The school gave us a three-day weekend so I took a 4 hour bus ride to Leshan (It literally translates to Happy Mountain) to see the worlds largest Buddha. Navigating the bus station was NOT an easy task. There is a special place in heaven for Chinese college students who volunteer to translate when you get stuck.
Carved in the 7th century it was built in order to still the river that often claimed the lives of the villagers. He did his job well and the rivers current did slow down, though whether its from the watchful gaze of the Buddha or the extra stones that were thrown into the river during construction is debatable.
Near the Buddha was a temple with three separate shrines. In the first one people paid to purchase candles and incense to offer. Inside there were pyramids of dragonfruit, apples and pears being offered… along with boxes of oreos….
The line to go down to see the Buddha was TERRIBLE it completely stood still at times. I knew it was going to be bad but I also didn’t come all that way to skip it. The nice thing was once I got in line I found a Venezuelan dude and a Canadian girl (who happened to be black) and it was nice to have people to chat with while waiting. The bad thing was that the Chinese tourists got a little too excited about see 3 different ethnicities together that it was a bit distracting for us. Still, it was pretty amazing to see something so large that has lasted time and politics. By large I mean 71 meters tall.
The second part of the park was a massive area filled with temples, caves with sculptures, Pagodas, gardens, and trails. Not many people came over to that area and it was very peaceful wandering around.
There were a lot of monks visiting, I loved that their shoes looked like my Toms. They sang and chanted as they walked around and were full of smiles. I talked to a lot of other travelers, including an adorable older couple from Scotland who almost made me cry. I told them I was from Maine and they said “Oh Portland, we’ve been there, We ate at a pub called Grittys and saw the lighthouse” and I was instantly insanely homesick (someone needs to go to Grittys in honor of me and eat a giant pub burger). I also talked a to French girl for a bit, I offered her one of my Oreos and she glared at it disdainfully and said she only ever eats local food when she travels as that is the true heart of a culture,
I sort of hope she gets food poisoning (Don’t glare at my oreos or I’ll hate you too)
Anyways I paid about $25 for both tickets into the park and I basically refused to leave until I had seen every single square inch. I basically walked for miles and miles, it was huge and there were a lot of hills. By the time I left I was sunburnt and exhausted. Fairly happy though, I’m not sure who feels grumpy after 8 hours with a 1000 buddhas.
It was a bit frustrating that people in the park would not stop taking my picture. If I stood still for too long someone would approach me and ask me to pose, or they would just take a picture of me while I was walking. That always happens to some extent, but these people were getting extreme. I’ve taken to making really weird faces in the photos.
This little trip was pretty significant for me. I remember sitting in a staff meeting at work, pinning travel pictures on pinterest (ignoring the meeting) and getting super depressed because I felt like I would never actually to go to any of those places. I’ve accomplished a lot of goals I’m proud of but I always end up doubting I’ll be able to accomplish future ones. This was reminder that I can go to all the places I want to go to, I can navigate China, I can travel alone, and I can survive the next 10 months.
However apparently I can’t pick a decent hotel (I hope my mom skips this post). It was about 12 dollars a night…. but it was loud and ads for prostitutes were shoved under my door. Nothing bad actually happened, the receptionist spoke English and was very helpful but still…. I jammed a towel under the door so no one could open it- that’s how paranoid I get. (I was later told that the ads are pretty common in cheap hotels)
It was a lovely little adventure and a chance to see a bit more of China. I was happy to come back to Nanchong, my giant couch and my freezer full of rice balls.