The world is a large space filled with wonder and mystery. There’s so much to explore and a lifetime is just not enough to even get started. However once in a while, we decide to revisit a place. To introduce it to a loved one, to make new memories there, to revel in its familiar nooks and once again relish its decadent food. And so the Sichuan province in China it was.
Day 1 :
With a midnight flight and being groggy the whole layover at Bangkok, the only highlight was the delicious shrimp pad-thai and the omo fried rice that the waiter served with a ketchup smiley.
Since we only reached ChengDu at 3:30 PM we decided to take the day easy. After meeting Summer’s lovely dog Wunzai we headed off for a walk in the area. The footpaths are just hubs of social life in the early evenings- kids learning games, older people dancing to stay active, folks training their tiny dogs and cheering them on and small carts with produce and snacks providing more colour to the space. The many apps that allow for picking up cycles at will to be used have made cycling a ubiquitous mode of transport there too.
We picked up a bunch of cycles and then headed right to dive into the food with the Sichuan barbeque – the ultimate winter food – hot, spicy. It works in a simple format- you select the vegetables/meat of your preference and you pay by the stick (more for meat). They barbeque it and get it to your table. It goes marvellously well with the locally available peanut soy milk, the herbal tea served in cans or beer that they prefer.
A hearty meal later, we walked back home followed by yoghurt ice cream and a walk with Wunzai.
Day 2 :
The next morning we took the super fast train from the ChengDu South station and had a packed breakfast of boiled corn and eggs in the train. The route is quite scenic with greenery and mountains. We need to take a bus just after the train station. We stopped in the city for lunch. Just as we got off the bus, we noticed an elderly gentleman and a young boy both playing with a long whip that was used to spin a very heavy metal top. Apparently it’s good exercise and looked like a lot of fun and skill was involved.
LeShan is also popular for its food and Summer had visited it just for the food previously, so we decided to make the best of our trip and packed a ton of food for our trek and our meal there.
Almost every search for LeShan will show up the image of the giant seated Buddha. The statue carved off a cliff faces the point of confluence of 3 rivers, hence it was a place for ships to get sucked into a whirlpool. This statue was carved out by a monk to look over the safety of the passing ships and was the work of 90 years! What also makes it very cool is that inside the statue is a drainage system that has helped drain out rainwater thereby reducing weathering of the statue over the years. It is easy to believe that it is the largest and tallest stone Buddha statue in the world with perfect fingernails and the sky looming above him.
It is imposing and is in a beautiful setting facing the rivers and the Emei mountain. Even on the stairway to the bottom of the statue, one would find carvings in the rock of Buddhist monks and shrines.
Tip: There are 2 ways to see the statue – one on foot while walking down and up the side of the Buddha. The other is to take a boat. The cost is minimally different between the two. We’d recommend taking the boat if you have trouble walking since there is so much more to see on foot even within the area. While there is a long queue to see this, the rest of the area is not crowded since it’s a vast space and most people return after seeing this.
There are numerous caves and shrines even around the statue within a vast green space. There are small ponds with golden-orange koi fish and the ubiquitous turtles too.
Since we still had time for the return train we decided to wander around a bit. At one point we noticed another entry with some images of carvings. The price was more expensive than our entry to Leshan Grand Buddha but we still decided to give it a go while our companions stayed back. While definitely verdant and scenic, it’s quite a walk to the first statue and we had to ask several staff members with sheer sign language on directions to it.
After a winding path through the hills, we finally landed at the statue that’s called the Pharmacist Buddha. While smaller than the Grand Buddha it is still a calm, striking imposing statue of the Buddha standing. It easily dwarfs the 2 massive statues of protectors(?) beside it. There were no other tourists there.
Just as Anand was clicking his pictures and I was wandering in front of it, he asked me to check on some voices from behind the statue- there was no direction board or any indication that there was something behind the statue.
Wait for the next post : The Jaw dropping beauty of Leshan