Four of us had a free day in Chengdu before the rest of our group arrived in China so we decided to take a day trip out to Leshan and visit the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Leshan Giant Buddha carved out of a cliff face.
Many people choose to take a public bus from Chengdu’s Xinanmen bus station to Leshan’s Xiaoba bus station and change to bus number 13 to get to the Leshan Giant Buddha tourist site. We wanted to take a detour to the elusive Thousand Buddha Cliff so we booked a mini-van in advance for the whole day (which cost RMB1,200 including tips). We left Chengdu city centre at about 8am and the drive to the Grand Buddha took slightly more than 2 hours (with no traffic jam). Our mini-van was a bit old and the driver didn’t speed so it might have took a little longer than usual.
On arrival, the driver dropped us at the car park directly opposite the ticket office, which was really convenient.
I think we entered from the North Gate. There was no queue at the ticket office and it was a considerably quiet walk towards the Buddha. A good start!
It was drizzling and the steps were somewhat slippery, but the climb itself wasn’t too bad. I love that the air was fresh and clean.
Soon we saw 2 temples and many people praying and burning joss sticks. We decided to head straight to the Giant Buddha first since that was our priority. A lot have been written and commented (on Tripadvisor) regarding the super long queues to climb the steep stairway to see the Buddha so we made a beeline for it. I was really excited when I saw no one in the queue!
The happiness was shortlived because after we made a turn we saw the crowd.
I’ve read that many people had to wait for 1 or even 2 hours before they could make it to the beginning of the stairway. We were lucky and managed within 20 minutes with all the typical mainland Chinese style of people cutting queues and squeezing their way to the front. I REALLY hate it when people do that.
The queue was moving at a snail pace and we wondered why… until we reached the front. The Giant Buddha was visible at the turn of the corner. Here at the beginning of the stairs everyone was trying to take pictures.
The Giant Buddha is 71 metres tall – the biggest stone Buddha in the world – so the climb down from the top of the Buddha’s head to his feet was long and steep.
There are a couple of look-outs (note: just a couple!) along the way down where the platform extended a little bit outwards for less than 10 people to get some nicer pictures, i.e. without being photo-bombed.
A selfie with the Giant Buddha
From here, visitors can also take a closer look at the Buddha. The stone statue hasn’t been spared from the natural elements and there were definitely signs of weathering on the amazing architecture works. Weeds and grass were growing on the Buddha statue and the colours on the Buddha were somewhat dull. I hope the Chinese Government are taking measures to protect the statue from further deterioration.
There are also carvings on the rock along the way down although many of the statues had already been damaged and destroyed. What a shame.
At the top, we saw ferries transporting tourists to see and take pictures of the Buddha on the Qingyi river. It cost RMB70 and is an alternative to climbing the steps. But looking at the current, I was glad that we decided to do some workout instead!
After about 20 mins, we reached the foot of the Buddha. From this angle, the Buddha looked really massive. I couldn’t help but wonder how the people in the past managed to create something so remarkable with the technology they then possessed.
After paying our respect and taking a few more pictures, we climbed our way back up to the top of the mountain from the other side. The climb probably took us another 20-30 minutes with a group of Chinese tourists singing along the way and disturbing the serenity! I seriously felt like killing somebody but we managed to get away from them.
The entrance fee we paid allowed us to roam the National Park compound which included a couple of temples, ponds, pavilions, statues, stone carvings from ancient times, etc. The place was big with signs everywhere.
It was a nice walk (especially the quiet and peaceful parts). The temples were busy but not too crowded.
In total, we spent almost 3 hours at the Emei Mt-Leshan Giant Buddha National Park.
So is it worthwhile to drive 2 hours from Chengdu to see the Giant Buddha? If you plan to visit, I would suggest adding a side trip – for example to the Jiajiang Thousand Buddha Cliff like we did. Many travellers visit the Dujianyan Irrigation System as part of their Leshan day-trip while others travel to Mount Er-mei which requires 2 more days to explore. So if you have time, do check out this UNESCO World Heritage site and witness the stone sculpture artistry of the ancient Chinese.
Have you visited the Leshan Giant Buddha? Tell me what you think! Click here if you want to read about me being a volunteer at a Panda Reserve.