For a place whose Chinese name literally translates to “Happiness Mountain”, Le Shan (乐山) sure has a bunch of moody residents.
Like all our (mis)adventures, our foray into Le Shan started well enough. Once we stepped off the train, we were approached by a really friendly motor rickshaw driver. The driver enthusiastically offered to bring us around the city and help us look for a place to stay for the night. He was enthusiastic to the point that we were sure he was receiving kickback from some of the hotels. However, since the places he recommended and the prices he quoted seemed reasonable enough, we decided to give him a chance.
The decision to go along with this particular driver was cemented when he (defying all known laws of physics about matter not being able to share the same area in a consistent space/time continuum) managed to squeeze our 2 humongous backpacks and barang barangs into the same motor rickshaw with us.
What we did not realize at that time was that this was the same principal he applies to other traffic on the road as well. By now, we were pretty much accustomed to the traffic conditions in most parts of China.
Bumper to (very literally) bumper traffic? Seen that.
Overtaking motorcycles carrying a family of six (and their pet chickens) by mere millimetres? Pphhhbbbbtttt….
Oncoming bus hurtling towards us at (conservatively estimating) the speed of light? Boring…
My point is, there seems to be only one traffic rule governing the whole of China: DO NOT YIELD TO ANYONE. And after two months in China, we actually became okay with that. Yet, our pansy Singaporean/Malaysian bladders very nearly emptied themselves every time Mr Rickshaw Driver Man turned around and asked us if we can believe the kind of idiots they allow onto the roads these days (all the time squeezing through the narrowest of crevices between cars whilst wildly gesturing at fellow road users).
Despite the threat of impending death, we managed to get a conversation going with Mr Rickshaw Driver Man. We spoke of the places we’d gone to and the attractions around Sichuan, but we would inevitably end most conversational threads with him saying, “I know you wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for the Big Buddha.”
Each time, we laughed it off and tried to be polite, mumbling something along the lines that we are sure there MUST be other things to do in Le Shan.
We didn’t think much about it then, but it was a theme that was going to repeat itself over the three days we spent in Le Shan. Seemingly friendly conversations with the locals of Le Shan would invariably end with them punctuating each sentence with ”I know you wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for the Big Buddha”.
We were apologetic at first. We tried to reason with them that there must be other things to do in Le Shan. Then we felt guilty because there really was not much else in Le Shan beside the Big Buddha. After a few (thousand) of these conversations, we became downright irritated.
It’s the Kübler-Ross (non) model of coping with the lack of attractions in a scenic spot.
No wonder the residents of Le Shan are moody.