So today was the day that me and Allison went to see the giant Buddha in Leshan. We started out by getting the subway downtown and then walking to the bus station and after buying our tickets and waiting around for a while, the time came for us to board the bus. We went outside expecting to find a bus waiting for us but instead we were ushered into a clapped out old minibus. After asking around for a while we figured out that the minibus was indeed our transport to Leshan and not just a taxi that was trying some sort of scam so we piled in and were joined by a Japanese guy who was in China for a few weeks courtesy of the trading company that he works for back home. We chatted for a while then I had a little nap (I can't seem to stay awake on buses, or minibuses for that matter!) and I awoke when we were just getting near to Leshan.
The minibus dropped us off at a remote bus stop and he hailed down another minibus that was to take us to the entrance of the park that houses the giant Buddha. The second min bus was even more clapped out than the first and there was an overwhelming smell of petrol which made me feel quite queasy so I was glad when we finally arrived and could get out and breathe some fresh air. We went up to the ticket window and I asked for a 90Y ticket but the girl at the desk just said "No" and typed in 160Y on a calculator then showed me it. After a minute of trying to figure out why we couldn't just pay the 90Y to see the Buddha rather than 160Y to get into the newer part of the park that doesn't really get good reviews, it turned out that we had been dropped off at the wrong entrance.
Me, Allison & the Japanese guy made our way around to the correct entrance which was about 2Km away and after paying to get in we started the long ascent up to the giant Buddha's head. It was a pretty cool day so although there were lots of steps to walk up I wouldn't have classed it as difficult and I didn't break a sweat but when we reached the top, we were confronted by a sea of Asian people who looked like they'd just walked through a mini rain storm. Now my next sentence is over-generalising a bit but I thought it strange that for people that I think of as being quite active and so quite fit, (as a continent - see what I meant about over-generalising) a few flights of steps could make them perspire quite so much.
Getting back on topic now, when we finally reached the Buddha's head it was big...like huge. (not that you couldn't have guessed by the fact that it's called the giant Buddha but you know..) His face was still in ok condition for its age as it has an ancient water drainage system built into the back of it which has helped to minimize the amount of erosion that has taken place however the rest of it was showing its age. (all 1100-1400 years of it) After fighting my way through crowds of snap-happy tourists I managed to get to a spot whereby I could get a couple of clear photos (being tall helps as the majority of Asian tourists are comparatively quite short so being able to reach over them is very helpful) then we made our way down the very narrow winding steps carved into the rock face next to the Buddha that lead to his feet.
Getting down took a long time as the crowd on the stairs stopped every few steps to take another photo but we eventually reached the bottom, after passing by cave after cave of small carvings which were probably beautiful when they had just been completed but which were now eroded to the point where you could sometimes just see an outline of where there had once been a carving. We spent a while gazing up at the Buddha and marvelling at its size (about 17.4 metres I think) and looking out over the water back to Leshan which was crowded in fog. (or smog) We then walked up the other side and rested for a while under a pagoda at the top before heading for the exit.
To get out it was a case of fending off souvenir sellers, restaurant owners and taxi drivers who all had 'special deals' for us which is nothing new in China but this time the people were particularly insistent that we buy their junk/eat their fish/pay an extortionate rate to get back to Chengdu and they followed us for quite a distance once we'd left the exit but they eventually got the message and left us alone. We got a cab to the bus station as it was quite a way from the site of the giant Buddha and from there we got the bus back to Chengdu. (a real bus this time!)
The bus journey back passed uneventfully, until we stopped at a petrol station so that a guy could use the toilet that is. Now I'm not sure if anybody else on the bus noticed but one guy got off and two got back on, meaning that one of them was stood up at the back of the bus. How the driver didn't notice either is beyond me but when we got to near Chengdu the guy went to the front of the bus and started speaking with the driver, then the speaking changed to arguing and then to all out shouting. A while passed and by now everyone was looking towards the front of the bus, then I saw the guy lean over and grab the wheel and there was a slightly scary moment as the bus weaved a bit and the driver shouted something at the guy and someone else got up and pulled the crazy guy off the driver. Now I don't know what they were saying but none of the Chinese people on the bus could believe what was going on and the guy went to the back of the bus and although he didn't try taking over control of the bus again he kept walking back down to the front of the bus and kept getting turned back by the other passengers.
After sitting through a lot of traffic we were dropped off by a slightly aggravated bus driver in the South of the city, quite a way from the bus station. Whether this was because he just wanted the crazy guy off or not I don't know but we all piled out and I said goodbye to the Japanese guy then me & Allison asked around for directions to the subway station and then made our way back to the hostel.
When we got in I had a beer sat outside and relaxed for a bit and upon checking my emails it turned out that Anja had checked in earlier in the day so that we could discuss our travel plans and see if we could travel together for a week or so. I headed inside and saw that the hostel's dumpling night was in full swing (making then eating your own dumplings - nom nom!) and Anja was sat there in the middle of sealing up a dumpling. I joined the table as there was space for one more and then I spent the early part of the evening making dumplings, eating them and then chatting with everyone and "Gambei!"-ing ("Down in one!"-ing) some Chinese brandy and supping some beers. (no baijiu this time though!)
After chatting with Anja about her plans it turned out that we actually had quite different routes in mind and she had more time to play with than I did so unfortunately travelling together wasn't to happen. It's a shame really as when you're changing your location every few days and moving about you don't really get to know anyone that well so to travel with someone for a week would have been a refreshing change to being by myself, not that I mind it as there's always cool people to hang out with when I get to a new place so I'm never really alone.
As the evening wore on and the beers started to do their work, an Australian guy said that the staff at the hostel had invited him and an Irish guy out to a bar for a few drinks and he was asking if anyone else wanted to go. I was up for it so we went across town in a cab and we all reached the bar in question and it was a bit of a disappointment when we arrived as it was quite cold, practically empty and pretty expensive. I played table football with the hostel staff for all of one beer, then the Aussie & Irish guys said that the guys they were playing pool with were off to a club and we were welcome to join them if we wanted. Another taxi ride later and we arrived at the club which was a huge place but which was still full of people. The DJ was playing some good tunes at a ridiculously high volume and the club itself was actually pretty upmarket, with our own drinks opener/pourer at the table.
One of the guys who had invited us there was teaching English at a school and he must have been mates with someone at the club as after a quick word with one of the staff and a flash of a card, a 1L bottle of Johnnie Walker Gold Label arrived at our table along with four glasses and about six bottles of iced tea, all for free! Needless to say the night went well and it featured lots more "Gambei!"-ing, dancing, laughing and joking, and I kept on thinking the club would shut but it was still open when we left at 5.30am.
By this point everyone was a little worse for wear and so we thanked the two guys who had introduced us to the Chinese clubbing scene and we all split. We got back to the hostel and wanted food but nowhere was open so I headed up to bed. It turned out that the Aussie guy had a flight at 8.30 to Guangzhou and I don't know whether he would have been allowed on as he was pretty sozzled at this point but Chinese airline policies are probably a bit more lax than those back home and I haven't seen him knocking around the hostel so I imagine he got on his flight with no problems.
Wow, I think I got a bit carried away with this blog post. If you made it all the way through to this point then well done and I shall bid you goodbye for now and don't worry, tomorrow's post will probably be all of one paragraph thanks to this evening's festivities.