Today I went to the Po Lin Monastery and to see the world’s largest outdoor seated Buddha. I successfully navigated the MTR (subway) including changing trains to get to a cablecar in order to get here. I climbed the 260 steps to get to the Buddha (I’m sure my legs will hate me tomorrow) and the view was calming. Despite the overabundance of souvenir shops and stands selling overpriced drinks and ice cream, it’s really gorgeous and peaceful here. Even the loud gong someone is banging as I type adds to the peaceful atmosphere.
However I sort of feel like I shouldn’t be here. Most of us who have come here did so as just another touristy thing to see and to take pictures. But I’ve seen dozens of Chinese people bowing, praying and lighting incense. Clearly they’ve come here as more of a religious experience and it almost makes me feel rude for being here and taking pictures. It’s a strange struggle I feel a lot when I travel because I do want to see the attractions, but I also feel like I’m contributing to the demise of what makes them special. Although I’m sure the ice cream stands are doing more damage than I am.
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