2 weeks on the road.
Chengdu, Leshan, Mount Emei, Chongqing.
Chengdu city for Chinese New Year celebrations. Massiveassive crowds in select parks and Buddhist temples. Reminded me of Lollapolooza crowds all crammed in and heaving. Except no hipsters, and throw in all the old people and toddlers.
Saw some dance and singing performances which were reasonably entertaining. One charismatic singer had a good voice, but i didn't care since i assumed he was lip syncing. I was shocked and impressed to later realize that (gasp!) he was actually singing!
Also saw some tigers and a bear perform, which was occasionally impressive though constantly rather depressing. Still: i didn't know a bear could really dance!
Visited one of China's oldest rock and roll bars: a bit of a hole in the wall where deliberate attention was paid to local music as opposed to Taiwan pop. I wish Little Bar was in Beijing. Also visited some very slick and somewhat sexed out clubs; yawn.
Then i went to see the world's biggest Buddha near Leshan. And yes, it's very large, hence the "-est". However, FOUR hours of line up to see the damn thing kinda sucked out my enthusiasm. It was like, "well, I've waited an hour already, and I'm almost at the front now," only to get released to the next stage of the line, when you go "well, I've already waited 2 hours already so I don't want to leave now." Note to self: reconsider the idea that maybe an early bailout is preferable to another 2 hours of pushing and squeezing people who obviously should NOT even pause to take photos 'cause it slows down the flow.
Add in reflections about how tourism and religion make awkward bedfellows as i consider all the cameras prying the spiritual energy out of this 71 meter high Buddha.
Note to self: mountains are bigger than I seem to think, based on some attractive but not to scale "maps". Hence i spent 1.5 days getting to the peak, the only dude lugging up a big ol backpack.
Spent the first night in a gorgeous old Xi Xiangchi monastery, where the monks were friendly, and the sunset was breathtaking. Was going to chill there a while, but this family i hiked w/ some convinced me at the last minute that i HAD to continue up to the peak. So i did, skipping out on the cable car ride near the peak. (The masses take buses up the mountain, hiking 1 km of outrageously slippery and dangerous staircases (often in high heels) up to the cable car). But despite my body's fatigued state, that just seemed like too much of a cop out after the distance i'd already covered.
When my snail's pace did finally get me to the peak, the blue sky above, the ocean of clouds below, the sparkling temples, and golden buddha all conspired to bring tears to my eyes. Really i felt elated to be in that stunningly beautiful environment.
Nonetheless after a foggy no-show of the next sunrise, i still bid a hasty retreat bk down the mountain (yes, employing both the cable car and the bus) to get back down the mountain to Baguo Monastery near the base to get in some meditation.
Simple room, just off the courtyard between temple halls, where I could hear the monks chanting each morning and gongs gonging throughout the day. Short stay, but i did get up to 8 hours of sitting in in a day, definitely aided by the environment and concentrated energy there. i chitchatted w/ some monks who to my surprise, invited me to sit in on the chanting the next morning. Wow, those were some otherworldly sounds to be bathed in for 45 minutes. Occasionally in a temple i see Buddhas who are emanating energy, or seem cognizant of your presence. Well no wonder those Buddha statues get all charged up if monks are praying to them like that each day. Pay attention. Hands together. Kneel. Bow. Stand. Hands down. Hands together. Turn. Kneel. March around the room (hands together). Stand. Bow, etc etc. Beautiful way to finish off my stay there.
Next stop: Leshan, just to catch a bus to Chongqing. Tickets sold out. Spend the night in a somewhat dodgy hotel, and waste too much time looking at porn sites, and only sat 2 of my intended 4 hours.
Short stay in a big city. Feels really... Chinese. Coolies hauling boxes up and down the steep streets. Alleys brimming with staircases and vendors. Street foods on constant display. Cruise and cargo ships clogging up the brown waters of the Yangtze river. Posh restaurants with filthy washrooms. Cockroaches strolling past the scalding hot pot at the table centre. Another city that I'd like to revisit: check.