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Published: September 30th 2013
Off to Leshan, a two hour drive from Chengdu, to see the Grand Buddha. On the way, Tony explains about the Grand Buddha, thought by many to be the largest in the world, but “Not so” he says. “It is third largest”. Sitting in the front seat of the van, he holds up three postcards to us. He explains there is a reclining Buddha carved into the rock on the far side of the hill from the Grand Buddha that is larger, and the largest is the shape of the hills when seen from across the rivers at Leshan. They look like a reclining Buddha. A thirteen storey pagoda sits atop one of the hills and extends above the trees, in a prominent position, at the lower end of the torso of the reclining Buddha.
While waiting for the well-worn rusty ferry to depart, we watch others heading downstream to the confluence of the Min and Da Du Rivers, where the Grand Buddha is. They first coast past the statue, then circle around and pull up in front, holding position for around 15 minutes, before returning. While waiting we and other passengers watch an old man in the next boat
throw a net into the polluted, dark brown water. He draws in his net, and picks out a few bits of rubbish, but no fish. He then throws the rubbish back in the river.
Eventually the boat departs, and we enjoy the spectacle of the enormous Buddha carved into beautiful red stone. The boat is the best way to see it. You can, as an alternative, walk from one side down to the base and back up the other side which does get you closer to the hands and giant toes, but not as good for overall view.
Back at Leshan, we have lunch in the Deng Qiang Restaurant. Tony arranges yet more dishes for us: green beans with pepper, tomato and fried egg, beef with mushrooms, a potato dish, and a pork dish. At home I had found a salt, herb and chilli seasoning at the Fremantle markets called “Buddha mix”. The crunchy green beans taste as if they’ve been cooked in the Buddha mix, which is an interesting connection.
It turns out we’re in the smoking section of the restaurant. Two men behind me light up, puff away and drop their ash and butts directly
on the slate floor. Joseph can’t stand cigarette smoke, so heads outside after downing two bowls of rice, to watch the world go by. He pops back in for a moment, comments cryptically about “Dinner and a show”, grabs his coke and then goes back outside. Ky, Liam and I finish up, and leave as well. We find Joseph sitting on a plastic carton on the kerb, watching with humour a chinese lady over the road doing some form of exercise. The exercise involves wiggling and gyrating that would look fine if there was disco music playing, but we can’t hear any music. She’s facing the river, away from us, so is blissfully unaware of us watching.
After the short show, Tony guides us through some fruit and food stalls, and he explains a little about TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). In a TCM pharmacy, we see on display dried herbs, roots, and exotic creatures like sea horses, snakes and lizards. He also shows us a warehouse store selling sportwear from Nike and the like, but the prices are no better than at home.
The next stop is Emeishan and our hotel for the night, the Hong Zhu Shan
Hotel. Each hotel so far has used unmarked cards for the rooms, meaning you have to remember your room number. After unpacking we admire the room view out to the forest, which is such a relief from looking at Cities. Ky and I go for a walk around the hotel precinct. The hotel is like a resort, with eight separate buildings spread along a kilometre of small lakes and forest. One of them houses hot springs that would have been nice to try. The paths are large with stone slabs and stairs that are covered in green fungus, some quite slippery. They wind and climb through bamboo and low growing trees, with birds, butterflies and painters making appearances. Frequent ‘don’t do that’ signs are accompanied by advice about how the ratio of anions of oxygen makes this air A1 quality. Looking past the healthy air signs, you can admire the hills shrouded in air pollution. On our return to our room, Ky is ahead of me, and I forget my room number so have to explore another floor first (which looks identical), before finding our room.
The room is a little different to previous hotels. When you switch the
lights out, it also disconnects the power points, so you can’t charge up your devices overnight. The room has its own computer, with free internet. If you want to search on google, you can but you have to select a google site like .au that is not the default hongkong one (.hk), otherwise it will be in chinese. The shower has a clear glass panel separating it from the sleeping area. You can drop down a blind for privacy, but for us it provided a little fun. The best, but probably least obvious aspect of the room, is that when the toilet overflows, from using too much toilet paper, the foyer area is tiled so you are able to contain it and clean it up. Thankfully the boys somehow did this cleanup on their own while Ky and I were out walking.
Dinner is a set of seven dishes selected by Tony. They are a fish, bok choy, sweet potato leaves, soup with melon pieces, beef in breadcrumbs like a schnitzel, beef with onions, and another Kung Bao Chicken. The boys love the schnitzel which comes with a little dish of tomato sauce, and I enjoy the fish. With us being thousands of kilometres from the ocean I presume it’s a river fish. I hope it doesn’t carry too many heavy metals from the polluted rivers in the area (Tony had explained, as we were standing on the boat looking at the dark brown Min River water that it was polluted and you could tell this as it was darker than the brown Da Du River). Some sweet sesame and syrup filled buns make a nice dessert.
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