20 April 2017

Leshan to Dazu.

Up late, found breakfast, bus to train station.

The train station was a bit more disorganized than the Chengdu station, there was no indication of which gate we would be allowed to go through before departing. Asking solved this, and we just had to wait. Then it was on the bus and a long boring trip to Dazu. On arriving we needed to find a place to stay. Maps.me let us down here, as we were dropped god knows where in the city of multiple hundreds of thousands and not even near the bus station (as far as we know). The first place wanted 260 yuan. Stuff that. The next couple didn’t want us, and the one that would have liked a western tourist or two had trouble registering us and wanted to send us to the police bureau to explain why we wouldn’t stay in a more expensive hotel than theirs. Duh.

Then it was walking the streets. Hotels were conspicuously absent (it was the quality of the streets, they were all hardware,mattress shops and other home ware related products. Eventually we came to the 7 Days Inn. This chain had rejected us in the past but we gave it a try. 180 yuan, a bit much, but if we couldn’t find anything cheaper it would have to do. Across the road was a boutique hotel. Looked good, but after a long while we realised they couldn’t take foreigners. Back to walking the streets. The next place we tried turned out to be a hairdressers! Luckily for us business was slow, and they took pity on us due to our hair styles. A long process of phone translator conversation, and explaining that everywhere wouldn’t take us or was too expensive. They were shocked that we wanted to stay somewhere so cheap at 100 yuan, saying that they are bad places. 180-260 was pretty decent though?!? How much are hairdressers paid here? There was a bit of back and forth, then they thought they could get us a room for 120. Great! Someone took the time to walk us to the hotel. It turned out to be the 7 day inn again. Oh well. With a quick conversation between the hairdresser and the hotel staff, they managed to come to an agreement of 128 yuan. We would take it! The hairdresser got the room card, and we thought that was it, but no,she escorted us up to the room, and as it was a level of luxury that we were unaccustomed to, she took it upon herself to show us how to use the card to enter the room, and even how to put it into the slot to activate the lights and electricity. I know I sound condescending, but it really was fantastic of her.

Walked around town, saw the main square, a couple of protests as well as groups advertising something, and kids on roller blades. The popular sport here is badminton with everyone playing it in the street. Walking around doing another couple of streets we found some dinner. We didn’t need much and ended up with another sichuan hot pot. Online they say this is a true test for the intestines as it is a mainly reheated meal. The last one wasn’t that great, and caused Andrew to be out for a day, and this one was not much better. Hopefully we are building up a bit of resistance to them.

Back to the hotel and hopefully a bit of work on the blog. We are already 2 weeks behind. Who’s stupid idea was it to do this anyway?

20 April 2017 : Went and saw some rock carvings after organising to stay another night.

They were awesome. Walked around it twice and saw the museum at the end when it should have been the beginning.

Got back to town and took a taxi to the next biggest site (combined ticket and all)

These were good, but not as good.

The rain that was threatening to come down all day started when we were having dinner.

Back to the hotel to try and upload a blog but found out that the wifi card is fried.

Typed today.

All in all a good day.

Now if only all days were that interesting to type. Although all the photos wont fit in this description, so lets start again.

In the morning we decided to check in for another day. The hotel is good, the bed soft and they offer free instant coffee! And the best part is that if we stay another night we wont have to stress about the time at the rock carvings. Checking in for another day they tried to charge the full amount again, but only halfheartedly so we got it for yesterdays rate (beside the fact that we had now seen it advertised on the outside door!) That done, we asked about the bus to the Baodingshan rock carvings. We knew it was bus 205, but didn’t know where to catch it. Turns out it was right outside on our side of the street!

It was a bit overcast, but that would just keep the temperature down. It was only 15km to the rock carvings. A few km from town it’s a different world. The fields started to appear as well as a slight drizzle. A bit further on and a lot of people got off the bus. It was an “old town” under construction. Most of the buildings on the road were finished but nobody had moved in yet. Going around the “town” we went further up into the hills. On reaching the car park everyone else got off. Assuming this was the place (as the bus turned around and left) we started looking for the entrance. Walking a bit we came across all the market stalls associated with these kinds of places, calling out to us to buy their Buddha or eat a snack. Then we found the exit. Not good. The rain was starting to come down as we walked back in to other direction. There was a ticket office a bit further, but it was closed up tight. This wasn’t looking good. We had read something about a battery bus to take us a couple of km’s but that was supposed to be after the ticket office? There was a walkway that had been walled off from the road, even though it was in the same direction and we started along that. Soon we were overtaken by a battery bus! At least we were along the right path.

