We woke up at 7:30am again, and had a coffee in our airbnb. We then set out to find something for breakfast. Wandering the streets around our airbnb, we didn’t find many places open, so we went to 711 and had a breakfast sandwich. I had a delicious cold coffee that was made with oat milk. After this we headed to the MRT to take the train to Zuoying station, where we caught the Harvard Express. Make sure to take exit #1 out of the MRT Zuoying Station. Once you arrive at the top of the escalator you will see a bus station with many different boarding platforms. We walked by a few, and noticed that #3 said Fo Guang Shan Monastery! The line was really long, but we managed to make the first bus (just barely). The bus pulled up to the stop and let 44 people on. We were number 40 and 41! You can pay with your easy card or by exact change ( I believe it was 50 NTD). The ride took about 30 minutes and we arrived at the first stop.
This first stop is the one you want to get off at for the iconic Giant Bronze Buddha. We walked towards the main entrance hall, which was flanked by giant white elephant and lion statues.
Once inside, we were approached by a super friendly volunteer who enthusiastically told us all about the Monastery. One of Buddha’s teeth (one of three known) is enshrined here. The other two teeth are in Sri Lanka and Beijing. She also explained to us about the different Buddha statues we could go see, and where each different type was from ie. Thailand, Myanmar, India (we explain this a bit better in the video).
We then entered the main square that is flanked by the eight towers, leading to the Giant Bronze Buddha. You can go in a few of these towers to learn about different things pertaining to Buddhism. We went into the children’s tower.
We then continued our walk towards the Giant Buddha. Along the way we noticed a path that led to a garden and pond, so we detoured to see that. There must have been 500 butterflies swarming the bushes in the garden. It was so magical to be completely surrounded by the butterflies and the plants.
Next we walked into the main hall. No photographs are allowed here. There was an incredible wooden carving in the middle of the hall covered in many tiny figures, and the ceiling had beautiful wooden hanging murals painted in every colour.
We first visited the hall with the smaller golden buddhas. Then we entered the main shrine. You must remove your shoes and remain silent. A really friendly “vulnerable” or temple attendant gave us a light to offer a prayer or wish to the alter, and also handed us an english instruction sheet about how to pay respect. The walls were covered in dark wooden relief carvings ( the most intricate I have seen in my life). The air smelt faintly of incense. We walked to the front of the hall where we were instructed to sit (to meditate before placing our candle). We then placed our candle and exited the hall. Above the reclining Buddha was a small glass ornate vase, inside which you could see Buddha’s tooth.
We were both so moved by the visited to this hall, that we donated money to the temple. We then exited the building and made our decent back down to the main hall. Here you can buy souvenirs, and there are many different vegetarian buffets (as well as a vegetarian Starbucks). We went to a vegetarian buffet, and it was the best food of the trip so far! For 150 NTD it was all you can eat, or at least not more than you are able to eat, no waste! You are given a bowl, plate and chopsticks . You place your bowl and chopsticks at an open chair and fill your plate with what you can eat. Every single dish was delicious! My favourite was a lemon spicy “chicken” dish.
After lunch we headed back to the bus stop and noticed that it was about 40 minutes until the next bus (they come about every hour on Saturday). Also, the monastery is closed to visitors on Tuesdays, so avoid visiting then.
We met a man from Manchester in the line for the bus. We talked all about our travels. The bus arrived (this time a smaller bus that fit about 30 people), but we were the first ones on. The ride back to Zuoying took another 30 minutes. From here we took the MRT back to our accommodation to rest before heading out to Sizihwan to take the ferry to Cijin for sunset.