Asia | China | Sichuan Province | Leshan – Kicking back by the Big Buddha
There’s no place better than home. Leshan is not exactly home for me, but having grandma there is similar enough. I took a break from travelling, and indulged in taking 3 hour naps in the afternoon and sampling all the food stalls that made this area a culinary heaven known to every Chinese. From grandma’s balcony I could see the big Buddha carved into the hill that made Leshan famous, and in the other direction the outline of Emei Mountain, one of the four holy Buddhist mountains in China, is visible on a clear day. That’s about all the sight seeing I need for now.
I would go to the market every morning and bargain with the vendors for the fresh peppers, eggplants, and fresh tofu that splattered with streets with vibrant colors. I ended up saving only 2 cents, but got plenty of practice speaking the local dialect and distinguishing different types of leafy green vegetables. What the locals can do with a handful of rice and a cup of water is an art. They can grind it up or leave it in grains, steam or fry it, saute it or cook it wrapped in bamboo leaves, add sugar or salt, mix the batter soupy or thick, and voila! There are at least 10 kinds of rice cakes filling the air with the sweet scent of fresh grains.
I’ve had a constant thirst problem for the past couple years, and the family coerced me to go to the biggest local hospital specializing in traditional Chinese medicine. The doctor said that my stomach was hot and weak, and my kidney couldn’t convert chi, or energy, efficiently enough, so he prescribed a mix of herbs that would cool the heat and strengthen my stomach. It cooks out into a bitter juice, which my aunt administered to me religiously after every meal. And I would undo the effort at night by lingering around the barbeque stalls for sticks of meat and vegetables doused in chilly powder.
Leshan has changed little from when I last saw it three years ago despite the government’s effort to make it a more sophisticated international tourist destination. Squeezed by the crossing of two rivers which eventually flow into the Yangtze River, Leshan finally cools down at night from the sweltering heat. A stroll along the river bank and then onto the broken old city walls offer some good people-watching opportunities. The main forms of night life are still karaoke and majong. Not quite into either one, I killed time in a massage clinic for their $2 per hour sessions. Most of the massage clinics are owned by blind people, and locals preferred them either for privacy or for a good cause. The one I went to was no exception. Between chats with the masseurs and other clients, I would finish the day relaxed and ready for the same routine the next day.