Emei Shan (峨眉山), Sichuan Province
Emei Shan is one of Sichuan‘s most famous tourist sights, but I’d be lying if I said I loved it there. It seemed to me like a lot of stair-climbing without a huge variety of scenery along the way. But — full disclosure — we had terrible weather. While bad weather is fairly common on Emei Shan, I hear that if you have good weather, the views can be spectacular. And if you manage to see the sunrise, you’ll be blessed for life. It’s a sacred Buddhist mountain, after all.
Hiking the Mountain
A full hike of Emei Shan (highest elevation 3099 meters) takes three days. But bus routes and cable cars can be used to get a head start on the ascent or to bypass some of the descent. We spent about a day on the mountain and then called it quits. You’ll pay dearly for food and accommodation while you’re there, so the prices of bus and cable car tickets are not as much of a budget-buster as they might seem.
Regardless of how you choose to ascend, your visit to Emei Shan will start in Baoguo Village (包裹) at the base of the mountain. Many buses from Chengdu and Leshan will drop you off in Baoguo, so you can bypass Emei town entirely. In Baoguo, you can store your bag at the Teddy Bear Hotel (around the corner from the bus station), buy your ticket (150 RMB/80 RMB students) and start hiking if you want to climb all the way up. Otherwise, you can get on a bus to one of three bus stations further up the mountain.
We took the bus to the Wannian bus station (20 RMB) and then took a cable car (65 RMB) up to Wannian Temple (1020 m). After taking a quick peek around the temple, we started hiking. As you can see at right, most of Emei Shan’s paths consist of stairs straight up. This turns off most Chinese tourists, and we ran into only one other couple hiking up, and just a few more going down. We were pretty tired after three hours, when we decided to stop for the night at the Huayanding Temple (see below).
The next morning, we hiked another, flatter three hours to Leidongping, where we had the choice to take a cable car up to the summit (40 RMB up) or to get on a bus back to Baoguo (30 RMB). Because the visibility was so bad, we headed back to Baoguo and from there Chengdu.
Emei Shan is famous for its macaque monkeys, which have a habit of harassing travelers. We didn’t take the threat totally seriously, and we paid for it (slightly). Avoid our mistakes:
- Keep food and drinks in your pack when you are not actually consuming them.
- Do not carry your things in plastic bags. The monkeys target them because they often contain food.
- Keep it in perspective. If you are the victim of a monkey attack, give up without a fight and try to remember that it will make a great story some day.
Food & Accommodations
You’re a captive audience on Emei Shan, and the prices reflect that. There are plenty of snacks stalls along the trail, but expect to pay between 5 and 8 RMB for a bottle of water and more for a sweet drink. A small package of peanuts cost 6 RMB. The higher you climb, the higher the prices. If you’re on a tight budget, bring as many snacks as you can carry.
The budget accommodations on Emei Shan are the many monasteries scattered along the paths. Most of the monasteries offer unheated dorm rooms for 20-50 RMB per person per night. We stayed in the Huayanding Temple at about 1900 meters elevation. We paid 50 RMB each for a double room; they wouldn’t let us stay in the dorm in case a larger group checked in later. The room was chilly, but the electric blankets made the bed quite cozy. The monastery also serves hot meals. A vegetarian dinner for two with three dishes cost 36 RMB total.