Dazu Buddhist Caves

Traveling with a group is always a little difficult, but traveling with a group of twelve in China is downright stressful. China travel requires patience, flexibility and a plethora of extra time for things to go wrong. It’s impossible to find a bus schedule online, so you’re always going on what others tell you, which is usually incorrect. The Chinese way of explaining things is usually to say in broken English (or no English at all), “maybe the bus will come in one hour or maybe two.” A smile and easygoing spirit are your keys to successful travel in China. This weekend, a group of seven friends came out from Chongqing to visit me in Yongchuan. Our plan was to spend Saturday visiting Dazu Buddhist Caves, one of China’s four great Buddhist cave sculpture sites and an acclaimed UNESCO World Heritage Site. Research told us that Dazu should be somewhere between a 30 and 90-minute bus ride from Yongchuan, so it should make a perfect day trip. Dazu Buddhist Caves Chongqing China UNESCO travel As with anything in China, this trip didn’t go off without a hitch. We were joined by 5 other Canadian foreigner teachers at the bus station at 10am to find out that contrary to every bit of prior information received, the bus didn’t leave every 30 minutes, but only three times per day. Our group of twelve killed time by eating noodles and wandering the neighborhood until our 12:15 bus departure. We finally arrived in Dazu at 1:45pm and took another bus out to the cave sight. Knowing that the last bus returning from Dazu to Yongchuan was scheduled for 6pm, our time was limited, but we figured that we could always book a hostel in Dazu for the night if we had to. Dazu Buddhist Caves Chongqing China UNESCO Being that we’re all young, energetic, experienced travelers, we were an unstoppable force upon arrival, rushing into the ticket office and jumping onto a 15RMB cart ride, which could deliver us to the caves much quicker than walking. At the ticket office, we purchased a combination ticket for 170RMB (about $27), which gave us access to both Baoding Shan (Treasured Summit Hill) and Bei Shan (North Hill). Comparatively speaking, the ticket price seems expensive for sightseeing in China, but the breathtaking art dating back to the 9th century Tang dynasty was worth every penny. We tore through the first site, Baoding Shan, in just over an hour. I wish we had more time, because in hindsight, the first group of carvings we came upon was by far the most impressive of all. Dazu Buddhist Caves Chongqing China UNESCO Once you exit Baoding Shan, you come upon a street filled with vendors. If you have time, you can stop to see them at work, hand carving the statues, dishes and figurines they are selling. At the end of that street, you can jump onto another cart (buy your ticket at the entrance to Baoding Shan), which takes you back down the mountain to the entrance. From there, we piled into a sketchy van and took a harrowing 20-minute ride to Bei Shan (North Hill). Thank God for my Chinese-speaking friends who can tell drivers where we are going and negotiate the fare. No one speaks English in this part of China. I desperately need to step up my Rosetta Stone efforts. Dazu Buddhist Caves Chongqing China UNESCO Bei Shan is worth seeing, but it is much less impressive than Baoding Shan. You don’t need much time here. We only spent about 30 minutes, but would have spent more if the bus schedule allowed. Bei Shan is filled with much smaller, less colorful, but amazingly intricate carvings. The hike up some sets of stairs takes you through a scenic bamboo forest. Dazu Buddhist Caves Chongqing China UNESCO

See more photos from my whirlwind trip to China’s Dazu Buddhist Caves by watching the awesome video at the top of this page. Or click here to watch it on Youtube.