Saturday, 11 February 2012

Big Buddha

Huzzah! Last day for Travelling Aunty in Hong Kong!

Today we must show her Buddhism! We are escorting her to the mighty tourist attraction that is the Tian Tan Buddha, affectionately known as Big Buddha.

This has to be on everyone's tourist itinerary of Hong Kong, doesn't it? Of course it does. Lantau must offer you something apart from the airport. And when you're fed up with Buddha you can shop at the fantastic themed retail experience that is Ngong Ping village!

The Chinese have this sort of thing organised. Big buses to get you there, large coach parks, directional signs, plenty of dining opportunities, toilets for the disabled.

But la famille Grit is not here simply to take part in the great tourist enterprise! No! Any reader knows that Grit is a half-hearted follower of the Buddhist business. She can even manage a bit of mumbled chanting in exchange for a free dinner.

So you can take it that our tour today also means we can actively demonstrate our Buddhist virtues of zeal, charity, morality, patience, meditation and wisdom. The Travelling Aunty can enjoy them as well, whether she wants to or not.

(She can call it home education, religious studies.)

First we show zeal. I set Shark on shovelling the reluctant aunty out of bed at 9am. Then we can push her on the ferry, force her on the underground to Tung Chung, and prop her up on the Number 2 bus, bumping its way round the hills in Lantau. For it is here the Chinese proudly display the world's biggest bronze Buddha sat outside on a hill, facing north! (V. important.)

To experience the momentous meeting with Buddha close up, Travelling Aunty must then walk up the hill.

We immediately have problems with the hill. Apparently the Travelling Aunty has a blister which she says got worse when I made her wear flippers.

I say a blister is no problem. Stop groaning. (More zeal, double tick). After all, the Chinese have provided steps! Lots of them. Like a runway. (Choose the correct side to ascend! Right side up! Left side down! Do not get these instructions confused if you do not want the tourist guard to beat you with the baton.)

But then Travelling Aunty With The Blister says she must rest half-way up because she is Clapped Out. She attempts to cling to the railings. After waiting a considerate moment I send Squirrel back down to force her to get a move on. Given the length of time she has spent hanging over the railings gasping, I think I show a great deal of patience, so I'm ticking it on my path to nirvana. And morality. I am sure it is in there too.

Because, sadly, we are against a time limit on our visit to Buddha. We must attend to the Buddha, walk round him anti-clockwise (or clockwise, I forget), look under his seat to visit his display, say a venerating ooh at his ancient relic (v. v. v. tiny slither of bone, possibly from middle finger), and then get to the restaurant by 4.00pm before they close up and the cook goes home. Here we can gaze upon the lovely vegetarian dinner! (Tick meditate.)

That is from Dig. He bought the full dinner set for six people by accident. If you are likewise visiting Big Buddha, be warned! You do not have to buy the full meal set! You do not have to buy the snack set! You do not have to buy any food at all! You can just visit Big Buddha!

The Chinese craftily position the Buy Your Ticket booths at the foot of the steps to Buddha, so in Dig's confusion (not getting to bed until 2am thanks to flight from Philippines) he persuades himself we must acquire curious forms of entry ticket, so buys a full set dinner for six.

Now on that score we have achieved wisdom (tick). And I will say how very kind it is for Dig to provide us all with dinner (tick charity).

Thus, having mostly achieved the objectives for nirvana, we walk briskly about the Buddha, make all the right noises, do not fall out with any security guards, and enjoy a fantastic vegetarian dinner for six!

I think we do it all in the right order. We save the gift shops till last. The directional signs are very good and the entire complex is unmistakably what industrial-scale Chinese tourism is all about.

Now here are the variety of rubbish photographs taken on the day. You'll have to bear in mind that we were here for business! We couldn't hang about to compose shots, or frame anything! Just enjoy all the heads-in-the-way, the over-exposure, and the tilted statues.

PS. I only deliver it to the Buddhists because I know they can take it. And they are unlikely to retaliate by punching me in the face, kneecapping, bombing, or any other non-nirvana-inducing means of retribution. (And I love 'em.)


sharon said...

Poor Aunty - I'd never make it up those steps! Not for all the tea in China - not that it would be much of an incentive as I don't drink tea ;-) The set meal looks very good though, so kind of Dig to provide it.

Nora said...

I'd do it for the meal most definitely. That does look good. I might take me a while to get up there, though. I'm middle aged after all.