LOST IN LESHAN

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We made what was planned to be a brief stop in the city of Leshan. Having seen many advertisements around Chengdu for trips to see the legendary Da Fo, Giant Buddha, which resides in the city overlooking the three rivers. Leshan is only a half hour bus ride from Emeishan, so we thought we would stop off and do the quick boat trip to see it (as we were carrying all our luggage) before completing our journey back to Chengdu. This did not quite go to plan.

We arrived in grey, dreary Leshan - a picture of the dismal, polluted China most often pictured in Western media. We didn't really have a clue where to go once we got there, so we tried hailing a taxi. All of whom relentlessly tried to rip us off. Eventually a nice couple, probably noticing our weary expressions, told us they were getting a bus to see the Buddha, which would arrive in around 5 minutes, and cost a mere 5RMB a head.

We arrived at the sight of the Giant Buddha, which is also home to thousands of carved Buddha's - a mountainous museum of Buddha so to speak. Normally, we would have been more than up for exploring the UNESCO site and climbing the height of Da Fo himself. However, after our two day trek up Mount Emei and our general destain with Leshan, none of us were in the mood for more physical exertion, especially considering we were laden with all of our luggage. So, we gave in to an overpriced taxi which took us close to the boat pier.

After a moderately long wait, we finally got on the boat which brought us on a fly-by visit to the big Buddha. Although it felt like a bit of a touristy cop-out, it was quite amazing to see the cliff face gradually transforming into a 71metre tall Buddha as we drifted around the corner. The boat stopped for a couple of minutes underneath the majestic giant, we gazed in awe at the millennia-old statue, who faces the very mountain we had summited the day before.

After the short trip, we were admittedly delighted at the prospect of leaving Leshan, just a couple of hours there had us totally worn down. Little did we know, the hurdles were far from over. Having departed the tour boat, there wasn't a single taxi in sight. We began trudging down the deserted road adjacent to the river, our Leshan pitstop seemed never ending.

Our Leshan saviour came in the most unexpected of forms. A road cleaner truck came driving down the street, Jamie stopped him to ask how far away the train station was from where we were. The driver of the truck, possibly the coolest road cleaner ever, told us to jump in. Initially confused by this sudden turn of events, we grabbed our chance of escape and hopped into the truck. The driver put on his 'siren' which blared a song (apparently about Mao) throughout the streets of Leshan, which apparently allowed him to jump red lights and generally go full speed around the city. This amazingly kind man took us all the way to the train station, blasting the Mao jungle throughout the streets.

Our road sweeper high sadly didn't last for long, after the man kindly helped us into the station with our bags and we said our farewells, we realised the next train with seats available wasn't for another four hours. Despairing at the thought of spending another four hours in Leshan, we decided to find another way. We were advised to try the bus station, we had to get a bus from the train station to the bus station, which turned out to be one of the easier tasks of our day. Although we did feel guilty for having to undo the kindness of our road sweeper friend! Luckily the bus option was a success, and after a delicious bowl of street-food noodles, we were on our way back to Chengdu.