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China - Emeishan - The invisible holy mountain

An unfriendly village and ending up in the cloud - The holy mountain remained invisible. Should we believe it exists?


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Chengdu is one of the biggest cities of China and is the capital of Sichuan province. It is blessed with some particularly interesting places close by. I was going to meet my travel companions in Chengdu, and from there we would visit Emeishan, Leshan and Juizhaigou. I had read something about the places, and was very curious how these places would be in real.

The flight from Singapore to Chengdu in China took about 4.5 hours but in this case time went fast, because I ended up in a conversation with a young lady from Singapore, who was going for a two weeks' hiking adventure to some mountains on the border of Sichuan and Tibet. She was vague about the exact place but between the lines I think I could understand that she was trying to go to Larung Gar/Sertar. It is the largest Tibetan Buddhist institute in the world, reportedly with over 40,000 monks, in the very far west part of Sichuan province. My itinerary was much easier.

Immigration in Chengdu was very quick, but baggage pick up very slow. At last I met my partner and other travel companions from Hong Kong, who were in Chengdu already. The plan was to drive to Emeishan for the next two days. The biggest surprise was our "car". The brand new van that we would originally be driven around in had broken down. In order to still have a car for us, they had quickly emptied a very old rusty little delivery bus into something that could carry six people. Could this thing really get us up the mountains? I had my doubt when I saw it. My friend was laughing her butt off when she saw the look in my eyes, when seeing our vehicle...

"Hahaha, I know you would love this... " my partner said.

With much noise of loosely fitting parts of the car, and one door which we never knew if it was locked or not, we started our trip over the highway to Emeishan City. It was getting dark soon, and because the driver did not know if there would be any restaurant open in Emeishan, we stopped at a very local small restaurant along the road.

Like all other restaurants along that same road, this one also had a sticker of a huge blue catfish posted on the window. You can't believe how many little restaurants there were that all seem to serve just the same thing: cat fish!
catfish restaurant

catfish restaurant


We went in and yes, we could eat there already. In the kitchen they had two buckets, one bucket with just one big and the other with three small cat fish. The decision was made that we would eat the big one. The guy in charge of the place took it out of the water, knocked it on the head first and started to cut it into chunks with a lot of flair, ready to expose his skills before the camera.
catfish preparation

catfish preparation

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1829587_13512895859758


As everywhere in that area, the restaurant people seemed to get their status from being as loud as possible, so our stay there was great fun and not boring ;) These people have no volume switch...

We got our very oily fish and peppers dish served, with local vegetables and a big wooden bucket with steamed rice. We all had been hungry, so this spicy and hearty meal was very welcome.
we must have looked hungry... rice in a bucket

we must have looked hungry... rice in a bucket

hearty meal...

hearty meal...


In the meantime the people of the restaurant were all very willing to help us plan for the further trip to Emeishan that night and the next morning.
There was a huge map hanging on the wall, showing the roads and sights and pathways up the mountain. So our driver, my partner's cousin and the other local people started to discuss what was best for us. Let's use an understatement: they did so in an upbeat and up volume way. All locals disagreed with each other on which road it was allowed to drive and how far up we could go. So, did it give us useful information? Not so sure, but really, these people tried to be extremely helpful (be it with ten different opinions) and they were really very kind and friendly.... totally unlike the local people we would meet later in Emeishan City...
loud discussion about how to reach the top

loud discussion about how to reach the top


From the little restaurant to the city took us about 45 minutes. When we drove into there, it took some time to find the hotel, because so many hotels have almost the same name. Our hotel was Emeishan Grand Hotel; located at the end of town, just close to the bell tower at the foot of Emeishan mountain, next to Bao Guo temple.
Quirky illuminated Emei Shan Grand Hotel

Quirky illuminated Emei Shan Grand Hotel

Gate out of Emei Shan City to get to the mountain

Gate out of Emei Shan City to get to the mountain


The entrance of the hotel was hidden in a kitchy imitation of the mountains (Emeishan means "eyebrows mountain") formed by blue christmas tree illumination. The check-in people were a bit grumpy and rude. The doormen, same thing. The hotel itself was better than expected though, and better than the reviews that I read later on some sites like Tripadvisor. It is a hotel built in the form of several separate pavillions in a park. I think we were in building #3. The air is fresh, you hear the sound of crickets, the hot water works, and yes, the beds are hard but this is China. Most important: everything was quite clean.
Rock carved Buddha Emei Shan City

