As we mentioned in our last blog on Chengdu, we were really enjoying the Sichuan region so took a little side trip away from the city for a couple of days to the nearby towns of Leshan, to see the Giant Buddha, and Emei Shan, to climb Mt Emei. We left Chengdu and took a local bus to the bus station in Leshan then changed to another local bus to reach the Giant Buddha, something we had heard great things about. At the entrance, we had a little snack of some street food (super spicy noodles and chip type things) then caught a glimpse of a map which gave the impression that the Buddha was actually set inside a large park, rather than as a site on its own, but it was mainly in Chinese so we weren't sure - the entrance fee was quite high as well which should have indicated to us there was a bit more to see than the one Buddha, but we used our student cards again to get in for half price so it wasn't too bad. It was only when we entered that we realised it was in fact a huge park called the
Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic area and we would be there for a while!
We walked through the park which was very well maintained and passed all different Buddha carvings and statues which were interesting, before climbing over 200 steps to see what we thought was the Giant Buddha, but it wasn't the actual one so we kept walking until we came to it about 15 minutes later. We approached it from the side and when we finally saw its head we couldn't believe how big it was! We took a few snaps before realising we could actually climb down to the bottom of it and see the whole Buddha, which sits at over 71 metres high, so joined the queue which went down the mountain it was built into so we could see it in all it's glory from below. The queue was huge and as usual the Chinese tourists were trying to squeeze past us but we were having none of it and stood our ground - we eventually got to the bottom about 45 minutes later (via a lot of stairs) and looked up at the Buddha for ages, which was really impressive - its hands and
feet were massive! Behind us there was a large lake which you could take a boat onto to get photo's of the Buddha from a distance, but we didn't want to do that, so after a while we started to make our way back up to the top, climmbing the stairs for what seemed like hours but was probably only 30 minutes. We finally got to flat ground and when we saw the time we realised we would have to change our plans to climb Mt Emei that afternoon, as it was already 3pm.
Our original plan was to spend an hour or so visiting the Giant Buddha in the morning, then jump on a bus for 30 minutes to the base of Mt Emei, start to climb and stay uhalf way up the mountain, then finish the climb to the summit the next morning before returning to Chengdu that afternoon, but obviously as it was too late to start climbing now we would have to re-think. Instead, we decided to get a bus to the base of Mt Emei and stay in a hostel there for the night, before climbing part of it the next day - we
wouldn't get to climb all of it due to time - so got a bus back to the bus station in Leshan and another bus to the base of Mt Emei, to a small village called Baoguo. We found a cute hostel called Teddy Bear so checked in there for one night, got the information we needed and worked out our climbing plan for the next day, before checking out the town and having some dinner in a local street which was really nice - spicy chicken, prok and egglant, noodles and rice - yummy. We then got an early night as we knew the next morning would be an early start.
Up early the next day, we grabbed some banana's and dumplings for breakfast and got a bus up to Mt Emei. There are three bus stops/stations on the mountain, and we took the bus for 90 minutes up to Leidongping, which is near the top as we wouldn't have time to start climbing from a lower bus stop. We then started the climb up to the summit and the cold hit us straight away - we had 3 layers on each plus a coat and gloves and
a hat and it was still freezing! It was also really foggy/misty and you couldn't really see in front of you let alone any views, but it gave the mountain a nice mysterious feeling. We climbed steps for about 25 minutes before reaching the cable car, which most people were taking up to the summit, but we wanted to climb as otherwise what was the point? When we asked some local tour guides which way to climb to the top, they looked at us like we were crazy! 'You want to walk? No take cable car? Very far walk, over 2 hours'...we found our own way eventually and started the hike up the mountain ourselves, bypassing all the Chinese tourists taking the cable car up.
The scenery on the climb up was really cool with tall pine trees, old monastries and just a handful of people so it was really peaceful. We met a group of friendly Chinese men who were making the ascent as well and although they didn't speak any English they wanted photo's with Scott and so we had a few with them, before carrying on hiking above the clouds. We had to take a few
rest stops as the stairs were pretty steep and as we were at altitude the climb got tough at times (and Vic wanted a snickers), but after over 2 1/2 hours we made it to the top...but it was too foggy to see anything! There was a gold statue at the summit which we could just about make out but that was all we could see sadly, although we were glad in the end we hadn't got up at the crack of dawn for the sunrise as we later heard there wasn't one due to all the mist. If we thought it was cold on the climb up to the top, the top was positively baltic so we didn't stay up there too long! The hike down was a lot faster and took less than 2 hours, although we got jelly legs from all the stairs, but we were pleased we had made the climb and really enjoyed it. We then took a bus down the winding mountain roads back to Baoguo village which was so cold, Vic couldn't warm up and had blue lips formost of the journey, so went into Teddy Bear hostel to warm up and have
a bite to eat as we had hardly eaten all day and were tired from the climb. We bumped into Hannah & Leigh there, the English couple we had met before, so chatted with them for a while before getting a bus 3 hours back to Chengdu.
Leshan & Mt Emei made for a great little side trip from Chengdu and even though our original plan changed we were glad we didn't stay on the mountain and made the short-ish climb in the end as it was hard enough! We really enjoyed the Sichuan region and would have liked a few more days (as usual) to explore a bit more of it, but we had almost been in China 4 weeks now and only had another week or so left before leaving for Vietnam so we had to move on...one thing we wouldn't miss was the cold weather! S&V's Travel Info & Tips: General Info: Approx 10 RMB/Yuan to £1. Don't under-estimate how long it takes to see the Giant Buddha! If you want to climb Mt Emei over 2 days, keep aside another half day for the Buddha park. Transportation: Take a
bus from the main bus station in Chengdu (Xinanmen) to Leshan bus station, it costs 45 RMB each and takes just over 2 hours. Then take a no.13 bus for 1 RMB to the Giant Buddha. To go on to Mt Emei, take the no.13 bus back to Leshan bus station then there are several buses going every 30 minutes to Mt Emei costing 11 RMB each. Going back to Chengdu from Mt Emei costs 45 RMB each and takes 3 hours. Food: Lots of food options around Baoguo village - we ate with locals on 'food street' but the hostels/hotels also all serve food here. Take chocolate for energy on Mt Emei! Accomodation: Teddy Bear hostel was great for one night and we got a nice double room for 80 RMB. There seemed like a lot of places to stay around town. On Mt Emei there are simple monastries you can stay the night in. Other observations: x) Baoguo village was small but there was heaps of hotels and restaurants here, most were empty. xx) The laziness of Chinese tourists never fails to astound us - we saw a young-ish woman being carried
up the first set of stairs on Mt Emei, before walking 50 metres and getting the cable car the rest of the way. Hardly anyone was walking up the trail, choosing to take the cable car instead - which seemed pointless as the main reason for coming here is to climb at least a bit, especially as the summit is usually covered in cloud so you can't see a view anyway. xx) The men dress very smartly, even for hiking - the few that we did see walking were wearing suit jackets and loafers!
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