In life and in travel, I tend to be very independent and prefer to do things on my own. So when it comes to booking a tour versus doing it on my own, I prefer the latter.
After finishing my teaching contract in Shenzhen, China, I set out to explore a bit. I had to make use of the last of a hard-to-get visa! Chengdu was the first stop on my adventure.
Located nearly 200 km from Chengdu stands one of four sacred Buddhist mountains in the country. At 3,099 m, it is the tallest. Along the way are monestaries, monkeys and some spectacular views.
This is a must-visit if you are in Chengdu. There are buses that go to different stops up the mountain, so you don't have to hike the entire way.
How to get there:
Coming from Chengdu it is quite easy. There are a lot of trains going to Emeishan everyday. The high speed train takes just an hour and a half and ticket prices range from about 50-100 RMB ($7.50 - $15). Once you arrive at the train station, you will see a lot of kiosks with agents and maps. Grab a map and take a look at where you would like to begin your journey. Where you start will dictate which bus you take. Leave the station and buy a ticket for the shuttle which is 40RMB. You can get off the bus wherever you choose to begin your hike.
What to expect:
You should note that you will not be backcountry hiking, this is a tourist attraction. There are stands along the way for water or to get something to eat. The path is all paved and well maintained so the hike is not difficult in that regard, but it is all stairs. I mean ALL STAIRS! Some parts level off and aren't as steep, but prepare yourself to walk up more stairs than you've ever walked in your life.
Along the way, there are more than 15 temples on the mountain and they not only serve as landmarks for you to monitor your progress, but most of them offer accommodations and a meal for hikers on the mountain. Some of them offer private rooms as well as beds so the prices range. I paid 80 RMB ($12) for a bed in a female dorm and a generous portion of vegetarian food. I highly suggest this, because that means you can wake up early and catch a magnificent sunrise.
Catching the sunrise:
Watching the sunrise from the golden summit was spectacular and I highly recommend it. However, that means that you should stay in Leidongping for the night. If staying in a temple isn't your thing, there are also a few hotels there, but of course you'll pay more for those. It is 7.5 km from Leidongping to the top, so for me it took about 2 hours. I left by 4:30am and had enough time to leisurely walk to the top. Since you are more than 3,000 m above sea level, it will be pretty chilly at the top, or very cold depending on the time of year. However, if you are unprepared you can rent a coat from one of the stands before you get to the summit.
What it costs:
Train ticket from Chengdu - about 75 RMB
Shuttle bus to the mountain - 40 RMB
Admission to the mountain - 185 RMB (good for 2 days)
Accommodation at the temple - 50 to 60 RMB
Meal at the temple - 20 RMB
Shuttle bus down the mountain - 50 RMB
~ Bring cash. You'll need it for any food or water you buy along the way. Also, if you plan on staying in one of the temples on the mountain. There are ATM's at the base of the mountain so you can stock up before you begin your journey.
~ Don't mess with the monkeys! They are cute, but they are feisty, and some of them are downright aggressive. Along the way, you'll see locals renting bamboo sticks which serve as walking sticks and scare the monkeys away sticks.