Leshan Giant BuddhaSeptember 6, 2019 in China ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C
Change of pace today! More old stuff, but this is the first of the sites we're going to visit around Chengdu. The Leshan Giant Buddha is a, well, giant Buddha statue in a place called Leshan, about 160km south of Chengdu. Originally we'd planned to get a high-speed train or a couple of buses there, but we noticed the night before on Klook (a sort of marketplace for tours) a return coach tour leaving from right near our hostel at much the same price, so we went with that option.
It was an early start, alarms at 6:15, out the door at 6:30 and walking the few blocks out to the coach stop where we found our bus with no issues. Comfortable modern bus (there are lots of Chinese companies making coaches these days so they're often quite new), and the lady running it spoke a little English. We were the only foreigners, as usual.
The drive down was about 2 hours and I passed most of it by dozing and catching up on sleep. Eventually we arrived and although it wasn't "busy", busy is kind of a relative term in China - there were lots of people. The site is actually part of a larger complex over a smaller mountain that is very sacred to Chinese Buddhists, and is apparently packed on weekends which is why we'd visited on Friday.
Wandered around a little through the Buddhist shrines, niches and pagodas before heading for the main attraction. The statue itself is 71 metres tall and carved directly out of a mountain. It's overlooking the confluence of three rivers which was apparently once quite treacherous for boats; they erected the statue in hope that Buddha would calm the waters. Ironically, given the huge amount of stone quarried from the mountain and dumped in the river for the project, it actually massively calmed the rapids! Not bad for a project carried out in the 8th century.
It's currently the largest stone statue in the world (a distinction it originally held, lost, and then regained as some large Buddhas were built in Afghanistan and then destroyed by the Taliban in the 90s). We had a good look from head height on both sides, then shuffled our way down the stairs with a few hundred thousand of our closest friends. You can't see that much from the bottom as the statue just towers above you!
Followed the path and climbed back up to the main part of the mountain, looking at other shrines and temples in the area which was quite nice. Had a minor alteraction with a local who took a surreptitious photo of us which usually doesn't bother me, but when she showed it around to her friends and they all laughed I decided to say something. Of course, I don't know how to say anything in Chinese so I just said HEY, stood over her while glaring, wagged my finger in face and made the teeth-clucking noise that Chinese make when they disapprove of something.
Chengdu is kind of the last outpost of civilisation in China, west of here it's sparsely populated all the way to Tibet and the 'stan countries, so it's the place where all the farmers come for their holidays. More urbane city-dwellers aren't that interested in the laowai.
Munched on a few different bits and pieces for lunch, including stick sausages and Sichuan-style jianbing (crepe). Eventually it was time to head back to the bus and back to Chengdu. Super slow trip with a lot of traffic, so we didn't arrive until around 7pm when we were both starving! Headed back to the same noodle place as last night, this time fumbling around with a couple of other dishes. Wontons in chilli oil, ground pork noodles in clear broth, and sweetpea chilli oil noodles as well.
Afterwards we walked a few blocks to the centre of Chengdu to get some dessert - fried balls of glazed dough on sticks which are delicious if not especially healthy. Also a few interesting buildings here; large ones like museums, libraries, city hall, a bit square and the requisite statue of Chairman Mao.Read more