Despite living in Hong Kong for almost three years, until recently, I still hadn't been to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery in Sha Tin. A few weeks ago, Jeremy and I decided to fix that and take a day trip up to Sha Tin to explore. In this post, I'll share our day trip itinerary, as well as what to expect when visiting the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery.
Getting to Sha Tin from HK Island
One of the reasons why I'd never been to Sha Tin (also spelled Shatin) before is that it seems SO far away! Only about 20 km north of where we live on Hong Kong Island, it took us over an hour to get there using public transportation.
As you can see from the photo, Sha Tin is located in a valley and surrounded by beautiful mountains. Given its location in the New Territories of Hong Kong and the time it takes to get to Central, the neighborhood has a rather suburban feel to it.
Arriving in Sha Tin by MTR
In order to get to Sha Tin from Hong Kong Island by MTR, you'll have to transfer several times. Ultimately you'll want to end up on the East Rail Line and get off at the Sha Tin stop, which is closest to the entrance for the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery.
If I'd taken the MTR the entire way to Sha Tin from Kennedy Town, my route would have included a lot of transfers.
MTR Route - Kennedy Town to Sha Tin
Island Line (Kennedy Town to Central) >> Tseun Wan Line (Central to Yau Ma Tei) >> Kwun Tong Line (Yau Ma Tei to Kowloon Tong) >> East Rail Line (Kowloon Tong to Sha Tin)
Instead, we chose to take a bus directly to the East Rail Line. However, the duration of our trip was probably similar, maybe longer, due to traffic.
Our route from Kennedy Town to Sha Tin
As I mentioned, we took a bus to the East Rail Line. In Kennedy Town, we caught the 101 bus and took it over to Hung Hom / Cross Harbour Tunnel stop. The Hung Hom East Rail Line station was an easy ~5-minute walk from the bus stop. The bus ride took approximately 1-hour.
At Hung Hom, we hopped on the East Rail Line train (regular class, apparently you can purchase a first-class ticket on this train!). From there it only took ~15 minutes to get to the Sha Tin station.
New to Hong Kong? Check out this Guide to Public Transportation in Hong Kong.
Exploring the Sha Tin Neighborhood
Since it was our first time visiting the Sha Tin neighborhood, we wanted to explore a bit. Our first stop (and the impetus for our trip to Sha Tin) was the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery.
Next, we wandered through Sha Tin Park and the riverfront promenade. Finally, we stopped for lunch at Din Tai Fung and afternoon coffee in one of the malls.
To help you explore this lovely neighborhood, I'll share more details about our itinerary in Sha Tin below.
Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
The Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is a beautiful, hillside temple complex founded in 1951. As you might guess from the name, it's home to thousands of Buddha statues which were added over the decades.
Although I didn't count them, I've read that there are over 13,000 Buddhas on the temple complex at this point! I think I would've been there much longer than 2 hours if I'd attempted to verify this number.
Despite being called a "monastery," no actual monks live there. In fact, as you begin to climb, you'll see signs warning you not to give alms to fake monks that may be on the trail.
I recommend allowing ~1.5 - 2 hours to slowly explore the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery complex. Admission is FREE, but as with any temple, you can make a donation if you'd like.
Finding the Entrance to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
Although the entrance to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is close to the MTR, it can be a little tricky to find. This is because there's a cemetery with impressive front gates in the same area that looks like it might be the entrance.
To find the actual entrance, take exit B from the Sha Tin rail station and meander your way past the quaint houses and a small temple of Pai Tau Village.
Turn left at Pau Tai Street, then take the first right onto Sheung Wo Che Road. This is the one between the mall and the government office buildings.
If you miss this turn, you'll end up at the Po Fook Hill Cemetery. You can still meet up with the path to the monastery though by turning right and walking behind the government offices. Some nice government workers on a smoke break helped us find the way!
Climbing to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
Once you reach the entrance to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, you'll start to see the golden Buddha statues. They line the sides of the path leading to the temple. From here, you'll climb around 430 steps to reach the temple.
Pro Tip: The pathway to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is comprised of ~430 steps, but also has a paved concrete ramp beside the stairs. I suppose this path might be considered wheelchair/stroller accessible. However, the hill is quite steep and sections of it are uneven, so it could be a little dicey.
