Our visit to Leshan’s Giant Buddha and the Oriental Buddha Park
It’s big. It’s really big. It’s 71m tall. When you see the top of his head you cannot quite comprehend his size. Only a walk down to his feet will let you fully appreciate a visit to Leshan’s Giant Buddha. Whilst you are here you should also visit the slightly bizzare but very interesting Oriental Buddha Park.
How to get there
Leshan is a small town just one hour by fast train from Chengdu, Sichuan, China. We went during the summer holidays and all of the trains were fully booked (except for standing spaces) so we decided to get the much slower bus. The bus from Xinanmen station goes every half an hour and took around 2 and a half hours. Then you have to get over to the Buddha scenic area which takes another 40mins on the 13 or 3 bus.
We got off in the town to grab a bite to eat. We had a lot of stares. Many tourists who visit Leshan simply go straight to the scenic area and then straight back to the train station so the locals don’t really see outsiders. We had lovely customer service in KFC as she said in English as she gave me our chips ‘Welcome to China’ and smiled. Then in Walmart we got some pot noodles and biscuits and the lady at the till was so happy to practise her English and couldn’t stop smiling. Its experiences like this that make me mad at people who claim boldly that all Chinese people are rude.
Only cash to get in…
We hadnt managed to find an ATM on the way to the bus stop. We couldn’t found one in Leshan. I was really hoping that we could pay with card at the Buddha site or at least with wechat or that there would be an ATM there. Sadly none of the above were options. The cashier laughed at us when we gave her our card and told us that the nearest ATM was over 2km away. We tried to use wechat. She also just laughed. We asked the people behind us if we could send them money over wechat and they could pay in cash for us. Luckily a nice young couple were happy to do so. Thank goodness for wechat!
It’s a long queue…
By the time we had got into the area it was nearly 2pm. Even though I had read on a few blogs that it is better to go to the Oriental buddha park first then go to the buddha head late afternoon we decided against this advice. We had no idea what the closing time was so didn’t want to miss a visit to the base of the Buddha. We queued for two hours to get to the bottom. You queue at the top for the majority of this. This was mildly entertaining as we were getting many looks. We had so many photos taken of us, not with us. Normally people ask if they can take a picture with us but here that was not the case so that was a bit strange. In the queue there is even a food stall so Alex spent a while there trying to get us some water. I ended up being pushed along with the sea of people. Somehow Alex managed to climb over the fence to me (we were the only white people in the crowd so it was fairly obvious we were together) creating a lot of excitement in the crowd, particularly amongst the younger crowd. I believe three teenage girls positively wooed and almost fainted at the site of Alex jumping over to me. That was probably the most exciting thing. Otherwise it was very boring to just queue.
Then you reach the stairs. Here you start getting some good views. Again the sheer volume of tourists slows this process down. Then you go through a gate and it is single file. I took a few snaps and got shouted at for going too slowly. I shouted back in my best Chinese exclaiming ‘Why, I can’t go any faster’ as there were people in front of me. In reality my Chinese pretty much translated into ‘why?! cannot’ but at least I was trying to use my Mandarin.
The base of the Buddha
All of this queing and stopping que jumpers (apart from Alex) and pushing and shoving is worth it. Looking up at this giangantic ancient wonder is incredible. The sheer size of it, the moss growing on him, his little smile and his huge toes! We took lots of photos here and ate some nuts. I was so happy we had made it to Leshan and seen this incredible site.
The buddha is situated on the confluence of 3 rivers. Many accidents occurred here due to the underlying currents therefore a monk decided something needed to be done. A giant buddha would protect those sailing on the river. It worked. Whether it was divine providence or the fact the river bed was levelled out whilst obtaining building material for the buddha is debatable. What is not debatable is that the buddha is an amazing site!
The Oriental Buddha Park
I had seen one picture of the oriental Buddha park online and wanted to go. Frustratingly I could find very little information about it. I was even unsure of its name as I had also seen a park called ‘the park of many buddhas’. We arrived at a fork in the road and the left road said ‘park of many buddhas’ and the right road was the direction of ‘the Oriental Buddha Park’. We had to pick one. We picked the right path and it turned out to be the right one.
There was another entrance fee but we managed to get student price. It was definitely worth it. We loved this park and and were surprised that it was pretty much empty of tourists. We didn’t have much time as it was 4:30 by the time we had finished our pot noodles and the park said it shut at 5:30.
More giant statues!
We entered into a cave and it felt like we had entered an ancient city in the middle of a jungle. In the centre of the cave was a giant statue. Yet it was strange as you could tell it had been made only recently. We gawked at its size but behind it lay more treasures. We entered a chamber full of carvings. As if we had entered an Indiana Jones movie. I was almost hoping that the ceiling would collapse or a giant rock ball would come rolling towards us. It did not thankfully! We wondered around looking at the many carvings. Then at the end there was one last giant Buddha in his own cave. Again the size was so impressive. Coming out of that cave we entered another set of small caves. One of the chambers we have nicknamed ‘the orgy cave’. From this name you can probably gather what scenes were engraved on the wall. They were very detailed and quite graphic, it was quite surreal going from the traditional religious motives to these depictions of sexual activities!
We really wanted more time but wanted to try and see everything so we rushed through but still had some time to make some silly poses.
So we had just seen Leshan’s giant buddha who was 71m tall. Now we were about to see Leshan’s longest buddha. He is a total of 170m long, fast asleep on the mountain side and is the longest buddha in the world. As we brought our tickets the cashier advised us to stand on a specific bridge to truly appreciate the magnificent splendor of this buddha. This is the view from the bridge.
After that we climbed a lot of steps in the bay of buddhas. It was so steep. Travel is definitely keeping us fit! There were a few more caves and then we made our way to the exit to see Leshan’s ancient grand buddha one last time.
Leshan’s giant Buddha in the sunshine
It had gone 5:30 by the time we made it back to the top of the giant buddha’s head. There was now no queue down and the sun was shining… should have listened to the blogs! We took some more photos then explored the adjacent temple. At 6pm there were still people going down to the base so in hindsight I wish we had visted the Oriental Buddha Park first and not rushed around it, then finished at the giant buddha. Oh well we still had a great day!
If you visit go down to the base of the buddha in the late afternoon or early morning. Don’t waste your visit queueing like we did!
We loved our trip to the Leshan’s Giant Buddha and the Oriental buddha park! Afterwards we made our way to Mount Emei (read more here). Tell us what you think of this giant guy in the comments below!