Leshan – visa extension and the Giant Buddha
The need to extend my visa for the second and last time brought me to Leshan, a place constantly reported to handle the procedure of Chinese visa extension neatly and quickly.
My initial plan was to apply for the extension in Songpan (as I’ve heard that they are even quicker, doing the extensions the same day), however a quick call to the PSB in Songpan made by the receptionist in my hostel in Chengdu, revealed that no extensions were being made in Songpan at this moment due to the 18th CPC Congress. Songpan apparently lies too close to the ‘sensitive’ areas.
Never mind, as the reports occurred regarding Leshan occurred to be true – Leshan PSB does the extension overnight. No financial statements required, no interrogative questions asked. Nice and straight forward. Too bad that my visa was expiring on Saturday, and with the application made on Friday, I had to wait till Monday for the collection. I did not seriously mind this little delay, as it eventually allowed me to recuperate for a bit longer time in Emei. And catch up with some of the missing entries for my journal.
Hence if you need to apply for a 30-day extension in Leshan, bring the following:
- your passport
- one photo (if you haven’t got one, you can do it downstairs in the same building for 25RMB – 6 photos)
- registration slip from the hotel located in Leshan city (NOT Leshan county – the registration slip from eg. Emei is not suitable!)
For everyone willing to extend their Chinese visa in Leshan, here is a short guide how to get to the PSB (and avoid spending money on a taxi!)
If you arrive in Leshan by bus from Chengdu or Emei, you are very likely to be dropped at Xiào Bà tourist bus station (肖坝旅游车站), located in the south of town. From there follow these steps:
1. Take the bus NO 7. (2 RMB)
2. Get off at 行政服务中心 (Xíngzhèng fúwù zhōngxīn).
3. You should see the following building:
4. Entering the building, proceed to the right side of the main hall. There is a stairway there. Go to the first floor.
5. When you arrive at the first floor, turn left. You should see this:
6. That’s exactly where you want to be! Enter the PSB. The helpful staff inside will instantly take care of you
Not knowing exactly how to get to the PSB, I had a little adventure trying to find the place. After leaving the city bus and asking several people around, I eventually hopped in the rickshaw. The driver dropped me at the police station (just as I had asked), however very soon I realized that was the wrong one, as the PSB is located in a different building.
Anyway the police officers were incredibly helpful, first driving me to the local hotel to do the quick, hassle-free (and free of charge too) registration, as my Emei address was not sufficient, despite what I had been previously told by the receptionist. Remember – you need the Leshan city address, the Leshan county address is not enough! So good that at least I did not have to stay (and pay) in that pricey hotel in Leshan. Further on the officers drove me to the right building, where soon I managed to hand in my application.
However, if you think that the visa extensions are definitely the main reason why travelers decide to stop in Leshan, you’re in the giant mistake. As giant as the statue of Buddha carved in rock, sitting gently on the riverside. The Giant of Buddha of Leshan, included jointly with the Emei mountain on the UNESCO list is undoubtedly as imposing and monumental as its name indicates.
The Buddha is located in a pleasant forested scenic area upon the river bank. I remember how surprised I was then I initially arrived in LeShan, expecting the whole city to be a small sleepy town, tucked into the forest and rocks somewhere on the hills, just like the Giant Buddha. It’s amazing how drastically a bunch of selected photos on flickr and Google Images can change your perception.
LeShan is a quite enjoyable urban area, packed with thousands of eateries, KTV joints and squares housing the afternoon mass dances. Although not distinct at all from many other Chinese cities, LeShan is a relatively pleasant place to kill some time, even without seeing a Buddha.
While it’s clearly not the first time when I expected the Chinese city/town to be smaller than it actually is, in case of the Giant Buddha I was completely right, expecting it to make me look like an ant standing at his – literally – footsteps. I was also right with my decision to wait till the late afternoon in order to avoid the crowds of tourist. No queues on the narrow cliff stairway. Almost nobody downstairs. Nearly solitary experience, raising my head to meet the eyes of the Buddha.
However, although definitely the biggest, the Buddha is definitely not the only attraction offered by this designated scenic area. Dedicated temple lovers will not be disappointed, while those seeking the retreat in the quiet flowery Chinese gardens equipped with the charming gazebos will undoubtedly love this place. The stroll around this green area, literally bursting out with plants and trees, was probably even more enjoyable than the sight of the Buddha.
I particularly liked the pagoda standing on the hill nearby and its rusty, ancient appearance, lacking a single lick of paint and piece of plaster, allowing the rough stone surface to be fully exposed. With the steep stairway leading to its base, at first it reminded me slightly of the Mayan Pyramid, emerging from the lush sub-tropical vegetation. Regrettably it was not possible at that time to climb inside to the top.
Too bad that while clearly enjoying my experience, I forgot to check what time was the last bus to Emei. And as I later realized the last bus was the one I missed. Great. But hold on – that’s also why hitch-hiking exists, right?
Although already after the dusk, after nearly an hour wait I got my lift back to Emei, sharing the luxurious minivan with a friendly and talkative driver and his wife. Nice summary to that interesting day.
Any experiences with visa extensions in Leshan?