Friday, 23 October 2015

Sichuan Day 2: LeShan Giant Buddha

Our 1st real sightseeing started with the UNESCO Giant Buddha at Leshan. Have known it for years, we finally got to check off "the 100 places to see before you die" list in this trip.

There're usually 2 separate trips to see the Giant Buddha in all its full glory. The 1st one is to sail down the river, and have a look at it front-on from the boat. This is what we did.

Leshan Giant Buddha, Sichuan, China
Another tourist boat in front of us

Some people suggested that the whole Mount Lingyun where the Buddha is carved on its cliff face looks like a reclining Buddha (Have a look at the photo below. Does it look like a Buddha lies on his side?)

Mount Lingyun, Leshan Giant Buddha, Sichuan, China
Leshan Buddha is carved on the hillside near the extreme right of the photo

The other way of seeing the Giant Buddha is on foot by climbing the staircase on either side of the statue. The start of the staircase is on the top and back of the statue.  According to my tour guide, to get to the start of the staircase from our ferry terminal would take nearly 2 hours. That just getting there.

After getting to the staircase, one would climb down from the staircase from the top (which is approx 70m, the height of the statue). Where you get to the bottom, you walk across in front of the statue, and then climb back up the staircase on the opposite side of the statue. The stairs are narrow, and so only unidirectional.

Some say the average climbing time is about one hour, depending on fitness. For us, it's probably take more like 2 hours.

Stairs, Giant Buddha, Leshan, Sichuan, China
Stairs on the left side of the statue
Stairs, Giant Buddha, Leshan, Sichuan, China
Stairs on the right side of the statue

While it's great to have a closer look at the giant head of Buddha, but not with our fitness. We're no longer spring chickens, and more like a couple of  winter chickens. The springiness in our steps are no longer bouncy due to metal fatigue.

Statue, Leshan, Sichuan, China
Is it just me or this figure looks more like ancient Egyptian statue ?

Besides, we were literally have several more mountains to climb in the next few days. Mountains that are some 50% taller than the tallest peak in Australia (ok, Australia is the flattest continent on earth). This was our 1st day, and we needed to save our legs for those upcoming climbs, which we had no choice. We were happy to see the Giant Buddha from a passing boat.

When the statue first completed, it was housed or sheltered in a 13 storey tall pavilion. During a war, it was burnt down, leaving the statue to the element. But if the pavilion still intact, we wouldn't be able to see it from the river, We would have to climb the stairs to see it.

Giant Buddha, Leshan, Sichuan, China
Ants like tourists that are at the feet of the Giant Buddha

It was a pleasant time of the year to visit this place. The tourist crowd wasn't as big as I imagined. There were only 3 boat loads of tourists altogether. Perhaps, the Chinese tourists are now sightseeing the rest of the world.

Sightseeing boat, LeShan, Sichuan, China
This was our boat

After seeing the Giant Buddha, I'm curious about the sizes of the other giant statues of famous people. I'm curious how it compares to the giant heads of the presidents in Mount Rushmore.

So if I could move 1 of these 2 mountains and put them side by side, their relative sizes would look like the 2 photos above.

Giant Buddha, Leshan, Sichuan, China Mount Rushmore, USA

Here's a quick comparison between these 2 famous landmarks.

Giant Buddha U.S. Presidents
 Sizes of heads  17m  18m
 The years construction started  713  1927
 The years construction completed  803  1941
 Technology used  Simple metal hand tools  Explosives and power tools
 Reasons for constructions  To calm the water (it works!)  Economic stimulus during the  Great Depression

We stopped for lunch at the main street near our wharf. It was the best looking restaurant on the street. The lunch is included in our tour with Travel China Guide. This is a private tour with only 2 of us, and we were chaperoned by a driver and a local guide. We were quite happy with their standard of service.

Local restaurant, Leshan, Sichuan, China
Restaurant for our lunch

We were given 3 dishes, which was too much for the 2 of us. I think this is their way of compensating for cutting short of the Giant Buddha climb, even though it was our decision.

kung pao chicken, Leshan, Sichuan, China
This is the famous Sichuan dish Kung-pao chicken (宫保鸡丁)
We asked for not so spicy, and this chicken dish ended up mostly sour taste, which would be fine if you like sour dishes. It wouldn't be the same if it wasn't spicy. It was a let down for us.

Beef with onion, Leshan, Sichuan, China
Beef with onion
I don't know the actual name, but its ingredients are beef and onion. It's not too bad. Just a bit more salty than we would like.

Leafy green veggie, Leshan, Sichuan, China

We had never come across this leafy green veggie before, it tasted really good: crunchy and with a nice hint of bitter after taste, and the right amount of spiciness. Refreshingly different.

Fruit vendor, Sichuan, China
Fruit vendors doing their business opposite our restaurant at the promenade

Buddha View Pavilion (望佛楼)
It's a shame that this building with a strategic prime location for admiring the view of Giant Buddha is being neglected, overgrown with spiderweb of electrical cables. Somebody should turn this into a restaurant (again. I said again because it must have been some kind of a restaurant before). I wouldn't mind do lunch there.

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