We take the stairs.
Mount Emei treats us well. We intend to get up early and have breakfast with the monks, but I overhear the six am alarm and we don’t make it to the porridge. We take in some breadlike buns and eggs salty like they were boiled in the Dead Sea. And then we take a bus all the way up the mountain. It would have been a twelve hour hike, according to Patrick the Local, but we don’t have shoes nor shins to do that. There is a National Park entrance fee that accepts student cards (150/80 yuan per person as I write) but the summit, in good weather, is worth it. We are dropped of at a huge parking lot at 2400 meters (!), from where a stairs leads up to the cablecar station. This stairs is crowded and full of stalls offering local handicraft. We follow the crowd up, and see a man being carried up. The smiling man is young and totally healthy and plays with his camera while hoisted up by two sturdy carriers. There is a porter service that can take you all the way to the top for 280 yuan. A climb of more than 600 meters!
At the cablecar station we decide to continue walking, hoping the crowds would disappear on the more difficult path to the summit. There are indeed notably fewer people when we continue walking the stairs all the way up. It takes us good two hours to reach the summit. We have a few stops on the way and a cup of noodles. The full length of the two-hour 600 meter altitude hike is a concrete stairs. Mt. Emei, considered China’s no. 1 mountain, surely is a world wonder of tourism. It’s nice though, the stairs mean that you don’t need special footwear.
When we arrive at the summit, we gaze at the giant golden Buddha statue which is the most magnificent I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a few). He (lord Buddha) sits comfortably on the highest peak overlooking the celestial landscape of clouds with the lesser peaks peeking through after the fog has cleared in daily recurrence. The statue has multiple heads and elephants everywhere. Inside is a place of worship with recesses for various Buddhist saints. We pray, loosely.
The fog is dissolving, leaving us and a horde of Chinese visitors awestruck as we gaze over the layers of clouds in the distance. This place is supposed to be especially nice at sunrise, and we have met brave visitors coming down while we were our way up, that must have enjoyed just that. The cablecar charges a little too much, so we decide to walk back. Another cup of noodles keeps us going, we take the busride back, get our luggage, and take a taxi to town. Patrick the Local helps us in the process and takes us to a very nice local restaurant. Good to know, otherwise we would have ended up in the Teddybear. And we all know what that means.
The sleeper train to Xichang is very comfortable; the “hard sleeper” class is all you need. Just make sure you hike long enough and have a beer or two, and a good night’s sleep is garantueed.