Red, gold and dragons... the 3 essential elements of the hundreds of temples and monasteries we have in Hong Kong... a riot of colour! I love to visit these place and am lucky enough to go to at least one just about every day and witness the rituals.
My personal favourite... that's easy - the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple!
My biggest gripe about Temples / Monasteries in Hong Kong is that they do not open at night time, many of them are 9am - 5pm! this is a real shame.
This place is a mixture of Taoism / Buddhism / Confucianism and perhaps the most part - having your fortune told by one of the 160+ fortune tellers on site! ... I am sure people wouldn't mind you adding in a few beliefs of your own.
This Temple opens at around 7.30am which is handy and closes at 5.30pm 7 days a week and it is an amazing place, even more so because it is always packed with people and has a great atmosphere, the incense "smoke" can be overwhelming at times and the colours assail the senses but WOW! just visit.
The Pak Tai Temple in Wanchai on Hong Kong Island is another firm favourite of mine, it is never crowded but it is very atmospheric... there are no "set" services (like for example in a Catholic Church) you just wander in anytime you please and do your thing and perhaps have a chat with the ancient kung fu expert guy with the rock hard stomach who doubles as a fortune teller!
The Fat Jong Buddhist Temple is short mini bus ride away from the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple.. it is a bit hard to get to and I certainly would not recommend walking up the very, very steep road to get there but the effort is worth it... you can get some fairly decent views of Kowloon from up here as well.
I am not a fan of the Man Mo Temple simply because it is on the coach tour route and is often swamped with hundreds of camera toting tourists from all over the world, actually I do not have a problem with this per se it is just that the Temple is so small it can get very claustrophobic.
.... I am also the first to admit that it is very iconic and you can get some simply amazing shots like these incense coils...
The Tin Hau Temple next to Macdonalds / Starbucks in Stanley Plaza is just plain weird.. it has a very plain and understated exterior but inside.. wow! and just look at the colours in this image.
- look for the monkey "god" with a wooden stake protruding from a certain part of it's anatomy, the expression on the monkeys face is simply priceless
- the turn around and gaze in amazement at what is on the wall (I am not going to spoil the surprise)
Then wonder if this Temple really has been there since 1767!
It is a real trek to get to this Buddhist Monastery on Lantau Island.. it is right next to the Giant Buddha and has some very impressive gold statues.
My apologies to the Nun's at the Chi Lin Nunnery in Diamond Hull but I just have to show you these simply magnificent gold leaf statues in the Main Hall... here is a tip - make sure you get there by 2.45pm as they close the hall around 3'ish
...oh and make sure you visit the Nan Lian Garden which is part of the complex.
The best incense burning rituals I have ever seen are at the old Po Lin Monastery next to the Giant Buddha on Lantau Island, some of these sticks (not shown) are about 4ft high and probably burn for weeks!
I love going to the Ten Thousand Buddha Monastery in Shatin but it is best to go between October - April when it is not as hot.... the reason is that you need to walk up 423 very steep steps to get to the top (there is no other way).
The trek is worth it, although this is NOT a working Monastery you will be simply overwhelmed by the statues on display. The people running the place (NOT Monks) have recently put up signs saying no photographs which makes no sense what so ever.. as long as you are discreet nobody stops you and make sure you go up a further set of steps to the next level which is even more intereg.
...oh and make sure you avoid any contact with the mad wild monkeys that hang around the place.
I always find it a bit odd that the guide books do not really go into any detail about this brilliant place... it is situated at the eastern end of Repulse Bay beach and the whole area is technically the Lifeguards Clubhouse (really) but it is has morphed into a quasi - religious place over the past 40+ years.
Make sure you walk over the bridge of longevity (adds 3 days to you life) and then try and chuck a coin into the mouth of the yellow fish of prosperity (not as easy as it looks) for good luck and rub the God of Wealth on the way out.
The beach is stunning as well!
Another one of my favourite images from the Ten Thousand Buddha Monastery in Shatin, there are simply amazing images to be had at this place.
To the left and towards the back of the main Temple at the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple is the very "lucky" Nine Dragon Wall.. if you are feeling lucky then try and toss a coin to land in the mouth of fish spitting out the water (I have managed it 3 times) and say hello to the lucky turtles in the pond.
... and last but not least the very old and very distinguished Pak Tai Temple on Cheung Chau Island. oh so colourful!