The Smart Way to Hike Emei Shan

Huazang Temple on the peak of Emei Shan

Emei Shan, one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains of China, sits in western Sichuan at the edge of the Tibetan Plateau. This soaring mountain was the location of the first Buddhist temple in the country. Today beautiful Emei Shan’s Jinding, the “Golden Summit,” features the gilded Huazang Temple, a prime destination for tourists, pilgrims, and hikers alike.

To Buddhists, the long, arduous climb up the steep slopes of Emei Shan is a testament to their devotion and spiritual fortitude. We took the bus.

It may seem like a cop-out, but it had a lot to do with a Canadian we met in our hotel at the base of the mountain.

“Did you enjoy your hike up the mountain?” I asked naively.


Gyantse – Jewel of Tibet

Monk at the Kumbum in Gyantse, Tibet

Gyantse is easily the most beautiful and atmospheric town in Tibet. There is so much to see, we could easily have stayed a week – but, unfortunately, our 17-day adventure to Mount Kailash allowed for only one day in the photogenic town. Sometimes, you just have to make due with what you have.

To take full advantage of our single day, we started early; in fact, we were up and out before sunrise. This may sound a little too early, but the sun doesn’t come up before 8 AM in Tibet – China can’t be bothered to introduce time zones. Having said that, sunrise was the perfect time to catch Tibet’s stunning morning light.


Trekking Mount Kailash

Tony backed by Mount Kailash

The following post was written when we visited Tibet in 2007. In the last decade, much has changed. The roads leading to Mt. Kailash have been paved, Chinese guides must accompany tourists, and the once isolated region sees more visitors.

We were still half a day’s drive away from Darchen, the town at the foot of Mount Kailash and the starting point for our trek, when we caught our first glimpse of the snow-covered peak in the distance. After ten days bumping up and down on a series of increasingly deteriorating dirt rodes, Tibet’s holiest mountain was within sight.


Leaning Towers of Danba

Danba Three Towers

Danba (丹巴) is a small town along the border of the Tibetan and Qiang ethnic regions of Sichuan. It is known to adventure travelers for the ancient Qiang watchtowers that cling to the steep slopes of the surrounding mountain valleys.

In order to get up close and personal with these impressive monuments, we hired a driver and headed out into the villages of Zhonglu and Suopo near Danba. After roaming the terraced cornfields and orchards, we casually strolled by houses with towers waiting for an invitation. Hilariously, there weren’t many Continue…

7.8 Earthquake in Western Sichuan

I was sitting here in Rajasthan watching “Desperate Housewives” repeats on television when the news cut in and announced that there had been a 7.8 earthquake in western Sichuan in the very area we traveled through last September. This is an area that means a great deal to us, and we made many friends during our time there.

After the traumatic conflicts between the ethnic Tibetans and the government, the area is now being challenged by this catastrophic natural event. We hope that our friends in Sichuan are safe. To help our readers better understand this area and its people, we have linked into a small collection of postings on the region. Just click on the thumbnails above, to read the posting.

Friends Arrested in Sichuan!

In October last year, I was raving about our stay in Dargye Gompa, a beautiful and serene monastery in Sichuan, China. We spent several days there with three monks and a wonderful, small group of travelers, French Thomas, Fredy the Nomad, and Rachel.

French Thomas just left a comment on our blog that monks from Dargye Gompa have been arrested while protesting for their freedom, and he left a link with photos from an online source.

This is terrible news, and we hope the Chinese government will end this nonsense and release our friends.

Tibetans Fight Back

Tibetan protests against Chinese occupation have flared up in Lhasa as well as across the Tibetan world from Xiahe in Gansu all the way to Delhi here in India. Officials claim that 10 people have been killed, but Tibetans calling friends and relatives here in India indicate it could be up to 70 people or more.

Many of you followed our adventure through Tibet and the Tibetan regions of Sichuan and Qinghai, so you know that it is a region we both care deeply about. We commented on tensions in the area in the following posts, which you might want to check out: Blowing Up Buddha, Attack on Serthar Monastery, Kham and the Khampa, and Facades.

Even during our travels in Tibet, certain individuals indicated such protests were on their way. We did not relate this news in our blog because we were worried that Chinese officials would leap to conclusions about who had suggested the protests to us. The people who told us this are in no way referenced in our blog. (This may seem paranoid, but we discovered while using the Internet in China that even personal blogs were being monitored and blocked. How they manage to censor so much I will never understand.)

Our friend Oscar sent in the following link to bloggers in Lhasa at the moment. Also check out International Campaign for Tibet for the latest news.

Crossing to Nepal

Our Car in Tibet

I’ve always said the San Diego-Tijuana border crossing is the most abrupt, most dramatic border transition I’ve ever experienced. It turns out, there is another…

Driving along the desert roads of the Tibetan plateau, the road peaked just before Nyalam to reveal a spectacular Himalayan panorama and a road heading down, down , down. After what seemed like an unending series of switchbacks, the open moonscape we were moving through gave way to tight canyons that slid their way through the snow-capped mountains. Stone villages and terraced fields clung to the steep cliffs, herds of yaks and goats wandered along the road.

Pema, our driver, carefully navigated the hairpin turns and steep drop-offs as suicidal Chinese drivers Continue…

Trash Eating Cow

Trash Eating Cow

As in many third world countries, trash management in China, and even more so in Tibet, is a huge problem particularly outside the tourist areas where there don’t seem to be any centralized places for disposing of trash. The more organized municipalities have random piles of trash distributed throughout the town while less organized places are evenly littered with garbage – it is just like living on a dump.

The most shocking examples of trash mismanagement, we encountered in Tibet. Continue…