Emei Shan / Mt Emei (峨嵋山) is a very popular destination for the local Chinese, as it is one of the 4 famous Taoist mountains in China. Located about 150 km south of Chengdu, it is easily accessible via public bus or train.
Walking Emei Shan can leave the intrepid travellers with various options. The local bus service carries visitors to 3 mid-way stations (Baoguo, Wuxiangang or Wannian). Those wishing to skip most of the walking up can take the winding road all the way up to Leidongping (2430m) which takes anything between 2-4 hours by bus. There are plenty of snack stalls along the way selling food & water, but expect to pay steep prices.
(Walking map courtesy of Teddy Bear Hotel where I stayed before & after climb)
I found the more scenic walking route between Joking Monkey Zone & Jiuling Hillock. Magical cliff views, gushing clear rivers and long waterfalls await those who brave the many steep steps. It will be long & tiring walking day, so only expect to reach Elephant Bathing Pool for the night’s stay.
(Scenic walkway between Yuxian Temple & Xianfeng Temple)
(Local Chinese walkers with their disposable ponchos & umbrellas during the wet walking days)
As I only had 2 full days (5th-6th Aug) to walk up & down Emei Shan, with every intention to reach the Golden Summit in the morning hours, I opted to start my walk up at Wannian bus station. Overnight stay at Jieyin Hall before taking cable car up to Golden Summit (little treat for myself) and finishing off with a grueling walk all the way down to Baoguo & hotel through the scenic route explained earlier.
The walking path starting from Wannian bus station can be quite deceiving. Level for most of the time and passing by several guest lodges. With no signages (in English) and sight of the cable car service that runs between the Wannian bus station to Wannian temple, I doubted whether I was walking on the right path. Fret not – there’s the only one way up to Wannian Temple – just follow those wide cemented steps.
As I reached Elephant Bathing Pool (2,070m) in good time at 12.30pm, I decided to push further up closer to the peak for my night’s stay. Definitely one of the better and more popular place to stay, as toilet & washing up facilities are much better.
(Temple grounds at Elephant Bathing Pool)
(Washing up area at Elephant Bathing Pool – no sinks or shower facilities)
All the monasteries located within Emei Shan offer accommodation and simple vegetarian meals for visitors. Prices range from RMB 30 (basic dorm) to few hundreds for more comfortable beddings. However, be prepared for BASIC facilities. Definitely no showers, typical Chinese toilets are located in some remote corner and visitors are only given a basin to hold hot/cold water for washing up. Only consolation is that they offer decent hot vegetarian meal during the stay.
After walking up too many steps for 6 hours, I finally settled into Jieyin Hall (2540m). One of the more expensive lodges, as it is strategically located next to the cable car station up to Golden Summit and it connected by tarred road down to civilization. Cheapest bed was for RMB 50 where I slept along with 2 other visitors. Biggest regret was forgetting my sleeping liner in Chengdu, bedding was damp and probably had not seen the sun or washing machine for ages.
(3-bed room at Jieyin Hall for night’s accommodation)
(Vegetarian dinner at Jieyin Hall for RMB 20)
Woke up early next morning @ 6am and decided to reward my poor legs with a quick cable car ride up to the Golden Summit (3077m). Definitely a wise choice, since I only had about 1 hour at the peak before heavens opened up and rain for rest of the day. Plus the final walking path up to Golden Summit was punishingly steep.
(Cable car ride from Jieyin Temple to Golden Summit around 7am)
Being at the peak, one can only gaze in awe at the amazing mountain views despite the misty weather. I can’t imagine how much more beautiful it can get with clear skies. Besides the natural wonder, visitors are also rewarded with grand statues and architecture built here – most likely all carried by human effort since there’s no visible road wide enough for vehicles from Jieyin Hall to Golden Summit.
(Giant statue of Samantabhadra at Golden Summit)
(Famous views from Golden Summit with the sea of clouds amidst mountain peaks)
After my brief stay at Golden Summit, next came the 10hour agonizing walk down steps all the way to Baoguo Temple and hotel at foothill (Teddy Bear Hotel).
Walking up & down steps is so much more painful compared to the natural mountain route, since your knees suffered so much pounding from the hard concrete surface. Was limping for next 2 days because of my overzealous decision. However the biggest advantage of walking these steps was the peace & tranquility of the mountains, as only a handful of devoted locals braved the walk. Majority of Chinese pay their way up to Golden Summit, with the easy bus & cable car rides. Most busy & noisy sections are Jieyin Hall – Golden Summit and Joking Monkey Zone-Wuxiangang bus station. There are times I stare in disbelief at how many of the local women clambered those steps in their high heels/platform shoes and pretty dresses.
Didn’t encounter much wildlife during my 2 days walk. Only brief moments filled with cheerful songs from the birds. Very little butterflies too, probably because of the wet weather conditions. Nevertheless, visitors won’t miss the famous monkeys – Tibetan macaques – that reside mainly at Joking Monkey Zone. I was apprehensive during my first encounter, as the macaque was much larger and aggressive looking compared to the pesky ones found in Malaysia and I was totally alone on the pathway. Best to just walk straight on, no direct eye contact and ensure all food stuff have been properly kept INSIDE daypack.
The bigger community of Tibetan macaques found at Joking Monkey Area has sadly become a popular tourist spot for the locals. Series of walkways and hanging bridges have been constructed to create a “jungle” atmosphere. And don’t forget the shopping experience – a must in Chinese travel – as traders are ever ready with plenty of stuffed monkey toys, jewellery, snacks for people and monkeys (bags of dried corn kernels) and even Crocs for the slippery walkway. No wonder the macaques have been known to attack visitors, since they get so little respect from them.
(Tibetan macaque enjoying some mantou at Joking Monkey Zone. Expect to find them at various spots around Emei Shan walking paths)
The walking path after Joking Monkey Zone becomes little confusing. At the crossroads at Qingyin Pavilion, there are clear signages towards Wannian Temple and Wuxiangang bus station. As I wanted to continue on the less crowded pathway towards Baoguo Temple, it was the only pathway heading right with no directional sign posted which took one past several guest lodges.
The walkway between Qingyin Pavilion and Leiyin Temple was quite pleasant as it passes through the local homes. Many have gardens filled with homegrown vegetables and offer accommodation for visitors. The monasteries and Chunyang Palace along this route was more rustic. Sadly I was rushing for time as nightfall was around the corner, and I have no idea how much further the downtown area was.
It was with huge relief when I finally popped out at ticket counter nearby Leiyin Temple. Looking at the signboard posted with grand 52km covered, I marveled at my determination (or stupidity) to walk all these concrete steps. Definitely will think twice before I next attempt another mountain in China where steps walking are involved.
(Signboard at ticket counter at Leiyin Temple)
The final portion from ticket counter to Baoguo Temple and Teddy Bear Hotel was a leisurely walk along tarred road wide enough for 2 cars. After 10hours of walking down, I was glad to be back inside modern settings away from rain and rewarded myself to a well-deserved shower/scrub down and hot dinner with Tsingtao beer.
Accommodation at foot of hill – Teddy Bear Hotel (www.teddybear.com.cn). Good clean place with English-speaking staff & good info.
Wannian bus station – Elephant Bathing Pool (15km) = 4 hours
Elephant Bathing Pool – Jieyin Hall (5.5km) = 2.5hours
Golden Summit – Elephant Bathing Pool (9km) = 2.5hours
Elephant Bathing Pool – Xianfeng Temple (7km) = 2 hours
Xianfeng Temple – Qingyin Pavilion (15km) = 3.5 hours
Qingyin Pavilion – Leiyin exit = 2 hours