We landed in Chengdu late on Friday night and met Janice for a drink near our hostel (Dad, you surprised?). Saturday, we woke up very early to go to Mt. Emei (pronounced, Uh-may). The mountain is famous for being one of the 4 holy Buddhist mountains in China, and we were excited to get there.
The mountain was definitely beautiful--even though it was cloudy, the views were still very impressive. And there were Buddhist temples scattered throughout the peaks, so, of course, Alison had to take what has now become standard, striking photographs of burning incense (this time with prayer candles behind)and of the peaks and mist through a doorway.
To be honest, this Buddhist temple seemed just like the others we've seen in other parts of China and Laos (how snobby we've become!)...though there were still some really unique parts. First, the monks were playing pingpong in the courtyard:And then we thought "keep off the grass" signs were hysterical:
Alison, Janice, and I were talking a lot while we were hiking about how the mountain was kinda surreal: it was dense jungle on the peaks, as in the background of this picture......but then we weren't hiking on any trails: everything was paved stairs or paths, and there were hotels "trail"side, as you can see here: If that level of development weren't enough, you could pay people to carry you between the temples!We decided that this particular part of the trip was perfectly emblematic of the mountain: There was a beautiful stone carving on the side of the path commemorating the Emperor who commemorated this mountain as holy. It looked ancient and detailed, until you looked closely and saw it was actually made of cement! Look at the heron's neck and at the pole of the umbrella/bamboo to see the iron frame! Either way, it was still impressively made. The highlight for me, climbing up and down 100s of steps at a time, was the fact that they kept advertising a "ecologic monkey zone" on the mountain. You know how much I love animals, so I was really excited and anxious that we'd get to see one.
The first glimpse of the Tibetan macaque did not disappoint!
We were so happy and felt so lucky to have one so near. Then, we noticed a bunch of monkeys in the hill around the path, including one that was drinking from a water bottle.When we realized the monkeys stayed by the paths because they were constantly fed by tourists here, the whole thing was markedly less magical...but still pretty cool.
The monkey on the left actually tried to pickpocket Janice! That should have been forewarning to what was to happen but, hey, hindsight is 20/20, right? Anyways, as we were leaving the area, we went under a pseudo-pagoda, where two cute monkeys were grooming each other.When we got a few steps on the draw bridge, one of the monkeys jumped down, scampered on the rail past Alison and Janice, looked at me, and leaped on my arm. Janice had just finished telling us a story about how people she met in the hostel the day before were bitten by the monkeys, so I immediately flung it off me. It landed on the rail, bared its teeth at me, started swiping!
(Please notice that there are no pictures of this happening because Alison and Janice had already ran as fast as they could back to the near side of the bridge).
The monkey jumped on my neck, teeth bared, and I flung it off as hard as it could this time. When it started chasing me again, I gave up and sprinted across the bridge. I could hear Alison and Janice gasping, so I knew the monkey was following me...but then this old Chinese lady rushed past me and started swinging a bamboo stick.She saved my life! In the picture below, the monkey looks all relaxed, after nearly pulling a Mike Tyson on my ass...but remove that Chinese lady from the picture, and it would have attacked again, I swear!In hindsight, I am very happy it happened to me and not Alison or Janice because I have the international travel insurance, so I would have been able to get a rabies shot quickly had I been bitten (weird reasoning, huh?)...but still! Now, thus far, I've fallen off a camel (twice), been thrown off a horse (in Costa Rica), and been attacked by a monkey. Can you see why I didn't want to ride on the elephant's head?
We finished the hike laughing the whole time about my pseudo-near death adventure, and took a beautiful group picture near a bridge:We took a bus home through horrific traffic that made a 2 hour ride into more than 6...but that didn't dampen our spirits: the next day, we were going to see pandas!!!