Travel broadens the mind: Chengdu, Leshan
Travel, travel, travel…what a nice feeling, right? Every traveler looking for some large-scale and entertaining break has this restless feeling prior to their trip: where to go? What to see? Which hotels? Flights? ... You all know what I am talking about: excitement! Of course you have to get informed on the destinations you chose for enjoying the tour at its best point and be prepared for the sightseeing you are going to see, but this is not everything about travel, life is not written in a book! "Reading ten thousand books equals traveling ten thousand meters" is what I am talking about. Let's get it started, live your life now and enjoy it for travel broadens the mind, relieves and even cultivates it. The best medicine I have ever taken so far.
Talking about my experiences, I have to write about my new China week trip I had at the beginning of April. April is renowned in China for being one of the finest month for traveling, as the weather is one of the best one: not that much rain, mild-cool weather and lush sceneries. This time, my plan was to visit some China top cities and scenic spots I never had the chance to see: China's preserved Giant Panda, Leshan Giant Buddha (largest in the world) and Xi'an Terracotta Army. So excited with the idea of the 2 weeks break the company gave me for a special person coming to visit me, I started to plan this trip 1 month prior to departure for I wanted to get the best prices for flight tickets and hotels deals. Having lived in China for one year and speaking Chinese (well, not as a native of course but I get by), I already have a good deal of individual travel experiences so I preferred to travel again as an individual for this April trip so that I could see by myself how everything works and feel free during this special holiday.
Based in Guilin, the trip I designed by myself first took into account the flight tickets fares amount and the final cheapest way was to start by heading to Chengdu, capital city of Sichuan Province. Naturally then, the tour plan was fixed: Guilin-Chengdu-Leshan-Xi'an-Macao-Guilin, a loop tour including flights and buses transportation for one week was just created! Flights booked, hotels also soon after (I could have really good prices indeed), I had to choose and get informations about what to visit in each city and how to get there as I was not part of a tour group organized by a travel agency. As an English Editor in VisitOurChina, I already knew the top highlight things to do so this is kind of easier even if I checked again to make sure I was not going to miss something gorgeous on my way. With the dream I had to see pandas in their native homeland, Leshan Giant Buddha and Terracotta Army, the trip plan enriched with other famous attractions in each location. This first step prior to my trip was such an interesting and exciting thing that I couldn't help thinking about it all the time! With some advices about fees and bus transportation from Sandy and my English Department team, I could end up with the best preparation ever. Friendly and professional as usual, they gave me the best recommendations in every city that for sure ended to be so helpful during the tour. Having always traveled on my own except with a university tour in 2007, I decided for this time to book a one day Xi'an seat-in coach tour with VisitOurChina, an opportunity for me to enjoy the Terracotta Army at its best point and have plenty of informations from the guide during the tour. Everything fixed, weeks passed and the D-Day finally arrived: departure!
Day 1 Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
Flight from Guilin(桂林Guìlín) to Chengdu(成都Chéngdū) spent smoothly and lasted for 2 hours. Arrived at the airport, airport shuttle buses making the way to the city-center were at travelers' disposal. Check-in at the hotel and diner done, the upcoming night was the one before a great week. The first day in Chengdu, was Panda day! We visited the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, an unforgettable visit I'll keep in mind all my life! We decided to arrive early in the morning (around 8:30 a.m.) for seeing the feeding and the pandas still moving in their parks. So interested by seeing first baby pandas we headed to this part of the center park conveniently indicated everywhere by signs.
By the time we arrived in front of the nursery, so many tourists were already there looking at the park enclosure where we, at first sight, didn't see any pandas at all. What or where were they looking at? Well, to the top of the trees! Cute baby pandas were sleeping in their enclosure many trees, like Christmas balls in a Christmas tree. This was such a wonderful and funny thing to see! They seemed to be so well hanged at their tree, and slept so deeply that it was just impossible not to smile in front of this scenery. In the enclosure, other baby pandas were active, busy with looking for the best place to sleep in a comfortable way.
On nearby enclosures were standing adult pandas having their daily breakfast. Seeing them eating bamboo was like a day dreaming. They were so dedicated and precise in the way to start their bamboo dish that we could just but display a smiling face again and again. The center was also composed of tourist attractions such as the center's Panda story cinema broadcasting the life of the animal, restaurants and lakes.
The afternoon in the center park was then the opportunity to see the Red Panda, smaller than their giant black and white brothers but cute in the same way. Looking at them was a pleasure for eyes and heart. After having visited every corner of the park, we finally left the site for coming back to the city center of Chengdu by taxi.
The nights in Chengdu were the occasion to enjoy the nightlife of Chunxi Pedestrian Street where many shopping malls and luxury shops can be seen. Time in Chengdu was definitely cool but exciting!
Day 2 Leshan Giant Buddha
On our second day, our trip headed to Leshan Giant Buddha (乐山大佛), which is at a 2-hour bus drive from Chengdu. Tickets paid at the bus station, we took the coach for arriving in Leshan by noon. The visit of the site took us the all afternoon as we wanted to see everything and the site was such a big one. We started the visit by visiting the Wuyou Mountain & Temple where stands the newly discovered Giant Sleeping Buddha, another large-scale Buddha carved into the cliff on the opposite part of the Giant Seated Buddha itself. The mountain's temples were so awe-inspiring that we stayed breathless in front of the beauty of the place we were standing in. The temple was made of different giant Buddhas holding different name and position in the religion. Every corner was a marvel and we couldn't help taking so many pictures of this gorgeous scenic spot, unfortunately, not that much visited by foreign tourists who usually start the visit directly by the Giant Buddha in itself. For us it was the ending sightseeing of our visit, like a holy reward waiting for us.
After climbing the many stairs to the temple, we headed in the other part of the site where stands the Giant Buddha. On our way, the mountain was flourishing with many teahouses and temples where tourists can relax for a while during the visit. Finally we arrived at the Leshan Giant Buddha proper! One word: awesome! The site is just awesome!! There, we were standing by the left side of the Buddha's face like two little dots in the middle of nowhere, like nothing in front of such a human masterpiece. The view was impressive and the serene-looking Buddha was facing the Dadu, Min and Qingyi rivers with Mount Emei far away into the horizon. Enjoying the site at its best point, we climbed down the cliff to have another view over the Buddha and feel its 71 meters height. The impression was gorgeous, the Leshan Giant Buddha is so impressive and grandiose that we better understand why it is classified at UNESCO.
Hiking on the Lingyun Mountain after spending some time in the Buddha site, we then headed back to the first entrance we took, visiting on our way the Southeast Asian Buddhist sculptures present in the park near to the temple. After such a great day and again 2 hours drive back to Chengdu we had a good sleep.
Day 3 Chengdu city, Wenshu Temple and Teahouses
The last day in Chengdu before our next flight to Xi'an spent in visiting the city in itself and its most famous scenic spots. The first step was Chengdu Tianfu Square where stands the statue of Chairman Mao Zedong, an important area of the city. Surrounding the place are disseminated many parks and their teahouses where old people spend their afternoon drinking tea and playing Mahjong. We had some time to visit People's Park and its Monument of the Martyrs of the Railway Protection Movement on our way.
But one of the best visits we had in Chengdu, together with the Panda Center of course was the Wenshu Temple, a real discovery in the middle of the restless city traffic: peaceful, noiseless and beautiful place. By the time we arrived, the monks living there were praying giving to the monastery a deep sound of spirituality. The gardens, halls and teahouses there were just exquisite(something that is exquisite is extremely beautiful or pleasant, especially in a delicate way).