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Travels In Hong Kong: A Visit to Tai Po

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Having lived in Hong Kong for 8 years, I am always looking for more off the beaten track adventures to impress my frequent flyer visitors (aka my mother in law).  On a previous visit, she had brought out a clipping from the Sunday Times Travel section which featured the Tsz Shan Monastery in Tai Po. The Monastery was built by Hong Kong tycoon Li-Ka Shing to the tune of $1.5 billion and took 12 years to build, opening to the public in 2015.  On further investigation it transpired that advance booking was required (max two months ahead). All the allocated slots were filled so we agreed that when she next returned to HK, we would go.

Fast forward 6 months (yes she really is a frequent visitor) and we were booked in for our visit. Modest attire is required – we visited on a boiling hot october’s day and I regret not having a vest and shorts to change in to following our visit!

Getting to Tai Po and the Tsz Shan Monastery

The Monastery is located closest to Tai Po Market station on the East Rail line in the New Territories (a peninsula of HK which makes up 86% of the territory).  We took the MTR to Tai Po Market from Admiralty, switching at Mongkok then Kowloon Tong.  We took a blue taxi from Tai Po Market station but you could also jump on the 75K bus, hop off at San Tau Kok Station, then just follow Tung Tsz Road and make a right when you see Universal Gate Road.

About the Tsz Shan Monastery

On arrival, you show your booking confirmation and can then enter the 500,000 square foot compound.  

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Despite lacking in ancient history due to its recent build, this Chinese Buddhist monastery is breathtaking.  Thanks to the visitor quota, it maintains an air of tranquility.  The staff were very helpful, explaining about how to enter a monastery and also do a water offering.  

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The suggested route takes you through 11 areas, the grand finale being the 76 metre Guan Yin Statue.  Fashioned from bronze-cast white, she is incredibly beautiful and looks down from above on all beings, guiding them to enlightenment.

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Tips on visiting the Tsz Shan Monastery

It didn’t take us too long to walk around – allow about 30 to 45 minutes.  Although it is stroller friendly, I’m not sure young kids would enjoy it that much, especially if they are asked to be quiet.  Inquisitive older children would find it fascinating.

Don’t forget the modest dress code!

Tai Po Waterfront Park

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From the Monastery we walked back down towards the minibus stop. However, we were lucky enough to see a passing taxi so jumped in and headed to Tai Po Waterfront Park.  This enormous park is a 30 minute walk from Tai Po Market Station.  It is a fantastic place to while away a few hours, with a playground, promenade, bike rental and even an insect house.

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There are few food choices so either bring a packed lunch or do as we did and hit the Tai Po Market Cooked Food Centre (a 10 minute taxi ride away, a short walk from the MTR).

Tai Po Market Cooked Food Centre

I’m a sucker for food blogs and their suggestions, particularly if they have the words ‘this is where Anthony Bourdain ate on No Reservations’.  Hong Kong’s dai pai dongs (food stalls) have slowly been rehoused over the years into these ‘cooked food centres’, typically a few floors above the produce markets inside a dull concrete building.  These are the best places to find local eats.

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The Tai Po Market Cooked Food Centre has a myriad of colourful food stalls.  Puzzled by Chinese menus, one shop owner took matters in hand, sat us down and produced an English menu.  We picked at random and were lucky enough to feast on delicious noodles, wonton, shrimp dumplings and salted chicken.  All for less than HKD 100. Even if you don’t make it out to the Tai Po Cooked Food Centre, you can find them all over Hong Kong, a list of ten of the best here.

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If we’d had more time…

Luckily I’ve got my parents arriving in a few weeks, who no doubt will want to see the magnificent monastery for themselves. Then we could rent bikes at Tai Po Waterfront Park and cycle out to Tai Mei Tuk (8k).  Or perhaps go to Brides Pool for a bit of waterfall action.  Please do let me know if you have any other suggestions for the area!

5 comments

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  1. MummyTravels

    I’d read about the monastery a while back (maybe the same piece!) and it sounded fascinating – I hadn’t realised you had to book so far ahead, useful to know.

  2. Joe R

    As of Dec 2015, the booking allocation is released 30 days in advance at 08:00 HK time. On the day I booked, they were all gone within 15 minutes! A passport number or id card number is required, and a Hong Kong phone number.

  3. MummyTravels

    Lovely to read this again – still definitely on my list when I get back to Hong Kong. Thanks for linking to #citytripping

  4. Wander Mum

    What a magnificent place to visit. The views are stunning and that statue is just something else. Even though the temple is modern, it definitely still has the wow factor. Thanks for sharing on #citytripping

  5. Raquel

    I want to know if need to pay an intrance fee?

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