It was my misfortune to go to the Ling Shan Big Buddha during the October holiday. It wasn't my idea. It was either my wife's or my in-laws. A week before, I learned from my wife that we were to go and so I was able to become resigned to my fate, as much as I could.
The Ling Shan Buddha was built in the 1990s. It is about as authentically placed as a giant Hindu statue park in the Inter Lake region of Manitoba, Canada. The Buddha was clearly built to bring in Tourists. And judging by the signs of the crowds I saw on my latest visit to it, it is a still successful racket.
I can thank God (or the Buddha) that my in-laws are early risers. We were able to avoid traffic jams going to the park. When we left the park later the roads we had gone down had become so packed that I could no longer recognize them.
There wasn't much to do at the park but look at Buddhist iconography and statues, observe typical Chinese tourists, jostle among crowds and look at the all hawkers selling food and trinkets.
I saw some Monks at the pseudo-shrines and the manner of at least one of them lead me to question their authenticity or sanctity. One young monk definitely looked like he had shaved his head for an October holiday gig. He sat with the posture of a bored store clerk as he clutched his smartphone.
The tourists were for the most part dressed casually in jeans, shorts and t-shirts. (For whatever reason, a young man wearing a t-shirt saying "I'm just t-shirt" stuck in my mind). Their children ate confections like they were at an amusement park. When the tourists weren't walking, they were sitting about, looking at their smart phones. A few did do some prostrations at various shrines but lord knows for what they were praying. Money, a bigger house and a nicer car, perhaps?
The most annoying aspect of the day was entering the area below the pavilion where one could touch the feet of the Big Buddha. One came upon a room that was crowded as possibly could be. Looking at it, my first instinct was to turn around and seek another way to get to the Buddha's feet. I even told my wife Jenny that I didn't recall (this was my fourth or fifth visit to the Buddha park) having to go this way to get to it. But she insisted that we had to go through this room to get to an elevator that would take us to the pavilion. Because the room we had to get through was so crowded and I was so clueless, the way the people were standing in the room seemed so inexplicable to me: they were facing every possible direction. I even thought that some of the people in the room were trying to get out but were prevented by the rush of people trying to enter. But then the crowd was able to advance forward and I saw that the room contained these queuing barriers that required people to wind through a back-and-forth maze to get through the room. Twenty minutes after we entered this room, we were at the base of the Buddha looking at his feet. Having, as I said, been there before, we spent three minutes looking around before deciding to go back down. Big whoop-de-do!
To exit the park, one has to go through a kilometer path lined with hawkers trying to sell souvenirs. If this wasn't blatantly tourist-trappy, then I wouldn't know what would be.
A spiritual experience, not.