Today was the day of our first “Turkish-Israeli-Outing”, meaning that all Turkish (Belce, Cengiz and me) and Israeli (Shira and guy) students got together to spend a day with each other (besides the wonderful time together, this also had diplomatic value). Cengiz my secondyear and Shira, Guy’s secondyear, had planned the day: a visit to the Ten Thousand Buddhas monastery and lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant!! Belce, Guy and me were very excited and our excitement doubled when we found out that instead of taking the MTR, we would bike to the monastery.After borrowing bikes from the school we started to cycle along the tracks that were marked for bikes. And we were not the only ones. We were surprised by the number of people who were cycling through the city, either professionally or just casually. Given Hong Kong’s reputation for skyscrapers and smog, we were amazed by the amount of cycling that can be done. The cycle track took us past skyscraper and stunning bits of harbor front and ocean view. Speeding through the red bike lanes and we enjoyed the wind in our faces. Cycling in Hong Kong is quite funny, a lot of bikers have put little radios in front of their bikes, blasting Chinese music and making us feel like we are part of a movie trailer.
The monastery was about 10 km away, so not that far and with all the interesting things we encountered and the great conversations we had, the time passed quickly. The entrance to the monastery was hidden behind a building. We saw a beautifully decorated big entrance gate and started heading towards it until Cengiz told us that it’s a cemetery. People often accidentally mistake it for the monastery, which is no behind the gate, but up the mountain! At a fence we were welcomed by fake-monks who were begging for money and after passing them we approached a sign saying “no begging allowed in this area”. We found ourself on a paved walkway with stairs on the side that was sloping upwards. On both sides of the path leading up the slope, were golden Buddha statues, each one of them with unique facial expressions and positions, some standing, some sitting. Each face was entertaining and insane, calm and serene, angry, charming, happy, or yes… even sassy. Some of the statues looked as if they were about to say “I’m fabulous” There are bald ones, hairy ones, ones in hats, ones with weapons. Halfway up we came to a little shrine where we lit up scented sticks and made a wish.. And then, after climbing up the stairs for quite a while and admiring the Buddhas, we finally approached the monastery itself.
A big temple, huge statues and a little pagoda greeted us. The entire area seemed to radiate calmness and peace, additionally enhanced by the beautiful traditional music that was softly playing in the background. We decided to go up the pagoda and did not regret it: the view was lovely from up there. After strolling around a bit and enjoying the atmosphere saw a family of monkeys playing on stairs. Monkeys!! The little ones were incredibly beautiful; their human resemblance and the softness of their movements left us in awe. We looked at more the statues and the beautiful and detailed art on the columns around them.
Cengiz took us back to a part of the pathway that lead us a little further to the smaller temples that featured mythological scenes, miniatures and larger than life icons: some statues riding wild animals, others calmly meditating. Some of the little temples were cemeteries as well, with walls full of little golden boxes containing the ashes of the dead. Once we walked beyond them, we came to a quite different part of the monastery: a pond with turtles and fish and golden statues that were scattered on rocks overlooking the city. The view was breathtaking. And the contrast between old and new world, skyscrapers and monastery was the most visible here. At the end of our “hike” we arrived at Cengiz’ favorite statue: a white goddess, riding a dragon in front of a waterfall.
On our way back we went into the big temple that was also a cemetery and the reason why the monastery complex was called 10,000 Buddhas: hundreds of miniature Buddha statues covered the shelves on the walls and in the middle of the room there were big statues saluting the visitors in the glimmering light of flower-shaped candles. The calmness, peace and spiritual energy of the monastery was contagious and we felt lightweight and happy after our trip to the monastery.
After the wonderful time with the Buddhas, we had delicious Vietnamese lunch. Click here to read more!