Asia | China | Yunnan Province | Dali – Binchuan
Yunnan’s rain season came early this year. I was blessed with a wet morning again. Still frustrated over my failed attempts to trek the Tiger Leaping Gorge, I was determined to at least climb Chicken Foot Mountain. Being soaked was bettert han molding in Dali.
Chicken Foot Mountain is one of the five major Buddhist pilgrimage mountains in China about 90km from Dali. Having overslept in the morning, I thought I could take the chair lift up to the summit and walk down the next day. With some luck, the rain might just stop in time for a spectacular sunrise tomorrow morning. The weather can’t be against me all the time, right?
When I got into a minibus in Binchuan, a town at the foot of the mountain, a tour guide told me that the chair lift wasn’t operating because of low tourist volume, and there was no way I could walk to the summit before dusk. In addition, it had been raining the whole month, so my chance of catching the sunrise was almost zero. Instead, why don’t I stay at the hotel where he works half way up the mountain, and he can take me to the summit and back tomorrow. I considered my other alternatives, and realized that I didn’t have any, and agreed.
So we walked for half an hour in the rain through a little village to get to the hotel. Of course it was half an hour at his pace, and I was huffing and puffing and my stomach, still not completed recovered, was twisting. It turned out that i was the only guest at the hotel that night, and had dinner with the 20 some staff in their cafeteria around 2 square tables. The main entree was fish freshly caught from the pond in their backyard, and most of the fish were the ‘life granting’ fish put into the lake by devotees. Supposedly whoever harms these fish would have bad luck, but no one seemed to care.
We walked around some of the scenic spots around the hotel after dinner. There used to be 72 temples and 36 nunneries on the mountain, most of which were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, and mass-scale reconstruction was going on everywhere. The trees were all covered in moss, and bamboos, almost translucently green, formed a delicate arch above the narrow pathways. We wandered into a nunnery at the end of the bamboo arch during their evening prayer. Their chant echoed between the walls harmoniously and even I felt spiritually cleansed.