Then we came to the museum. Ok, we hadn’t known there was a museum, but there was. It appeared that we were already in the park. This was a first, we had snuck into a side entrance? It couldn’t be the back one, as we had already seen that. Finding a map we saw that from the museum we could go straight to the rock carvings, or continue along the path to the entrance and visitors section. Doing the right thing we walked to the entrance and got our tickets. Opting for the combined ticket to Beishan as well as Baodingshan for 170, rather than the 145 for just Baodingshan. Then it was all the way back, past the bells set up in a large pavilion, over the bridge with a chain running over each side to put “love locks” on and back to the museum.

Deciding to do the museum after the carvings as we didn’t want to ruin our surprise we headed down the steps (after all the other ones we had already done, have we mentioned that China loves steps?) to the main attraction of the Baodingshan rock carvings. As we descended we laughed about the tickets, and hoped that we would be checked somewhere. The turn styles at the entrance were not working, and no one had seemed interested in checking tickets, so we would be a bit miffed if they were not checked.

Walking to the first temple, it was locked up tight. The contemplative pond out the front was filled with fluorescent green scum and plastic bottles. The tourist shops were mostly closed with a few selling incense ranging from normal sized sticks to massive trees and not much else. Going back to the main path we came to a place where they were checking tickets! Not sure if we were glad of this or sad that we hadn’t found the non tourist entrance. Either way, if you are thinking of going here and stumble across this blog get off at the entrance, and not the end of the bus like we had.

Passing through it was not much longer until we hit the carvings.

One word: Awesome.

Just look at the pictures. The statues pop out of the rock face, there is still lots of colour and most importantly they are still mostly intact having survived the ravages of time and the weather and most importantly humans. They date back to about the 12th century onwards and are some of the most recent examples of a tradition that stretches back to India in the 3rd century.

The hills are fairly close together here, and the carvings stretch along both sides. Each side has different areas depicting different things from Buddhist scripture. There were not too many tour groups here today, so it was easy to take our time and examine each segment. Most of the scenes were familiar from depictions in temples, and there were English translations to let us know what we were looking at. Walking along the first face we had everything from angels and spirits to the underworld. Our favorite sections were the slightly darker ones (You know, where people are being sawn in half, boiled alive or being squashed by big wheels) and the scenes depicting love and renewal with the mother and child. Loving and touching scenes in comparison to the former.

The Sleeping Buddha and another section were closed for renovations and 3d scanning. From the condition of the scaffolding and barriers this had been going on for a long time. Then we came to the1000 hand Buddha. This has been completely renovated (apparently it was started in 2007 when a finger just fell off for no reason) and looks like new and shiny. I suppose that is the point. If it was falling apart that badly something needed to be done.

The chapel of three Buddhas with someone praying to them was all to ourselves. Considering that there was a warning that not too many people could enter at once! Then scenes from every day life and a great wheel of life. All in all it was stunning. Well worth the visit and its UNESCO status.

There was another temple on top of it that had its own pagoda and made a nice walk at the end. Then we went out the exit. Now we just had to walk back to the museum. It is a massive complex with pavilions pocking up around the sides. These were all closed. Climbing all the way up to the top floor we were allowed to enter on our park tickets which was a bonus. On entering we were a bit worried. The only thing on the top floor was a Zen garden. Unusual to say the least, and the first we have seen in China. This was not looking promising.

It also was worth the trip. We knew there were quite a few rock carving sites in China and they had great photo displays of the most famous ones. The museum also links them historically with different rock sites around the world. Then on the bottom floor there are all the carvings that have been salvaged from here that would not survive without being moved. The bottom floor is all about the restoration work that is being done to keep the site in the best possible condition.

Walking back out the entrance (yes, we do things backwards!) we caught the bus back to town just as the rain started up again. We grabbed our coats from the hotel and found out that there was no bus to the second site of Beishan. We could take a taxi though as it isn’t far. It should cost about five Yuan. The taxi we caught wanted to charge us 10, but reluctantly turned on the metre when we asked. It was 6 yuan for the trip. Mostly up hill. Well worth the expense.

Waved through we walked the rest of the way up to the site. It is similar to Baodingshan, just having suffered the ravages of time and people a lot more. Some of them are in magnificent condition, but a lot more have had the heads carved out, or weathered to nonexistence. The trip around the site was a lot faster and it was disappointing to find out that the grottoes have been hewn from the walls to make it easier to put a building over it. At the end we walked up to the pagoda on the hill. We had seen before and after pictures of the renovation here in the museum, and although it needed to be done, there is now not much distinguishing it between a 50 year old pagoda and a 500 year old one.

Then back into the city for a very nice dinner with some weird thick chicken soup type dish that the translator said was aubergine! The weather that had held out all day except for a few light drizzles now decided it was time to rain. Good timing for us as we were not that far from the hotel.

So the day was a great success. The only thing we would recommend is doing it in reverse. Beishan is close to the city and a good introduction to Baodingshan, so if you want it in the right order. Go through the gallery in reverse!

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