Emei Shan is one of China’s four famous Buddhist mountains and thus the destination for zillions of Chinese tourists and pilgrims. Not that we could distinguish who was making its way up or down Emai Shan for what purpose, but what was so overwhelming was the sheer number of people on a normal weekday in the low season.
There are many ways to conquer the summit at 3.099 meters… Take the bus and cable both ways. This can be done in high-heels, which some ladies actually did. One thing that we could not get over were the many Chinese tourists who had themselves carried all over the mountain by porters. Only the very few western tourists take the time and effort to climb up and down, which can be done in two long days. And of course, there are many options in between, like taking the bus only half way up and then join the trek.
Our plan was taking the bus / cable car all the way up to Golden Summit and hike down. Lots of people spend the night in one the monasteries or hotels up on the mountain to watch the sunrise. After listening to some very frustrated travelers, who, after a tough climb, had spent the night in an ice cold room, ate lousy food and saw nothing but fog, we decided against watching the so much advertised sunrise.
What a wise decision! The top was completely engulfed in such a fog that we could not even see the Golden Elephant even when we were standing right next to it… Same for the temple! The people around us were moving behind a thick haze, which created a special ambience, but that is not what you come here for. Besides that, a nasty cold drizzle had set in, so there was only one way down: again by cable car / bus and not as planned on foot. We guess everybody hopes that “their day up” will be the one of blue skies, but those are so rare.
Luckily, we had done a four hour walk in the lower parts of the mountain on the previous day, right after our arrival and got a good taste of what this destination is like. The path runs through lush vegetation, often along a creek and mainly consists of steps, made to accommodate the masses of tourists. Stalls along the way are selling tea, mushrooms, food and souvenirs. The most popular one is a stuffed toy monkey that can be wrapped around your hips or neck.
During this hike, we passed the “monkey reserve” where about twenty people with sticks would watch that the cheeky monkeys, accustomed to human contact and food, stayed away from the people. We found this a bit overprotective. The next day, near Golden Summit, Heidi was attacked by a big macaque, which must have smelled the food in her bag. Since she went off the path and was at that time standing on uneven, slippery rocks, she could not move and simply froze. None of the many Chinese tourists around had a stick but they all screamed. Finally, a man fought this cheeky animal off. The first time in these ten months that Heidi was little bit afraid.
Down in the village, the Teddy Bear Hotel is the place that caters to the few non-Chinese tourists in Emai Shan. Any “foreigner”, whether traveling by taxi or bus, is automatically dropped off there, assuming this is the place where they want to go. Indeed it is an excellent place to stay. The rooms are “3 stars” but the prices are backpackers, about 15 Euros for a big double with TV, bathroom and WiFi. The Chinese owner, who likes to be called Andy, speaks perfect English and has all the advice on hiking.