We could not get an early enough start to get to Leshan in southern Sichuan to avoid the crowds. The Traffic Inn's handy location adjacent to the Xinnanmen Bus Station made it easy for us to get to Leshan City in 2 hours, but we still had to take the city bus that slowly crawled through Leshan City (interestingly full of brand name shops - Gucci, Prada, you name it) before it crossed the Min river to the Giant Buddha site. Built during the Tang Dynasty (circa 8th century) , it is carved out of the cliff face facing the confluence of the Min, Dadu and Qingyi rivers.
It was 11 am by the time we reached the entrance gate. After climbing several steps we reached the level of the curly head of the Buddha. The site itself is a massive complex with several temples and caves. We visited the Lingyun temple and even had a quick lunch at eatery serving rice and noodles with Sichuan style spices before braving ourselves for the real ordeal which is walking down the stairs by the side of the seated Buddha figure.
Getting in queue for the descent down the 71m tall Buddha, we estimated that it would take a couple of hours to get from the head to the toes. The toes themselves are 8.5m long. The ears are 7m and the shoulder span is 28m. Progress down is extremely slow due to the crowds. Despite it being a Monday, it took a full 10 minutes for us to get to the start of the steps after going through the barricades (reminiscent of Tirupati in South India or airport security queues anywhere). The first two sets of stairs saw very slow progress as everyone got themselves photographed with the Buddha face. The Chinese have a special fondness for quirky photo shots. Here it seemed to involve them fondling the Buddha's face and each photo shoot has the photographer spending several minutes getting their subjects' hands in the precise position where it would appear to be holding the statue's face up. V recalled a sunrise on Oct. 1, 1993 up in Mt. Taishan where several people got themselves photographed with the sun trapped between their fingers or even igniting their cigarettes with it.
Fortunately, progress was swifter after two sets of steps as they got narrower to allow single file only. We got down to the Buddha's toes in less than an hour. Our wide angle cameras managed to squeeze in as much of the statue in a single frame. Tour boats circling the water closeby would have managed to get the entire statue as well as the two figures that are on either side. The city's buildings were hazily visible across the river through the dense fog.
We inadvertently took the route going to the south exit which turned out to be on the other side of the site but it brought us through a fishing village and a lovely view of a historic bridge across the river. M had a slight fever possibly due to the side effect of an allergic reaction to the Sichuan food and so we decided to wisely hire a motorized pedicab to get us to the bus stop, which turned out to be more than a kilometre away. From the bus stop we could see the head of a giant reclining Buddha over the entrance of a temple. We did not feel the need to enter the temple to get an up close view of this giant reclining Buddha having had our fill of the seated one.
Our next destination, Kunming was a 19 hour train ride away, but due to schools being let off on summer vacation we discovered that all sleeper reservations were unavailable. Rather than sit through an overnight journey we opted to fly to Kunming. After departing from several huoche zhans (train stations) and qiche zhans (bus stations), it was a welcome change to depart from a feiji chang (airport) and that too an international one (Chengdu has direct flights to Bengaluru!). Our flight was also scheduled to arrive at Kunming's brand new airport that only opened June 28th.
The location of this entry should rightfully be tagged Leshan, Sichuan Province which is around 120 kms south of Chengdu. But quirky Travelpod is unable to locate Leshan in the right province.
Bié dānxīn M. Sìchuān cài hěn là. Nǐ hěn jiànkāng. Nǐ xiànzài hǎo yidiǎn ma ? From, on Jul 6, 2012 at 03:09AM
@Ramesh - Made complete recovery almost immediately. Thanks for asking! From, on Jul 8, 2012 at 04:30AM