Or the world’s largest carved stone Buddha- same thing.
The next morning Nate and I woke up at the crack of dawn… actually no, it was still dark out when we woke up- probably 6:15ish? We packed our things and left our luggage in Sims storage, with only our small backpacks to get us through the next two full days. We hopped on the right bus to the bus station, and this time we were also at the correct bus station and didn’t have to take a rape van to a different one (I’m speaking of Chongqing in case anyone forgot). We grabbed some corn bread-esque bread for breakfast and hopped into our… van? I guess we were taking a van to Le Shan! The ride took about two hours and I blasted latin dance music to keep myself from falling asleep. I really could have used some coffee, but I guess it’s always good to get over a caffeine addiction.
Before I knew it we were at Le Shan! The city of Leshan was not what I was expecting. I was imagining some sort of Dazu-eque town, but Leshan is definitely a city! Maybe not much of a city by Chinese standards, but it was definitely more of a city than the city just outside Seattle, where I’m from. There were more high-rises than Seattle so I’m just going to call it a decent sized city by American standards.
Apparently there are two parks within Leshan, one for the Leshan Buddha and one for the Oriental Buddhist Park. We weren’t quite sure what the Oriental Buddhist Park was so we tried to just get tickets for the Leshan Buddha, but apparently we were on the side of the park that was the entrance for the Oriental Buddhist Park so we bought both tickets.
It turned out to be for the best because the Oriental Buddhist Park is definitely worth a visit! There were many Dazu-eque Buddha carvings, as well as carvings that were actually originally from Dazu, and at some point were transferred. After spending some time in the Oriental Buddhist Park, we hiked our way towards the Leshan Buddha. It was a decent little trek to get there, but when we finally arrived we discovered a plethora of Chinese tour groups to tell us we were in the right place.
We eventually made our way down to the line to get to the Leshan Buddha, which was absolutely ridiculous. Not that the line was that backed up, because there were Disney Land-esque roped lines that we could skip, but Chinese lines are never fun; evil old ladies squeeze in front of you and middle aged people push you from behind until you have literally no breathing room. The good thing about the line, is that it cascaded down the side of the cliff so that you got great views of the Buddha as you were making your way down the steps. It also acted as a sort of funneling effect, in which the line width got smaller and smaller while the stairs became steeper and steeper, resulting in a lack of crowd when you finally reached the feet of the Leshan Buddha.
If you don’t know anything about the Leshan Buddha, you should know that it is HUGE. I am about the size of a pinkie toe. It’s 233ft tall (71 m) and you basically have to sit on the ground to get the entire thing in a picture. Not only is it the world’s largest carved stone Buddha, it is also the largest pre-modern statue. It was built in the Tang dynasty to calm the raging river and help protect sailors and fishermen. While the Buddha itself may not have calmed the river, the construction lead to dirt and chunks of the mountain falling in the river, filling in the holes that created rapids, thereby calming the river- so I guess it worked! The Leshan Buddha is definitely an amazing sight, and I recommend checking it out. We also made a French friend in line- I don’t know if I’ve said this but apparently most western travelers in Sichuan are either American or, surprisingly, French. I hear people discussing in Chinese whether Nate and I are American or French, and if we strike up a conversation, people always want to know.
After taking a few pictures with Mr. Leshan, we began the trek back up the cliff on the other side. I’ll admit it was a little rough, but this Chinese girl (in heeled wedges of course) started… the only word that comes to mind is “scream-whining” and climbing on all fours up the stairs. It was probably one of the most entertaining things I have ever witnessed. This girl was a mess and had obviously never exercised in her entire life. I’m surprised her token accessory boyfriend didn’t throw her 90 lb body over his shoulder, but he was pretty scrawny himself so that might have been a problem.
After exiting Leshan we ate lunch in the surrounding little “town” street (it kind of reminded me of Zhongshan) and took a tut tut back to the Oriental Buddha Park entrance, which is actually a huge waste of money- they tell you it’s far but it’s really not that far, easy walking distance and a straight path through a fishing village that leads straight to the main street. Whoops, but how were we supposed to know? The tut tut was also part of a little ring where she dropped us off right in front of a van that was going to Emei. No! We were going to go the cheap and inconvenient way. We hopped on the public bus to take us to the bus stop so that we could pay a resounding 8 kuai for the ride to Emei.