I read that while most tourists who come to Chengdu do a day-trip to Leshan to see the famous Leshan Giant Buddha, locals tend to do a day-trip to Leshan to eat. So, we went to Leshan today to see the giant buddha… and to eat!
The Leshan Giant Buddha is supposedly the largest carved stone Buddha in the world, built sometime between 713 and 803 during the Tang Dynasty, and carved out of a cliff face along the Min and Dadu Rivers. The Buddha faces Mount Emei, famous for its tea and strenuous hike (which we didn’t have time to do).
When you first arrive at the top of the Buddha after a short walk, you don’t really get a sense of exactly how big it is until you decide a lot of stairs and get to its feet at the very bottom where the river is, and you look up. It’s kind of amazing to think that so long ago, people worked so hard (and very likely died) trying to carve this buddha out of a cliff face along a river. We are literally just tiny dots in comparison to this crazy structure.
Afterwards, we took a quick cab ride into the town, where we ate at a place known for its hot pot, though we only got a non-spicy pot and a hot side dish.. of some part of the cow stomach. This area is also known for eating all parts of the animal, and while I wasn’t 100 percent certain what I was ordering, we were pretty much eating all parts of the cow stomach during this meal. The server was really friendly, explaining to me how important it is not to waste any part of the animal and to eat everything, and also served us a special side soup. “This is a very, very special soup,” she said to me, smiling. “It’s very good for your health and we spend hours and hours simmering it!”
I had one sip of the soup and was sold immediately. That was probably one of the richest and most complex clear Chinese soups I’ve ever had. And I’ve had endless delicious herbal/medicinal Cantonese soups in my life made by both family and family friends.
So far, getting around Chengdu and Leshan has been really enjoyable. Even though our Didi app still isn’t working, all the people we’ve interacted with have been so kind and friendly, and the cab drivers have been friendly, chatting me up about where we are visiting from, what we’ve seen and done in China, and asking me about the U.S. and my family. Not even once have I felt like anyone has wanted or tried to rip us off or cheat us in any way. I know times have changed quite a bit since the ’90s when Fuchsia Dunlop lived in Chengdu and studied at the local culinary academy, but I can completely understand why someone would learn to love this general city and area as much as she did. Chengdu is certainly a large city, but it is small when compared to places like Shanghai and Chengdu, and people are just all around kind, friendly, laid-back, and honest: no assumptions, no stereotypes. Things move slower here, and people just go with the flow. I love it here.