|Not one of our better days travelling. Both still feeling a bit poorly which did not help - maybe missing the home comforts. Travelled to this smaller city, Leshan, 140kms from Chengdu to see the biggest buddha statue in the world. Thought it might be interesting after seeing so much of buddhist religion over the last four months. This gigantic statue took over the number one role after the Taliban obliterated their famous statues a few years back.
Apparently, China has 17 of the top 20 most polluted cities in the world, and no doubt Chengdu is one of them. Its a gigantic city, and the pollution from the outer industrial areas spread all the way to Leshan. We have never seen so much smog before, and both of us have been to Athens in the summer before the clean up. We should have been thankful that it was sunny, while most of the country seems to have rain (and typhoons!), but we barely saw the sun all day. And to think we have to travel to quite a few major cities, bigger than this to get to the major tourist destinations. Although, we have been told that the industrialisation around Chengdu is worse than many others. We shall see!
And then there were the tourists. We came here on a Saturday. In summer, they warn us not to go to major tourist destinations on weekends because of overcrowding, and not to travel because of booked up trains, buses etc. But we can not sit on our tod all weekend, and had already chosen to see the Pandas on Friday, so this was our only chance. The crowds were massive, and 99.9% chinese. In fact, again we got stared at in amazement for being there! In a nice way generally, and several times we had to pose for those photos with chinese tourists (that Beckham syndrome again!)that we assume they show all their friends when they get home!
The famous buddha is set in a big park in hills on the Min River in the middle of Leshan. A lot of clambering around in hot and sweaty conditions gets you to the top of a hill looking down on the buddha and the river. He is sitting but is still 71m high. What is more extraordinary is that his ears are 7m long and his big toe is 8.5m long! But from the top, it was a three hour queue if you wanted to climb down to get a close up of that big toe! So we gave it a miss and walked upwards away from the crowds to some very pleasant gardens with temples at the top of more hills. Nancy later managed to sneak through the exit area to get some photos of the buddha from the bottom. I could not be bothered pushing my way through the crowds coming the other way.
Once away from the crowds again, we got to a very interesting Wuyou temple which had 1,000 fabulous individual terracotta figures looking like bizarre jedi knights! See the photos for that one. Then perhaps the highlight of our day, a speedboat trip down the river, jumping rapids at high speed, and then to suddenly stop, chinese style, to take photos of the buddha from right in front. This was the best view in town, although I must say the buddha does not compare with some of the many more beautiful buddhist statues in SE Asia.
Tomorrow we travel to the Chongqing, (reknowned for its extreme heat in summer!) and from there catch a cruise down the Yangzi and the Three Gorges, finishing at the dam in Yichang. Will be offline for next four to five days. Hope all is well with everyone.