Rock carved Buddha Emei Shan City

Illuminated Bell Tower in Emei Shan City

Illuminated Bell Tower in Emei Shan City


After installing ourselves we decided to walk around. We saw the illuminated bell tower and the Buddha rock carvings around there which were quit impressive, and suddenly we saw a huge night butterfly that was quite impressive too. When walking through the streets we found that food was actually still available there until late. But the people in the market, and especially the women in a nearby fancy shop that sold dried mushrooms and herbs and tea, quite unhelpful and at straight out rude... as in: who are you to think that you can just walk into my shop and ask questions!
night butterfly on the bell tower

night butterfly on the bell tower


Emei Shan City night market product nicer than sales people

Emei Shan City night market product nicer than sales people


Well, maybe they were like this because business seemed slow or non-existent here. Except for ourselves, we had seen no visitors or buyers in the market, only the people populating the stalls... quite weird! Maybe the local market people had already managed to chase away everybody else...
But please don't misunderstand. In terms of the beauty of the temples and the beautiful nature, I still would say that Emeishan City is worth a visit...
Well at least I think so... because the next day would not really give us a fair chance to find out...
breakfast hall in Emei Shan Grand Hotel

breakfast hall in Emei Shan Grand Hotel


After a good sleep and breakfast in the impressive (Chinese style of grand) dining room of the hotel, we got in our rusty but so far reliable little van for the trip all the way up to the top of Emei Shan. At the edge of the city, we noticed that there were more tourists now around the bell tower and the rock carvings, but only Chinese tourists. We did not see a single westerner anywhere on the mountain.
Emei Shan city bell tower

Emei Shan city bell tower

Emei Shan city park waterfall

Emei Shan city park waterfall


Many tourists come to rub the enormous bell which shows its shiny brass at the point where so many people touched it. There are also people carriers, who carry tourists around on a seat, mounted on two bamboo sticks. Two of them walked by and measured my size critically. I heard them talk about me (Lao Wei) and then they walked quickly on, clearly looking for lighter weight passengers. I am sure non of them would find it worth the few RMB, getting a hernia by carrying me around, because none of them offered their services. There is also a nice little park, actually opposite of the bell tower and the hotel where we stayed, with a waterfall. This waterfall seems one of the landmarks of the town.

And from here on, the poor little rusty van was bound to suffer its worst test of the trip: to carry all six of us up the mountain, a long and windy steep road with many hairpins that takes about 90 minutes from town to the highest point for cars.

But first we took a side road to visit some of the temples on the slopes. Already immediately after leaving the village, there are the first temples. You enter through a main gate, and then there is an inner court and one temple, then a next gate and a next temple building and so on. The atmosphere in the first one was solemn and quiet, but it was still early morning. By the time we got to the second temple, it was a different story: there local tour groups with very loud people, who seemed to think they were in Disneyland instead of in a temple. Their main purpose for them seemed to be the souvenir shop which is invariably part of the temples.
Emei Shan temple on the slope of the mountain

Emei Shan temple on the slope of the mountain

Emei Shan temple detail

Emei Shan temple detail

Emei Shan temple decorations

Emei Shan temple decorations


We arrived at the end of the road, basically a parking lot with many, very loud people. From there it is supposed to be another hour walking up to the top. However, it got foggier and foggier. It was a very dangerous road too, because of the many landslides that happen, as a result of which there are many road works, sometimes just behind the next turn, without warning ahead. Only one thing was very clear: if we would take the walk further up to the top, it would be useless. There would be nothing to see except the cloud that we were in. That is why we decided to give it a miss and not venture the path, which would be wet, slippery and dangerous anyway. Also the cable car (the alternative for the ones like me) was not running due to the fog.

Well, it was not a lost day: driving the road up had been an experience, as well as the toll station (again with unfriendly people there). And the view of thousands of clueless people not knowing whether to wait or not for a better visibility later in the afternoon.
Emei Shan end of the road - our old rusty van

Emei Shan end of the road - our old rusty van


We were not going to wait. We got back into the car, on our way to Leshan, a place where the world's biggest Buddha statue has been carved out of the rock in a cliff along the river. On our way we took a quick lunch in a very local restaurant which was obviously having the local factory workers as their only clientele. A visit by a bunch of tourists including a white one was definitely not a daily event for them, and we became sort of the tourist attraction there ourselves.

Posted by westwind57 03:50 Archived in China Tagged temples road_trip temple china waterfall sichuan emeishan bell_tower catfish holy_mountain Comments (0)

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