Chengdu 成都 and Leshan 乐山
Spring Festival is fast approaching and everyone is frantically panicking about what to do, where to go and how to get there. I thought I could give you a couple of ideas for things to see and do whilst you enjoy Chinese New Year! During Spring Festival 2015, I travelled to Leshan and Chengdu – both are amazing cities with plenty to do, see, eat and drink. However, in the lead up to Spring Festival, the biggest migration of people in China happens so it can be pretty difficult travelling from one place to another. Trains and flights are expensive and quite difficult to book, but the expenses are worth it.
Both Chengdu and Leshan are located in the southwest province of Sichuan. Chengdu is the capital and Leshan is around a two hour drive away. Sichuan is especially famous for its spicy food with heaps of dried chilli, chilli oils and for the use of the Sichuan Peppercorn which tends to make your mouth numb. It is described by many as a taste sensation, but if you can’t handle spice never fear! Many restaurants cater to a more Western palate and have less spicy options on offer.
Practice this phrase: I don’t want spicy food! 我不要辣椒食物！ wo buyao lajiao shiwu!
As I previously said, Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan. It’s most well-known for being the natural habitat of the giant panda. Located in Chengdu is the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Giant pandas can only be found in 3 provinces in China: Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu. There are less than 2,000 pandas left in the world, with 70% of them found in Sichuan. Every panda in the world is owned by China and other pandas in other counties are only on loan. Not only is the park home to the giant panda but also to the Red Panda, also known as the Lesser Panda. The red panda grows to about the same size as a cat and has a much more varied diet than just bamboo. The Lesser Panda is also on the list of endangered animals.
The base is located just 20 minutes from downtown Chengdu and a taxi costs around 50 yuan
and the entrance fee is 58 yuan. The park is open from 7.30 to 18.00 and the best time to visit is early morning, as this is when the pandas are most active and you can see them feeding. The young pandas are especially playful and vocal in the morning whilst eating breakfast whereas, the older pandas are much more relaxed and chilled. I’d recommend between 2 to 3 hours to see
the pandas, the beautiful surrounding grounds and the museum.
Another reason to visit Chengdu is that many consider Chengdu as the gateway to Tibet. The city is home to a huge Tibetan Quarter known as Little Lhasa with many Tibetan art shops, Tibetan clothing shops and Tibetan souvenir shops. Walking around you’ll see many people dressed in traditional clothing. Stop off at one of the many traditional restaurants or cafes for a cup of yak milk tea. With very distinct flavours, it may not be to everyone’s taste but it’s worth a try. Chengdu is a peaceful, relaxing place, especially during Spring Festival with few cars on the road, no queues for attractions and clear blue skies. Probably a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the big cities you may have previously travelled to.
Leshan is located just two hours from Chengdu by long distance bus costing 48 yuan from Xinannen bus station in downtown Chengdu.
Leshan is home to the tallest stone Buddha statue in the world called the Leshan Dafo. He stands 71 meters tall on the banks of these 3 rivers; Minjiang, Dadu and Qingyi. He was built to calm the rough waters for passing boats. The Buddha took more than 90 years to carve and has shoulders 28 meters, wide enough to be a fully sized basketball court. Each foot is 11 meters long and his longest finger is 8.3 meters long. As you carefully walk down from the Buddha’s head to his feet, look out for tiny statues of Buddha’s either side carved in the walls.
The ticket costs 90 yuan per person and you can also take a boat
trip along the river which costs an extra 70 yuan. The park is open from 9.00 till 16.50.
Behind the giant Buddha is the Leshan Oriental Buddha Park which is home to more than 3000 Buddha’s – this is an extra 35 yuan but well worth a visit. Situated on Linyun Mountain is one of the biggest reclining Buddha’s in the world.
To visit the Leshan Dafo and Leshan Oriental Buddha Park I would allow a whole day. We visited Chinese New Year’s day and the park was empty, there were no queues but there was also no boat ride along the river.
Towering over Leshan and standing 3079.3 meters above sea level is one of four sacred Buddhist Mountains in China, Mt. Emei. Mt. Emei is one of the highest sightseeing mountains in China. On the mountain there are three scenic spots on route to the summit and these are; Baoguo Temple (extra 8 yuan), Wannian Temple (extra 10 yuan), Qingyin Pavilion (extra 10 yuan) and at the very top stands the Golden Summit. The main entrance ticket costs 185 yuan in high season ( January 15th till December 14th) and 110 yuan in low season (15th of December till January 14th.) The ticket price, doesn’t include buses, cable carts and entry to the temples on route to the Golden Summit.
There two ways to get to Mt. Emei, from Chengdu. You can take a train which takes around 2 hours then change at the train station to the city bus 5A to Mt. Emei. Or you can take a long distance bus from Xinnanmen Bus Station to Emeishan Tourism Bus Centre which takes about around 3 hours costing 51 yuan and runs between 07.20 in the morning till 19.35 in the evening. The bus departs when full. From Leshan, you can also take the train which takes around 45 minutes and then change to city bus A5 to Mt. Emei. If you don’t want to change transport, take the long distance bus from Xiaobo Bus Station to Baoguo Temple Bus Station which takes around an hour. The ticket price is 11 yuan and the buses run from 07.30 till 18.00 daily.
Spring Festival or Chinese New Year is the Chinese equivalent of Christmas. It’s a big festival for Chinese people to eat, drink, exchange red packets of money and see family members. Many people travel back to their home towns to celebrate, leaving big cities like Chengdu, Beijing and Shanghai pretty empty! Having time off from work or traveling during the festival period is a once in a life time experience. You will see nothing like these celebrations anywhere else in the world. Make the most of it, stay safe and avoid being hit by fireworks! Happy Chinese New Year in advance！ 新年快乐!
by Cameron Hack
Hey, my name is Cameron and I have lived in Beijing now for around a year and a half. I am originally from the South of England a city called Portsmouth. Whilst living in China I have been teaching English and in my spare time I like to travel to different places both inside and further afield Beijing. I hope you enjoy what I write and that it will give you some tips and practical advice for your travels.
You can see my adventures around China by following me on Instagram by searching @cameronhack.