As you climb the path up to the temple, be sure to admire the statues and their expressions. Some are quite funny!
Towards the middle of the climb, you'll begin to see views of the surrounding mountains and of Sha Tin below.
Ten Thousand Buddhas Temple Complex
Once you reach the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, you'll be able to explore the beautiful temple, several pavilions, and a nine-story pagoda. I think some days you can climb the pagoda, but on the day we visited, it was closed.
Inside the main temple, there are thousands of miniature Buddha statues, which help to make up the overall count of 13,000+ statues!
Once you explore the lower temple complex, you can head up to another area of the complex where you'll find smaller temples and more golden statues.
A Couple Things to Keep in Mind While Visiting
1) Because this temple is where Buddhists come to pray, make offerings, and worship their ancestors, it's important to be respectful when visiting. Look out for signs informing you where photography is not allowed.
2) There are wild monkeys in this area. Yes, that's right, Hong Kong has wild monkeys. And they are not afraid of humans and can be aggressive if they think you have food. Luckily they weren't interested in us that day, but be alert and DO NOT EAT at the temple.
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Sha Tin Park and Shing Mun River Promenade
Our next stop on the Sha Tin neighborhood tour was the Sha Tin Park and Shing Mun River Promenade.
Getting to Sha Tin Park
To get there, we walked back towards the Sha Tin rail station because there is a large highway you have to cross to get to the river. Then we exited out through a mall - the New Town Plaza. Not sure if this is the best way to go, but it was straight-forward.
Head straight through New Town Plaza. Once you exit, you'll pass Snoopy's World (a small children's amusement park) and the Sha Tin Town Hall on your way to Sha Tin Park and the river.
Sha Tin Park
As you walk towards the river, head right into Sha Tin Park. It's a beautiful urban green space with landscaped gardens, playgrounds, a man-made waterfall, and ponds with turtles!
With many pavilions and benches throughout the park, it's a pleasant space to relax or take the kids to play.
Explore more of Hong Kong's green spaces - check out the Hiking page for ideas!
Shing Mun River Promenade
Especially as the days get cooler, the Shing Mun River Promenade is the perfect place to stretch your legs. If you eat lunch before exploring the riverfront, you could have a nice exercise walk on the promenade.
On the river promenade, you'll also find designated bicycle lanes, so be careful as you cross them to admire the river.
Since there are promenades on both sides of the river, you could even cross the bridge to explore the other side. The MTR's Tuen Ma Line Phase 1 runs on this side of the river so if you want to head home from there, you don't have to cross back over to do so.
Lunch and Coffee in New Town Plaza
Lunch at Din Tai Fung
Since we explored the gardens before getting lunch, we were pretty hungry by the time we stopped. Many of the restaurants in Sha Tin seem to be Hong Kong chains which we also have on Hong Kong Island - like Butao Ramen or Din Tai Fung.
We hadn't been to Din Tai Fung in a while and were craving some dumplings so that's how we chose our destination. Those pork xiaolongbao dumplings (soup dumplings) are just unbeatable!
Can't decide what to eat? Check out these other great restaurants in Hong Kong!
Coffee at MELLOW BROWN COFFEE
And since I'm a caffeine addict (and so is Jeremy) our next stop had to be coffee. We had some trouble locating coffee places. At least one of the ones listed on Google (Elephant Grounds) was closed permanently. I find that's happening more and more these days in Hong Kong.
But eventually we found Mellow Brown Coffee. The coffee was delicious and I like that you choose your coffee brewing method - siphon, espresso, or drip.
What We Missed in Sha Tin?
Hong Kong Heritage Museum
Another attraction that might be worth visiting in Sha Tin is the Hong Kong Heritage Museum. This museum houses a collection of Hong Kong history, art, and culture exhibits and admission is FREE.
Although we considered visiting, it is closed on Tuesdays so we were unable to check it out. Since we didn't visit, I can't say whether it's worth going. But if you're in the area and it's not Tuesday, why not check it out?
Looking for other day trips in Hong Kong? Check out this one on Lamma Island!
The Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery alone makes Sha Tin a destination you should visit while in Hong Kong. But more than that, Sha Tin's location among the green mountains of several country parks make it a beautiful place just to wander.
If you're looking for something a little different and off-the-beaten path to explore in Hong Kong, taking a day trip up to Sha Tin could be the perfect getaway.