At 7:45 this morning, Jason and I were walking toward the last two seats in the back of a bus full of Chinese tourists. We were excited to see the Giant Buddha of LeShan, located two and a half hours outside of Chengdu, but since there were no tours in English available, a Chinese tour was our only option. We were expecting to be returning to the hotel at about one o'clock, so we hoped to make it through the next few hours without the language barrier being a major issue.
Ten minutes into the tour, the bus came to a stop not far from where we departed, and about half of the tourists stepped out of the bus and into a building.
Not sure what was happening, we resolved to remain on the bus, figuring it was best to stay wherever the tour leader was. A few minutes later, the Chinese passengers returned to the bus with small bags of breakfast rolls in their hands. We continued on until the bus made a second stop twenty minutes later. Once again, about half of the passengers filed out of the bus, this time to use the restroom, returned to the bus, and off we went again. Jason and I assumed it was common sense to eat breakfast and use the restroom before taking a bus ride, but clearly we were wrong. About an hour and a half later, the bus pulled over, yet again, for another bathroom break. Once again, Jason and I remained seated in the bus. We concluded that there must be some serious bladder control problems in China.
We then continued down the road for another half hour before the bus came to a halt again.Since all of the passengers exited the bus, we tagged along behind, not sure of where we were going. We entered some sort of tourist restaurant where we all sat down at large tables as plates and plates of food were piled in front of us. We all ate, and then we were back on the bus once again. This sure was different from any other tour we had ever taken. A few minutes later. we finally arrived at our destination and took rickshaws to the main entrance.
We then were forced to follow the group around for a little over an hour as our guide seemed to stop every two minutes to explain something in extreme detail in a language we couldn't understand.
Meanwhile, we were dripping in sweat in the 100+ degrees weather, and all we wanted to do was get to the Giant Buddha. After was seemed like an excrutiating long time period, we finally reached the stairs that led to the Le Shan Buddha. The Le Shan Buddha is enormous, 230 ft high, and it is carved into the red sandstone face of a large hill that overlooks a massive and turbulent river. To view the massive structure, you climb down a nine turns staircase to get to the bottom, and then climb up another staircase on the opposite side of the Buddha.
Climbing down the steep staircase was miserable because we were tightly packed together with all of the other smelly, sweaty tourists, and the line moved extremely slowly because everyone was attempting to snap perfect pictures as they climbed down.
By the time we had climbed down and back up again, we had captured some amazing pictures of the impressive stone figure, but we were absolutely exhausted from the heat and the ardous trekking. We consulted our watches and noticed that it was about 1:30 in the afternoon. Surely we would soon be in an air-conditioned bus and on our way to a relaxing shower, to remove layer after layer of sweat from our skin.
Our tour leader gathered us all under a gazebo-like structure, where everyone sat to catch their breath and attempt to cool down. She began talking enthusiasticallly, none of which we understood, and a long twenty minutes had passed. Jason and I looked over at each other in disbelief, wondering when her mouth would stop moving and we would be on our way to the bus.
An excrutiating hour passed, and she still hadn't stopped talking, and we were growing more and more uncomfortable. We finally turned to a man sitting near us, whom we learned could speak a little bit of English, to inquire about what was being said. He told us that we would soon be hiking through some other nearby temples and stone carvings and would return to the bus in three hours. Jason and I were in shock and couldn't believe what we had gotten ourselves into. This was going to be the last time we signed up for a tour in another language! We only hoped our bodies could hold up for another three hours of climbing up and down stairs throughout the wooded area.
For the next three hours we simply accepted the fact that the day was going to be a lot longer than anticipated, and we tried to make the best of the situation.
Afterall, the scenery was absolutey gorgeous, and it was probably the most breath-taking location we had visited thus far on our vacation.
At one point in our journey, our tour group was busy browsing through the busy gift shop, and Jason and I opted to have a seat outside in the shade. A Chinese girl in her early twenties approached us and asked to have her picture taken with us. She spoke English fairly well, so she sat and chatted with us for quite a while about life in China. She told us that she really admires Americans because they are always so adventurous and willing to travel to new places and try new things. She also mentioned that she enjoys watching American moview because they give her hope and that her lifelong dream is to come to America. However, she told us that coming to America would be very difficult to do right now because of the regulations in China, but she hopes things will get better in the future.
After speaking with this girl, who has so many hopes and dreams, it made me feel anger towards all of the people back at home who bicker and complain about America or American policies. These people need to spend some time in foreign countries to realize how great they have it, even in an imperfect America.
At 8 pm, we finally arrived back at our hotel, five hours later than we had anticipated. Although the day was exhuasting and frustrating at times, I know we will look back upon it with fond memories.