. . . and the eye was three metres wide!
01.09.2007 - 01.09.2007 31 °C
As an avid reader of Jacquie & Lloyd’s Grand Tour blog, I gladly seized the opportunity to join them for the first part of their China leg. And, having had the audacity not only to participate but to amend their itinerary to include Leshan and Juizhaigou, I was “rewarded” with an invitation to write up our visit to the Grand Buddha of Leshan – so please excuse the temporary drop in quality.
Deciding to forego the challenge of the slightly cheaper but more time consuming public buses, we opted for a negotiated flat-fare taxi (negotiated by the hotel concierge that is, our Mandarin not being quite what it should be) and set off – relieved to be in the charge of a young, sober and awake driver. Having passed through the venerable but unsightly industrial town of Leshan, we pulled in at what I astutely observed looked more like a petrol station than the entrance to a tourist attraction. Our driver, being almost as deficient in English as we in Mandarin, began motioning for us to get out. After attempts to question where we went from this point to reach the Buddha, we hesitantly did so, and our attention was directed to a nearby sign. It turned out that it was a CNG filling station (Liquid Propane or similar) – and passengers were required to leave for safety reasons. This was graphically illustrated by photographs showing the back end of cars destroyed by explosions.
Buoyed by this concern for our welfare, Jacquie & I were lulled into sufficient complacency to brave the bathrooms. Needless to say, the enforced safety measures did not equate to any similar effort on the hygiene or odor front – you had to be able to hold your breath for the duration and concentrate your efforts in spite of fume-induced eye watering. I remain convinced that a naked flame in the vicinity of the toilets would have yielded the same results as a fuel explosion. Anyway, safely avoiding both hazards, we proceeded to the “Buddhist Paradise Amusement Park”.
Hand-carved into the rock face where the rivers Min, Qingyi and Dadu meet, the giant (233 feet tall) Buddha is certainly impressive. Work began in the year 713 and it took over 90 years to complete. Which is about the same amount of time it would take you to descend the narrow stone stairway beside it if you didn’t hold your ground against the coach-loads of very pushy (literally!) Chinese tourists. Whilst most Chinese we’ve encountered in other scenarios have been perfectly polite and charming, the tour groups seem to adopt a ruthless herd mentality and abandon all courtesy. As visiting Leshan also involved a four hour round trip, I’m afraid that none of us was able to obtain enlightenment in the face of such bad karma. However, the Monastery in the grounds was a much calmer experience – which I think Jacquie and Lloyd found more rewarding than the Buddha itself – I guess size really isn’t the most important thing when it comes to enjoyment!