Lantau Peak (鳳凰山), Ngong Ping : Heart Sutra, Giant Buddha

Trail Map

lantau-peak-ngong-ping elevation chart
A huge cliff-hanging tree shrouded by dense cloud

I visited Phoenix Mountain (Lantau Peak 鳳凰山) in poor conditions. For an idea of the scenery on a clear day please see The Dragon's Back walk.

I stood watching the bus drive away into a wave of low cloud breaking over the road. As I walked, more cloud swam over the crest of the hill, in and out of the branches of its many trees. Occasionally, a strong gust would punch through the haze, dispersing the dense droplets of water into oblivion.

A lone wooden shelter in the fog

Soon the mist thickened into fog and I entered a grey no man's land. Unable to make out any features further than ten meters away, it began to feel like I was walking over the same path repeatedly. Now and then shadowy figures would form from the grey and saunter past me. Droplets of cloud in the air were caught in my hair and beard, soaking them through. Hong Kong's second highest peak, Lantau Mountain could have been anywhere.

The Wisdom Path - towering wooden planks that reach for the sky

I soldiered on past the summit of Lantau Mountain and finally received a glimpse of my surroundings when a giant Buddha, meditating in a cloak of mist, materialised in the distance. To his right, pillars reached upwards in a figure of 8 formation.

On closer inspection, this was revealed to be the Wisdom Path, which is an arrangement of wooden planks depicting the Heart Sutra. The Heart Sutra is a Buddhist doctrine inspiring harmony, bliss and freedom from mental obstructions. The idea is to accept change as a constant and therefore to conclude that it is pointless to become attached to things. Nothing is eternal.

I like this idea.

Claw-like trees hidden by fog

The path towards Ngong Ping is laden with abandoned structures, mainly decrepit restaurants. As I was exploring these, an untethered cow sauntered past. I had to do a double take. It dived curiously through bins and as it entered Ngong Ping, spread joy to the thickening crowds.

The cow led me to a grand staircase and a brightly coloured temple at the feet of the great stone Buddha. Surprisingly, a whole herd of cows roamed the tourist-infested area. Many dogs also lounged about freely. One cow nuzzled my hand like a dog. Another swallowed a plastic bag whole before I could do anything about it.

The village of Ngong Ping shrouded in the mist

Following signs for 'Lotus Temple', I accidentally found myself backstage. Three dogs were crammed into a tiny kennel and another six were penned in by a small chainlink enclosure. Saddened by this, I headed swiftly towards Ngong Ping Village.

Ngong Ping 'Village' is a commercial street rammed with souvenir shops. It looked brand new. Tacky, throwaway items littered the pristine shelves. The village was in complete contrast to the teachings in the Heart Sutra around the corner. The flamboyant display of materialism was all the encouragement I needed to escape onto the bus.

I thought long and hard about the constant of change as we wound our way along the foggy mountain passage to who knows where...

        Words & Photography: Scott Norris (@radventuresofficial) // Spring 2016