An amazing Giant Buddha, an amazing cable car ride, a lovely Buddhist Monastery but this place is oh so touristy as well but it is worth it!
You can find everything you want to know about this somewhat offbeat but very popular attracton from the three links listed above.
In a nutshell the NP 360 Experience is really just a means of transport (a cable car) to take you to the Giant Buddha and attached Po Lin Monastery and it really is an experience, the cable car ride is brilliant but once you get off you are subjected to the Ngong Ping Village which is truly awful and you essentially have no choice but to go through it to get to the Giant Buddha and Po Lin Monastery. The only saving grace of the village is it has loads of half decent restaurants / coffee shops and acceptable restrooms.
i hate steps and if you hate them then going up 260 + of them is not going to improve your mood particularly if it is hot and humid. My very simple advice is do one section at a time, stop, admire the views, chat to people going past you, smell the roses, yes it takes longer but you will not be a shade of beetroot around the face when you eventually get to the summit.
At the base of the steps make sure you buy from the Admission Office the pass that allows you inside the Giant Buddha but I would skip on the offered Veggie meal at the Monastery.
Once at the top you get some magnificent views and you can easily spend an hour up there.. inside the Buddha is a sacred relic of the "tooth" of a Buddha, it all seems a bit dubious and typically you are not allowed to photograph anything inside the Buddha itself which is rather annoying considering that it is all a bit touristy.
The Po Lin Monastery has been around a while and is used to dealing with a mass of camera toting tourists, I love the place because with a bit of patience you can get some wonderful images. I do love the humongous incense sticks you can buy!
I am not a fan of the veggie food on offer but that's just me.
The Monks at the Po Lin Monastery will soon have bragging rights for the biggest Buddhist Monastery in Hong Kong, it is monumental and will be filled with the most expensive gold leaf statues that Hong Kong has ever seen.. who knows when it will open, hopefully by the end of 2013 or early 2014
In order to get to the Giant Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery you have to go through the simply awful Ngong Ping Village (which you have to walk through) once you get off the cable car. Given the amount of money they spent building the village they could have made it authentic but typically the whole design of the place has been done with the sole aim of getting you to part with your money.
They also have these "shows" like the Monkey Tale Theatre which should be avoided at all costs.
The only saving grace is that the restaurants and restrooms are fine (but they can get very crowded).
There is also the Ngong Ping Plaza which connects the Village to the Buddha, lots of souvenir stalls, the chance of seeing feral cows and watch out for the devil dogs, there is a pack of wild dogs up there which can be a bit of a problem and I would stay well away from them.
Now, you can avoid the Ngong Ping Village and Plaza by simply taking the bus rather than the cable car... more on that later.
The NP 360 Cable Car is situated out near the airport at Tung Chung and is about a 25 minute ride through some of the most beautiful scenery Hong Kong has to offer.
I would always use the Crystal Cabin which is quite reasonably priced but when it is busy you could be sharing with strangers and I absolutely hate the guys and gals working for NP 360 which snap your picture and you then buy some absolutely must have plates and keychains with your image on them.. you basically have to tell them you do not want your picture taken. They can be quite aggressive.
These queues can happen at anytime.....generally and in my experience you have to wait for up to an hour to get on the cable car once you arrive at the terminal.. even if you buy a ticket online (which cuts out the ticket buying queue) you can still wait for 30 minutes to an hour to get on the cable car. You have been warned.
My advice is simple, go up on the bus (the terminal is next to the cable car terminal) which takes 35 minutes and come down on the cable car, much quicker and much cheaper.
.... and please make sure that you check their website to make sure that the cable car is running, there are seemingly many days when it does not run due to bad weather or some scheduled repairs are being made....
I do love the cable car ride, it is brilliant and you get some fabulous views but you have to weigh up whether a long wait in a very long queue is worth it going up... take the bus! and get the cable car down.
and my final word.
You should allow 5 to 6 hours (taking into account getting there and then back) I have never done it in less than 5 hours but by golly it is worth it.
I do personal walking tours around Hong Kong, I am on the streets every day and I have a somewhat interesting perspective of this wonderful city I have called my home for 37 years. My private walking tours are perfect for visitors who want a detailed overview of Hong Kong prior to exploring on their own and for people who are only here for a day or two who want to make the most of their limited time here.
Many clients book me for their first full day in Hong Kong, they get to see the best that Hong Kong has to offer + a crash course on our wonderful public transport system and then they go exploring for the rest of their stay armed with step by step instructions and recommendations from me....
...oh, and if you book a tour then you are booking a tour with me, I do not employ other guides.