Summiting Emei Shan, Sichuan Provence, China

At just over 10,000 feet, Emei Shan is one of China’s four sacred mountains of Buddhism. (There are also the five sacred mountains and the four sacred mountains of Taoism.) It’s a long climb up a steep staircase or you can take a series of cable cars.

Journal Entry from May 14, 2006

Very long but fun day.  We made it all the way to the summit.  That is the first summit. There is another summit 22 meters higher.  We did, however, use the cable car to get to Wanmian Si (Long Life Monastery) then hiked about 5000 feet up the endless stairs to Jiejin Hall followed by a second cable car to the top.

We weren’t far along the climb up when we encountered the first of many porters with their heavy loads, two guys, each with a box-spring and mattress on their backs.

We had lunch at the restaurant just before Elephant Pool Monastery.  Charming guy who spoke a little English, better yet he understood my Chinese. 

Higher up, just before Jiejin Hall, some rhododendrons were still in bloom, but also a late snow was melting.  Quite pretty with the dappled sunlight through the trees and the spring flowers poking through the snow.

The cable car was awesome – up another 500 meters.  Once at the top, 3055 meters, it became excruciatingly difficult to climb the stairs and we stopped at the first hotel past the cable car, too exhausted to go much farther.

The light and air clarity were great for taking pictures, so despite our fatigue, we climbed just a little further to Golden Summit.  To our surprise, it was a huge construction site with new hotels, restaurants, and temples going up.  Scores of laborers carrying heavy loads on their backs – some women and very little construction equipment.

We had dinner at the restaurant – good but not memorable.

Note about the hotel room – the bathroom had a Chinese squat toilet and the shower consisted of a hand-held shower nozzle above the toilet.  For air conditioning or heat you have the hotel staff turn on the heat with the remote, but only after 7pm.  You do not, however, get to keep the remote and control the heat yourself.

Getting from Leshan to Emei Town

Leaving Leshan there was some confusion as to which bus station we wanted to go to.  My fault really – I was reading the directions for Chengdu not Leshan.  The taxi driver’s Chinese was impossible for me to understand, but he was very nice and assured us that there was indeed a bus going to Emei Shan from this bus station.  Got the tickets, the bus was waiting.  I don’t think they have set times; the bus leaves when they have enough passengers.  30 minutes later we were in Emei town.  As soon as we got off the bus someone wanted to take us to the Teddy Bear Café – exactly where we wanted to go.  The room seemed luxurious compared to the room in Leshan. We got a king-size bed with a Teddy Bear on it for 200yuan ($25).

Emei Town – Night before the Hike

The young woman who picked us up at the bus station spoke pretty good English and was quite helpful with information on getting to the mountain. We bought her map for 3.5yuan.  I’m sure it could have been had for free elsewhere.  After our required nap, we walked around the Bauguo (Declare Nation) area.  Very few tourists out with many more shop keepers than customers.  We found restaurant row; they started yelling at us in English to look at their menu.  More civilized dining appeared to be on the other side of the street and across a small stream that paralleled the road, part of a big hotel.  It looked expensive with charming wooden buildings, nicely landscaped, overlooking the stream.  I was sure they would speak English.  Turns out no English, no English menu and inexpensive.

I accidentally ordered two pitchers of beer instead of two bottles.  It was the first time I had seen pitchers of beer in China.  With all the beer, we decided to eat there as well.  With many suggestions from the waitress we got two pork dishes, a vegetable dish and mapo dofu (spicy tofu), and a huge bucket of rice – she assured me two small bowls would not be enough.  The first pork dish, yu xian rou si, was great with minced pork and various mushrooms. The second pork dish was tasty, very smoky limp bacon.  I wouldn’t order it again, but quite the treat.  Our waitress was delightful trying to explain things to me in slow deliberate Chinese.  Really a great time – total bill 75yuan – less than $10.

Upon returning to the hotel, we discovered the toilet was overflowing – huge mess, water running down the hall, but thankfully not much in the bedroom.  Our bags were dry.