Pandas, Buddhas and other giant things
Trip Start Jul 12, 2003
39Trip End Ongoing
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We headed out to the famed Giant Panda Breeding Research Base which was by far the best zoo or animal centre we've seen so far in Asia - no rusty little cages with concrete floors here! There were large, green, open spaces and it all seemed well-maintained. There were pandas of all different ages - cheeky two year olds climbing trees and eating apples, a mother and baby sleeping, and three tiny babies of various ages in humidicribs
One day we went out to a nearby city, Leshan, to visit the world's largest buddha statue. The Grand Buddha is 71 metres high and carved into a cliff on a riverfront across from the city. Construction on the buddha began in 713AD. There are gardens, temples and pagodas in the complex so there was quite a bit to see. We walked down what seemed like a million stairs to the base of the buddha and it really was an awesome sight looking up at it. Even the feet alone (in fact, even the toes alone!) were enormous.
On the subject of all things Buddhist, we also visited the Wenshu Temple in Chengdu which had a monastery on the grounds, a large teahouse, a vegetarian restaurant (we had a "fake fish" made of mashed potato - sounds weird but it was tasty!) and an underground crypt. We stumbled upon this by accident as it wasn't signposted in English, and found ourselves walking through corriders of gold drawers for urns of ashes. The temple had a great atmosphere, nice gardens and bundles of burning incense everywhere -it was a great place to spend a few hours exploring.
There were heaps of street vendors in the city selling snacks like toffee apples and corn on the cob, and skewers of meat which get boiled in chilli oil. It was great to look at but difficult to determine what meat was what, so we were a bit scared to try them! There was the usual contrast found in Chinese cities of the poor street vendors and beggars with the huge mega malls and department stores. Interestingly, there was a huge statue of Chairman Mao overlooking all of these signs of China's now capitalistic tendencies, including McDonalds and KFC - a sure sign that communism is alive but not well in China these days!