Emei Shan & LeshanMarch 29, 2016 in China ⋅ 🌬 0 °C
After an early start in Kangding and a marathon 8h bus journey, mostly following a beautiful river valley, but luckily for our backs aong a motorway we arrived in the late afternoon in Emei, where we had booked a room at the town's only hostel, with a bizarre Teddy Bear theme. Tired after our week of exhausting journeys, we relaxed playing cards in the hostel and planning our hike up Emei Shan - one of Chinese Buddhism's four holy mountains, before heading out to our first dinner in Sichuan proper, which featured incredibly spicy pickled pepper pork and delicious tomato tofu.
The next morning, we were woken up by the sound of hammering rain, apparently a common occurrence in this part of Sichuan. Undeterred, we put on our waterproof trousers and jackets, left our rucksacks at the hostel and headed to the mountain bus station, where we paid the extortionate mountain entrance fee. As we only had a day and a half to scale the 3200m mountain we cheated a little bit, getting a bus to Leidongping two hours down from the summit. We followed the trail of Chinese tourists to the walking path, along which we soon encountered one of the mountain's packs of very confident monkeys, which were lapping up the attention and more importantly food provided by the visitors to the mountain. After watching the playful monkeys for a while we pressed on up the path, which quickly became quiet and shrouded in mist and light rain as the Chinese tourists turned off towards the cable car. Passing a number of small temples along the way, some touristy and some simple and real-feeling, we eventually reached the golden summit, which was topped by a magnificent gold statue of the mountain's protector goddess that periodically drifted in and out of the mist. After exploring the atmospheric misty summit and having a much needed snake, we began our descent. Once we'd got past the main summit trail, it seemed like we were the only ones on the bamboo lined, sometimes ice covered mountain path. After destroying our calves climbing down what felt like a million steps, passing more ethereal fog shrouded temples along the way, we arrived at the Yuxian Temple (1700m) where we chose to spend the night. Included in the room price was a delicious and hefty vegetarian meal of rice with marinated bak choy and cabbage. After savouring our first vegetarian meal of the trip, we returned to our cosy but austere wooden room, where I fell asleep before 8pm, the earliest I'd done so for at least 10 years.
We woke up at 9ish the next morning and quickly continued down the mountain, briefly interrupted by a particularly aggressive group of monkeys that attacked Theo and stole food from his bag, as we had a lot planned for the day. The contrast with the previous day was stark, with most of the fog receding leaving sweeping views of the surrounding area and glorious rugged mountain scenery. After descending through lush green bamboo forest we reached the Wannian Bus depot at around lunchtime, from where we got the bus to Emei, collected our luggage and then made our way to Leshan on yet another bus. As it was getting late in the afternoon, we hopped in a taxi to the Giant Buddha itself, where we dropped our rucksacks at a left luggage, before ascending through the Buddha complex past historic fountains and statutes of Buddha's companions, before arriving at the top of the magnificent 70m Buddha, the largest in the world, carved into the cliff edge overlooking a river. After contemplating his head, which was still painted despite being over 1000 years old, we chambered down the stairs behind him past ancient Buddhist rock carvings, before reaching a riverside viewing area where we were able to gaze up at him. To give an idea of his scale, his toenails were bigger than a person. After enjoying the majestic Buddha from below, we left the park area and headed to Chengdu, where we arrived late, exhausted and excited to see pandas the next day..Read more