Pandas, Buddhas, and Mountains

Trip Start Aug 23, 2010
Trip End Jul 15, 2011

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Flag of China  , Sichuan,
Friday, April 1, 2011

We get 4 days off during the Tomb Sweeping Holiday, and I am finally going to go to Sichuan province. It actually amazes me that I haven't gone there yet as I love the food, and I have always wanted to go see the Pandas. During the long weekend I am going to visit the Panda sanctuary, check out Leshan, the world's largest Buddha sculpture, and go for a hike up Emei Shan: one of China's 4 sacred mountains of Buddhism. This is kind of cool to visit as I have already gone to Hua Shan in Shaanxi province, which is one of the 5 great mountains of Taoism in China. 
Leshan, the gigantic stone carved Buddha is 71 meters tall, and together with Emei Shan, form the Mount Emei UNESCO world heritage site. Should be pretty cool.
Just got back from Chengdu, what a cool place. The city itself is quite pretty filled with trees and green. The surrounding area is the highlight though. The Panda Sanctuary went beyond all of my expectations. It is amazing the contrast between this place and most of the Chinese zoos that I have visited. The sanctuary is literally the size of most zoos but home to only the Giant Panda and Red Panda. It was very nice to see how well these animals are treated. 
As for the natural surroundings of Chengdu, there is plenty more to behold than what I saw. The mountains look gorgeous, and the parts that I saw: Leshan and Emei Shan were awesome...apart from the crowds. We arrived at the bus station to get tickets to see the Giant Buddha along with a few thousand Chinese tourists, and we waited in line for a good hour or so before we finally got the tickets. Luckily they had buses running to Leshan once every ten minutes or so. Once we arrived at Leshan we were mt with, you guessed it, loooooong lines. We actually decided against waiting in line to get to the bottom of the Buddha so we just got to see it from the top. It was still worth it though. The buddha is massive, and we could see it pretty well from the top. From there we went to Emei Shan, and managed to get a bus to the uppermost village on the mountain on the same day. This was key because it allowed us to wake up at 5:30 to hike to the top and avoid the biggest crowds Unfortunately for us the weather was very foggy so we weren't greeted with much of a view. In fact, it was so foggy that we could hardly see the monuments at the top of the mountain let alone the view from the top. You could tell how far the view would have stretched had it been clear, so it was a little disappointing, but the 2 hour hike up from the village was still pretty cool. The summit is over 3000 meters high, so it was still quite wintery up there, snow everywhere. The hike was straight up the entire way, many many stairs to climb! Finally, this morning we went to the Panda sanctuary which was really awesome, We went with our hostel tour and saw them in the morning during feeding time when they are their most active. It is a sight to behold watching Pandas climb trees and run around. Their running gait is hilarious as you will see in the videos. Enough with the typing though, enjoy the pictures.
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