Friday, February 10, 2012

Thieves in the temple

20 years ago I left Hong Kong, where I had lived for two years. It was an amazing time in my life, and I had never been back, so when I noticed how many years had gone by, I decided it was time for a visit. While I was there I took a trip out to Lantau Island to see the Po Lin Monastery. Originally a single Buddhist temple built in 1924, Po Lin expanded over the years to include other buildings until finally, in 1989, they began construction of a 34 metre high bronze statue of Buddha. Completed in 1993, this has been a major draw card for visitors to the monastery ever since. Of course it was an amazingly spiritual place - particularly since I was there on the second last day of the Chinese New Year period. People were lighting joss sticks, banging bells and drums, and off course paying tribute to the big Buddha , whose presence on the hill was ominous to say the least.

But a highlight for me was partaking of the beautiful vegetarian dumplings made in the monastery's cafe. The signs for each dumpling were in Chinese, so I just chose what looked delicious. The lady serving me was shaking her head and giving a quiet tsk-tsk, and once I began eating I could see why. I had selected an incomprehensible combination of sweet and savoury. No matter! It was all good, the best dumpling being the glutinous rice black sesame dumpling which I saved for last.
There was a bigger dining room where you could sit down to a meal of delicious Chinese vegetarian dishes, but this seemed to be designed for bigger groups. Since I was at the monastery on my own, I didn't think it was appropriate to ask for more food than I could actually eat.

If you are ever in Hong Kong, do make sure you allow a day to visit Po Lin Monastery. Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the journey there, as well as everything there is to see once you get there. And of course don't forget to wave at the big Buddha - he is very welcoming!

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