be looking a lot closer than before. You'll still be seeing the small C-numbered signposts, see below for a photo of one (although it looks like the number has been scratched off)
The path continues, you will notice however, the cable cars continue over the sea - there is no bridge so we have to go down a different way! The path will snake down the right side of the mountain and away from the Tung Chung MTR station where you arrived.
These steps seem to feel like they go on and one, but keep going, you can see how close you are to the bottom and those C-signposts help to give you a countdown too. You will head closer to the town/city area as you descend.
However, before you know it - you will have made it to the bottom! And here's where I need to do my best to remember this part!
When you arrive at C00 - Congratulations! You've made it back down to the ground. This next path is a little unusual, so stick with it. You're going to want to turn right as you come down the steps and follow this path towards the city.
I remember this area is a little run down from memory, you will go past sheds and hut-like structures and I also remember crossing a bridge and a children's park on the left. Keep going and stick to the path. When you are near to the city - you will come to a large body of water with a bridge over it, you're going to head up on to the bridge and continue heading left.
If you follow this main road and don't come off it - you will be travelling towards the Tung Chung MTR - it is a busy road but the street is quite quiet, mostly flats and lots of laundry hanging out to dry! The only place you need to be aware of is turning off to the left when you get closer to Tung Chung. However you should see signs for this. I think this walk did take me around 45 minutes - an hour from the bottom of the path to the station.
When turning left, you will go under. a bridge/pass type thing and cross the road, then continue down here where the Tung Chung MTR will be on your right. The map below gives you an idea of the path once you are back on the main road.
Where the red line starts on the left is where the C00 trail ends, so follow this until you get to the bridge and steps up to the main road. Of course if you are able to use your GPS this helps, but as you can see it's pretty much a straight line back.
It is an incredible hike and I'm desperate to go back and do it again, this time in full so going down and up - stopping at the amazing vegetarian restaurant in the middle.
Let me know if you've done this hike or are thinking of doing it! Tag me on instagram @bek.mo