Day 46

Trip Start Sep 14, 2006
Trip End ??? ??, 2007

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Where I stayed
Teddy Bear Hotel

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Monday, October 30, 2006

I woke up at 5.45am to the sound of a gong going off in the monastery's inner prayer room. This was quickly followed by chanting and drums and more gongs. I led in my mosquito-enclosed bed and listened. It was a real pinch-yourself moment. I heard Steve get up and decided to follow, Mark and John the other two English guys with us stayed in bed. I stood with Steve outside the door to the prayer room and we both peered in and watched. A line of five monks were doing their morning rituals - one was on a strange drum thing, one was on the gong, and all five were chanting. It went on for well over an hour and the beat was gradually increasing. I was in awe for a while and really began to think about what life is like for these dedicated monks.

At 7am we went back down to the "Hard Wok Cafe" and got some pancakes and bananas. We got some more pictures of the cafe and headed back up to the monastery for our bags. I loved the next bit - blocking our way into the monastery was a wild adult monkey with a few others dotted around. We cursed ourselves for not bringing our walking sticks the short way to the cafe and got ready to try and go past. It turned out to be fine, and as we got closer we saw that some of the monastery staff were feeding the whole family. There were plenty of cute younger monkeys around and we spent half an hour walking amongst them and taking photos. They are totally wild but understand we will have food so can sometimes get aggressive. One of the locals had a great device for scaring them - a rubber snake! Every time she threw that at the ground they would scarper - gingerly coming back a few moments later.

I took a daylight tour of the monastery and went up to use the toilet. It was a concrete communal toilet with little squatting bays fanning out in a circle around a central pillar. It was covered by a roof but no windows meant it was as cold outside. The upside was the fantastic view over the mountain! Steve and Mark were already in there and we all had a laugh about the situation.

We started our descent down the mountain from the monastery, the views were as good as yesterday afternoon and we got down to the monkey conservation area pretty quickly. On the way down on monkey grabbed hold of John's walking stick and wouldn't let go - that was an entertaining few seconds! The conservation area is a specially controlled area with heaps of staff with bright sticks ready to aid any tourists that get bothered too much. We didn't feel bothered but they still ran over and showed their sticks to the frightened monkeys.

The morning trek was a good one but not as rewarding as the previous day in terms of new scenery. We got back to the Teddy Bear hotel around 1pm and went to buy our bus ticket back to Chengdu. Mark and John had decided to stay in Emei for one more night, so me and Steve we back on our own. The trouble was we had no cash left and an hour's worth of faffing around at the "Emei Agricultural Bank" ended with no cash either. They had told us our cards wouldn't work because their machine was empty. We sat patiently while they filled it but the cards still didn't work. In the end we managed to change some US Dollars with the Teddy Bear hotel so thanks to them for helping us out. Our two hour bus ride arrived in Chengdu at about 4pm and it was a real scramble getting across town to our hostel, get showered (for the first time since leaving Chengdu!) and getting to the train station for our 6.20pm train. We bumped into Audrey and Arjen in the hostel who were relieved to see we'd be able to catch the train with them.

Our hard sleeper compartment was nice enough and the four of us got down to some card playing (the Isreali game Yanif of course) and some beers. Tomorrow would be a gruelling nine hour bus ride from Panzhihua to Lijiang.
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