I completely forgot it was my birthday; even after all the talk about it until Derek reminded me as we were getting on the bus for Leshan. After the 3 hour journey we arrived at Leshan’s Giant Buddha. The Buddha is carved into the cliff face overlooking the Dadu and Min rivers and at 71m high is the largest stone Buddha in the world. Firstly we viewed the statue from the river then took the 300+ steps up the cliff to the statues head. We then trekked down to the base to get a closer look at the enormous feet then explored the surrounding grounds for a couple of hours. We then took the bus to Emei, where we would be spending the next two nights and to something I was not expecting at all.
Our accommodation for next couple of day was at Baguo Monastery. This was a fully functional Buddhist Monastery, complete with shrines and praying monks. It was absolutely incredible, a once in a lifetime experience and a marvellous way to spend a birthday. After dropping off our bags we took a stroll to the town centre for something to eat. Unbeknownst to me, during the day Linda had found out my Chinese zodiac symbol is a Tiger so before we ate she read out my characteristics and traits according to Chinese culture and also gave me a necklace and a Buddha key-ring as birthday gifts. Frank had also organised a birthday cake for me. It was like something out of Ace of Cakes and the candles were even better. Candles were lit on the leaves of the lotus flower, it played the happy birthday tune then a huge flame rose from the centre of the flower. Everyone then sung happy birthday in their own language which included French, Spanish and Russian. It was a day and a birthday that I will never forget. A lot better than acting like a bloody fool in Bumper or La Bateau.
I awoke in the morning at 5am to the sound of monks chanting and ringing bells. It’s the best wakeup call I have ever experienced. We had a breakfast of egg sandwiches and started our trek up Emei Shan (Mount Emei). The weather hadn’t changed since we left Beijing which meant it was damp and miserable and resulted in us delaying our decision to go to the mountains peak. We started at Wannian Monastery before walking to The Elephant Sound Pavillion. The lush vegetation and eerie mist meant the walk around the mountain felt very special. The rivers, waterfalls and walkways only added to the experience.
After stopping off for a cigar with one of the locals (Miguel especially enjoyed his), we went to see the monkeys at the aptly named Monkey Hill. The little guys were everywhere! Fighting with each other and stealing food from people’s pockets, I know Kieran will be extremely jealous. The two hour hike back down the mountain gifted us with the most picturesque images of the trip up to that point, especially Qingyin Pavilion. We then took a two hour bus trip up the mountain to see if it was worth going to the peak. Alas, mist still cloaked the area and a cable car ride to the summit would have been worthless. Instead we had a quick bite to eat and travelled the long and winding road down the mountain. Poor Donna was travel sick due the bending road and the speed limit the bus driver took no notice of and we arrived back at the car park just in time to spare my vegetable soup from making an unwelcome reappearance.
Back at the monastery I walked around the grounds and took some photos. I stopped to watch a group of monks and nuns chanting and basically took in the energy of the amazing place. Buddhism has really left its mark on me during this trip through Asia. It seems to be a very possitive and peaceful religion and definitely something I am going to read more into. I may as well, I already have the tattoo.