Last week, I started in with a Chengdu post: Renmin Gong Yu (People’s Park) and volunteering with PANDAS! If you missed that post, check it out! And scroll down here for Chengdu Part 2!
Another highlight of Chengdu was visiting the Leshan Giant Buddha. Here’s an excerpt from an email I wrote my family right after the experience, because I don’t think I would write it any better now. “Dafo is a HUGE Buddha– the world’s largest Buddha sculpture, according to my guidebook, at 71 meters. He’s carved out of the side of a cliff facing a river. We walked up the back side of his mountain. It was mossy and had lots of statues and carvings to look at on the way up. We visited a temple at the top. It was wooden with nice curly roofs. Lots of people were lighting incense and candles and there were a few monks in mustard robes. We also found an area with lots of yin-yangs– on the walls and as the center piece of a fountain. I hadn’t seen yin-yangs in real life in Asia before. We walked through a beautiful garden and down the other side of the Buddha’s head. We took some pictures of his enormous head. His ears are probably taller than me! His hair is made of fun curli-cues. His eyes are sort of droopy like he’s thinking about something zen, other than all of the tiny tourists clambering around him. He has a big red dot on his forehead and moss on his robe. We grabbed some noodles and headed for the line to walk down the path next to the statue. It took an hour of winding around Disneyland style. People in line kept taking our picture. The path down the side was packed, but well worth it. It’s AMAZING to be next to such a big thing! We stopped and took him in at lots of corners and fences. My favorite view was around his knee– he was still GIANT to look up at, but it was neat to look down on his massive feet. [My sister] Natalie and I got bead bracelets at the bottom and then headed back.”
My sister and I decided that we NEEDED to try Sichuan hotpot. We were walking one of the main streets near a university and surprised by the general lack of the local dish. We finally spotted some deep steaming pots and clicking chopsticks. We were stoked until we saw the menu, which was only in Mandarin. I know a fair amount of Chinese- I needed it to get by and it was fun for me to sing the words. However, I never learned to read. Chinese people don’t know all of the 50,000 characters so what chance do I have?! (Granted many of the characters are out of use, but I figured talking was doing well). I digress. So we started to xie xie (thank you) our way out of the restaurant but the hostess was more adamant and seated us anyway. When the waiter came over, Chinese flew back and forth between us along with a lot of uhhhhs and confused gestures. We asked for mushrooms and he replied WHAT mushrooms? Etc. My sister and I strategized. We could walk around the restaurant with the waiter in tow and point to the things other people had that we wanted. We tried to mime and inform the waiter about this but he essentially said no. He disappeared and we started to gather our things. He returned, motioning: no, no, no, no, don’t leave! Then he explained that the chef had invited us to come to the kitchen to pick out the veggies and meat sticks that we wanted for our hotpot. Great! They had an amazing collection of bins full of skewers- a variety of each type of vegetable and more kinds of meat sticks than 3 Beijing hotpot restaurants and a chuar BBQ stall combined.
We were impressed and inspired. We chose LOTS of sticks. We opted for half spicy and half not spicy hotpot; a little yin and yang. We were intimidated by pure spice, but didn’t want to wuss out on THE Sichuan experience. We ordered rice and beer with ease. We giggled and waited. A tiered caddy of trays was slowly filled beside our table with allll of the things we’d greedily, hungrily chosen. We eagerly put them in to the boiling pot and waited for them to cook. We devoured about ¾ of the skewered foods and it was all delicious! About then we suddenly realized it was really hot in the restaurant.
But as we looked around, none of the locals seemed hot. Then we noticed each other’s faces had turned red. Then we realized we were sweating! We were terrified and thrilled: the Sichuan experience! It’s hitting us! More rice! More beer! Time to put out the fire (in our bellies, not under the pot; we would still finish the great food)!! We left the restaurant as very full, very warm, very satisfied customers.
Basically, I loved Chengdu (and can’t stop writing about it)! If you’re ever in China, GO TO CHENGDU!