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I knew there was a Giant Buddha carved into the rock face in China somewhere and I knew I wanted to visit it but I didn’t know where it was! It turns out that the Giant Buddha is located in the City of Leshan which is just 140KM and a few hours from the big city of Chengdu, also known as the City that is home to the Panda Centre in China too. To me, that meant two Bucketlist items in one City!
To SEE the Panda’s and Buddha, watch my YouTube video:
This Giant Buddha was carved out of the rock face by a monk during the Tang Dynasty in 803 AD, aka a long time ago, and made a UNESCO site in 1996. The Buddha is carved at the base of where 2 rivers meet, I was told the monk made the carving because many people were dying in the river due to the fast current, by building a Buddha it not only protected and looked over the merge of the rivers but the deposits of rock were discarded into the river below which actually slowed the river down and made it less dangerous and therefore stopped as many deaths happening! Clever.
Although I travelled to China on a Tour with The Dragon Trip, because only 3 of us wanted to see the Giant Buddha in China, instead of going as an organised group tour we took public transport there and back from Chengdu on our own and it was really easy so I wanted to share with you my experience of how to get to the Leshan Giant Buddha from Chengdu by public transport so you can go alone too and don’t have to go on a tour!
(If you fancy going on an organised tour around China, I really recommend The Dragon Trip and you can get 10% off ANY of their tours by using the discount code – wanderingquinn/TDT19 when you go to pay!)
Firstly I was staying at Mrs Panda Hostel which is a really good hostel in Chengdu and I really recommend staying there too. It’s well located next to Xiannanmen Subway Station, it’s right by the river, close to markets, has a good restaurant on-site and the staff there are really good, so if you’re backpacking China and looking for the best place to stay in Chengdu, I recommend booking to stay at Mrs Panda Hostel Chengdu!
There are public buses that leave Chengdu going to Leshan, the bus from Leshan to Chengdu is 2 hours – 2.5 hours in total.
You can also get from Chengdu to Leshan by train but this involves taking a taxi once in Leshan to the Entrance of the Giant Buddha so unless you are staying right by Chengdu Train Station, I think it makes sense to get the bus to Leshan.
From Mrs Panda Hostel we went to Xiannanmen Bus Station which is opposite Xiannanmen Subway Station the day before to purchase the ticket in advance which was a good idea and something I recommend you do too if you can.
There is a bus at 7:10 am which is what we got and that gets you to Leshan at about 9:30 am and cost 53 RMB / £6.10 / $7.90 USD.
I would recommend asking your accommodation to write down ‘Leshan Giant Buddha at 7:10 am with the date you want to go’ in Mandarin on a piece of paper so you can show it to the ticket office as you may find they speak limited English. You’ll also need your passport with you to make the bus ticket booking, and you’ll also need to take your passport with you when you see the Giant Buddha so you can book a bus back.
Our bus was a small minibus instead of a coach but I guess that changes based on how many tickets they sell.
After the journey, we got dropped off at the Leshan Tourist Centre which is about a 20-minute walk away from the base entrance to the Buddha, although you may be lucky and get dropped closer, it depends on the driver I think.
Along the river and close to the entrance are many snack food stands so don’t worry about bringing too much water and snacks as you can get them all outside and inside too!
A ticket is needed to visit the Giant Buddha in Leshan and a tourist ticket costs 80 RMB / £9.20 / $11.90 USD which can be purchased at the Tourist Centre or at the ticket desk close to the main entrance.
One thing to note is that you do not see the Buddha just yet, in order to get to the Giant Buddha you need to walk up some steps, perhaps 300 or so, they are well paved and not overly tough but still sweat-inducing on a humid day!
Once you have scanned your ticket at the entrance you’ll see a section where you can choose to take the steps up to the right or to the left. Before going to see the Leshan Giant Buddha my The Dragon Trip Tour Guide said to take the steps to the right as on the way up you see 2 important Statues including a Dragon Statue so it makes the walk up more interesting.
Unfortunately for us, this side was closed for construction when I went so we had to go left. Left was fine but as he said there was nothing else to see on the way up.
Once at the top there are various temples you can visit, there’s also lots of toilets, a few restaurants and souvenir shops, it’s very well set up for tourists.
You’ll need to keep following the signs for the Giant Buddha and if you turned left that will mean walking all the way through the Temples that you’ll come across.
You’ll know it when you come across the Buddha as his head is poking out of the cliff and is indeed very huge!
This top section actually gives a good view of the Buddha, you can’t see the bottom but you can see the head very well.
The way you see much more of the Buddha is to then walk down the side of the cliff to the bottom. This is organised via a queuing system as it does get very busy and the steps down are only very small so be prepared to wait and queue for a bit.
The steps down are steep in terms of the steps being very large however because of the queues of people they weren’t hard to do as we kept stopping and starting.
I actually found that I liked the view halfway down the steps the most, it shows you the full size of the Buddha including just how big his hands and feet are and gives a good view of the bottom and river so be sure to take some time to take photos from halfway instead of waiting to get to the bottom.
I found the bottom a bit anticlimactic, to be honest, the base isn’t that big and it’s hard to get a photo with the whole Giant Buddha in, however for Buddhist this is where they can pray.
What goes up must come down and to get back up there’s a tunnel under the rock the opposite side you came down with steps going up around the corner. These steps were pretty tough as they again are very large making it harder for little legs but they do end eventually. There are also many places to stop and have a rest on the way up.
There are a few more Gardens and Pagoda’s to be found at the top before exiting the site. I would recommend taking the East Exit as it’ll lead you all the way down to the road opposite lots of restaurants where you can get some lunch and where the main entrance is that you went in at the start.
From here you’ll need to get a taxi to the Bus Station, we just hailed one from the road and asked to go to Xiao Ba Station. We had this station written down in Mandarin which we showed the driver and I’d recommend you to ask your accommodation to write this down too to help. The taxi metre from The Giant Buddha to the Leshan Xiao Ba Station was 13 RMB / £1.50 / $1.95 USD.
Once at the Bus Station we again had written in Mandarin ‘can I have a ticket to Chengdu Xiannanmen Bus Station’ which again I recommend you ask your accommodation to write for you so it’s clear. We got the 14:00 bus from Leshan to Chengdu which cost 46 RMB / £5.30 / $6.85 USD and we needed our passport to buy the ticket so remember to take your passport with you!
The whole day was very easy, to be honest! Chengdu is a really popular place to visit in China especially because of the Panda Research centre that I visited the day before (which is amazing) so spending a day seeing the Panda’s followed by a day seeing the Buddha makes for some really good things to do in Chengdu and easy as independent travellers to China.
In terms of what to wear to see the Leshan Giant Buddha, you do not need to cover up as you would going to many other Temples in Asia. Many people, including most Chinese people, were wearing shorts with their shoulders out. I would recommend wearing a decent pair of shoes, either trainers or good sandals as although there’s not a huge amount of walking the steps are quite tough in places (although I saw many Chinese women wearing heels!!).
Take a few snacks and water but you can get food and drinks there too.
Depending on the season it does get very hot so prepare to sweat a bit and take some sunscreen and mosquito spray just in case.
I hope this helps you work out how to get to the Leshan Giant Buddha from Chengdu by Bus!
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