Our visit to Leshan’s Giant Buddha and the Oriental Buddha Park
The Leshan Giant Buddha is big. The Leshan Buddha is really big. The Leshan Buddha is in fact 71m tall! When you first see the top of his stone head you cannot quite comprehend his size. Only once you have walked down to the Leshan buddha’s feet will you fully appreciate his size. Whilst you are at the Leshan Giant Buddha you should also visit the slightly bizzare but very interesting Oriental Buddha Park in Leshan.
How to get to Leshan from Chengdu
Leshan is a small town just one hour by fast train from Chengdu, Sichuan, China.
Alex and I visited Chengdu during the Chinese summer holidays. All of the trains from Chengdu to Leshan 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 from Chengdu. The bus from Chengdu to Leshan takes around 2 and a half hours. From the Leshan bus station you then have to get over to the Leshan Buddha Scenic Area which takes another 40 mins on the 13 or 3 bus.
We got off in the town of Leshan to grab a bite to eat. Many of the locals looked at us and we endured a lot of stares. Many tourists who visit Leshan simply go straight to the scenic area and then straight back to the train. Many of the locals never see the foreign tourists. In Leshan though, we had lovely customer service in the KFC as she said in English as she gave me our chips ‘Welcome to China’ and smiled. Then in Walmart as we grabbed some pot noodles and biscuits, the lady at the till was so happy to practise her English and couldn’t stop smiling. These are the experiences that make me mad at people who claim boldly that all Chinese people are rude to tourists.
You need cash to get into Leshan Scenic Area
We hadn’t managed to find an ATM on the way to the bus stop in Chengdu. We couldn’t found an ATM in Leshan either. I was really hoping that we could pay with card at the Leshan Buddha. Otherwise I was hoping we could pay with wechat or that there would be an ATM there. Sadly none of the above were options.
The cashier at the Leshan Buddha laughed at us when we gave her our card and told us that the nearest ATM was over 2 km 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 to see the Leshan Giant Buddha…
By the time we had got into the Leshan Scenic 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 Leshan 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 of the cliff for the majority of the waiting time. This was mildly entertaining as we were getting many looks. We had so many photos taken of us, not with us. Normally in Shanghai or Hangzhou, 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 down to the base of the Leshan Giant Buddha. Once you are on the stairs, you start getting some good views of the buddha at last!
The sheer volume of tourists slows down the process of walking down the stairs. Once you go through a gate it is single file queue. 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 are many 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 Leshan Buddha
All of the queuing, stopping queue jumpers (apart from Alex) and pushing and shoving is worth it once you arrive at the bottom of the Leshan Buddha. Looking up at this gigantic ancient wonder is incredible. The sheer size of the Giant Leshan Buddha is impressive. You can admire the moss growing on him, the Buddha’s broad smile and gasp at 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 Leshan Buddha is definitely one of the best places in China.
The Leshan Buddha is situated on the confluence of three rivers. It is said that many accidents occurred in the waters due to the underlying currents. Due to the amount of accidents a monk decided something needed to be done. The monk proclaimed that a giant Buddha would protect those sailing on the river. Thus, the Leshan Giant Buddha was built.
It worked. The Leshan Giant Buddha did indeed stop the accidents from happening at the confluence of the three rivers.
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 however is that the Leshan Giant Buddha is an incredible ancient wonder!
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!