Po Lin Monastery Visit
Last week everyone in the four residential colleges received an email that promoted a monastery visit for today (Thursday) to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival. Luckily, my Thursday class was cancelled this week, so I decided to sign up.
It was a very long day, as we met at 7:30am and did not get back until 11:30pm. There were only eight of us, including the organizer, because a lot of people signed up but then did not show up. We left the colleges at 7:30am and walked down the hill to the MTR station, which we rode to Central (~15 minute ride). We then changed subways and got on a different subway because we were going to Lantau Island, which is one of the new territories (a different Hong Kong island).
The monastery is in Ngong Ping, which is right by the "Tian Tan Buddha" grey marker on the left. The blue dot on Hong Kong island, is Kennedy Town (where I live).
After riding two different subways, we then got off and walked a short distance to the bus station which was to take us to the Monastery in Ngong Ping. Ngong Ping is a very scenic as it is way high up in the mountains, which also made it a little cooler than the weather I have been experiencing back on Hong Kong island. The bus ride was about 35-40 minutes, but it was very curvy and the bus driver was driving really fast, so I ended up feeling really car sick both ways.
Day in a Monastery
When we first got there they were making lanterns for the Mid-Autumn Festival, so we helped them. I worked on a big star that was covered in very thin colored plastic, which took forever to make. After working on the lanterns for a couple hours, we had lunch at 12pm which is pictured above. These monks were vegan, but I don't believe that all monks are.
After lunch we all took naps, which is typical for these Buddhist monks. After sleeping for an hour, we went out to do some exploring. When signing up for this trip I didn't know that we would be able to visit the Big Buddah, but it has been on my list of things to do while in Hong Kong, so it was great that we got to see it today.
The Big Buddah was really cool, although the amount of steps to the top weren't (they actually weren't as bad as I was expecting). After visiting the Big Buddah we walked to the Wisdom Path. The Wisdom Path is a series of thirty-eight tall wood columns that each have a Chinese Buddhist prayer inscribed on them.
After getting back from the sightseeing we hung out for awhile, and then it was time for dinner from 6pm-7:30pm. During this time many more people came to the monastery, since after dinner we were going to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Dinner was again vegan, which was homemade pho (a Vietnamese soup dish). It was self serve, so we could choose what we wanted to put in it. I chose to add rice, pho noodles, carrots, lettuce, broccoli and tofu along with the broth.
The monastery had a number of dogs on both the brother and the sister side. This one was especially cute since he was a puppy still (four months!) and his name was Bambi.
Mid-Autum Festival Celebrations
After dinner it was dark, and we were ready to celebrate the full moon. Everyone lit a lantern and we carried them in peaceful silence for about a mile throughout the village. After getting back they had tea and Moon Cakes for us (which look a lot better than they taste in my opinion).
After getting our snacks we all sat down on mats and watched people perform both song and dance. Finally, at 10pm it was time to go. The monastery organized a bus for us and we rode that back down the mountain to the bus station. During the performances I got very tired and was definitely ready to leave and start our long journey back.
It was an awesome experience to go to a real monastery and to be able to talk to and see Buddhist monks and to learn more about their religion and ways of life. Although it was one of the longest days ever, I truly enjoyed the time there. I won't be becoming a monk anytime soon though, as they get up every day at 4:30am!