After traveling throughout China while living in Beijing for eight years, followed by countless return trips to China over 13 years with Absolute Travel, Lisa Sun is firmly established as an expert on all the must-see spots and hidden gems in China.
During her most recent visit in April, Lisa revisited old highlights, but found her daytrip outside of Chengdu, Sichuan to the Ya’an Bifengxia Panda Base and Research Center followed by a visit to the Giant Buddha of Leshan as the unexpected stand-outs of the trip. The word “giant” is all that the two sites share, but the excursion to visit the pandas and the Buddha makes for a dynamic day excursion from Chengdu.
Native to China and sadly one of the most endangered species on the planet, the Giant Panda remains a national treasure. Since the 2008 Sichuan earthquake which closed the well known Wolong Giant Panda Reserve Center, Bifengxia (pronounced Bee-fung-sha) Panda Base, at 2.5 hours from Chengdu, has become the place to observe pandas in their natural habitat. Best viewed in the morning when pandas are most active (as they fill up on roughly 30 pounds of bamboo a day and tend to nap through the afternoons), visitors to Bifengxia have the rare opportunity to witness pandas in action. Visitors won’t want to miss watching young panda cubs in “kindergarten” where youngsters play on slides, swings, and romp around like their human counterparts! For those of you who can’t get enough of them, Absolute Travel can arrange an opportunity to feed bamboo to a hungry panda – or even better yet: hold a young panda as if it was your very own! But there’s a catch to interacting up close with the pandas: to ensure they are protected and remain healthy, one must wear a uniform similar to a gas station attendant’s, and complete a required health form (which we can assist with)… but trust us, it’s worth it.
After a panda-packed morning, continue for a 1.5 hour drive to the world’s largest stone-cut Buddha, and arguably the most impressive: the Giant Buddha of Leshan. Chiseled from a cliff during the Tang Dynasty on the confluence of the Minjiang, Qingyijiang, and Dadu rivers, it was constructed in the hopes that it would protect boats and passengers from the area’s fatal floods. The Buddha is quite an imposing sight with 23 feet long ears, and each shoulder area large enough to fit a basketball court. Its grandeur not only lies in its magnitude, but in the genius of its craftsmanship: its coiled hair is made of 1,021 individual buns, and its ears serve as a secret drainage systems with hidden gutters and channels to prevent erosion on its serene face. Visitors have the option of viewing the grand Buddha from a viewing platform, where a staircase winds down to its feet for a close up view, however, we recommend taking in the splendid views of the Grand Buddha in its entirety from a boat ride on the river. The “wow” factor is simply amazing!
Our Family Tour of China itinerary can easily be customized to meet the Giant Pandas and observe the Giant Buddha of Leshan as a day excursion from Chengdu. Contact us for more details on this trip or to discuss a customized itinerary to China with our travel specialists.
* Special note: arranging a private session to hold a panda is subject to the mood of the pandas on the day of your visit and can not be guaranteed.