China in recall 6 - Monkey overdose

I had to take a day trip or two away from Sim's at one point - I had been sat sedate at the bar in Chengdu for far too long, and stories of Kuwaiti rape-taxis can only get you so far. With my head pounding from the stress generated by the earlier school fiasco, I decided I needed some peace and headed for the hills on the next bus to Emei Shan.

In Chinese the word "Shan" means "Mountain" and on my travels through Sichuan I visited and scaled 3 "Shan" (Chinese do not have plurals for their nouns). Emei Shan is a Buddhist Mountain. At around 3100m, it houses around 20 monasteries and at it's peak sits a giant golden Buddha. As such it attracts thousands of rather unsubtle Chinese tourists, who cram in mostly to see the monkey sanctuary a quarter of the way up the mountain and/or the Buddha at the top, whom they visit by bus for a few minutes before returning to their bus. If the idea was to get peace, the top and bottom quarters of this mountain were not really what I had in mind.

Qing Chen Shan is a Taoist mountain of around half the height, again packed with temples and camera-totting tourists. Combining a trip to Qing Chen Shan with a trip to the Green Ram temple in Chengdu, the oldest Taoist temple in China, where Lao-tzu is said to have written Tao Te Ching, is truly a taoists dream.

The third Shan was a random mountain covered in ice in Songpan with a lake at the top. As it contained neither temples or monkeys and had no road going to it, the silence was deafening. Not a Chinese camera-wielding tourist in sight. Standding on the banks of this lake, with the ice quite prominent on the mountain top, Joe and I really only had one option. Bloody hell it was freezing!

After the monkey walk in Emei Shan, I ascended into the mountains alone. It was a very strange experience, being completely surrounded by Chinese tourists one second, who had walked up to see the monkeys and take pictures then just turned round and gone home, leaving the trail to the top completely empty, but for the stray monkeys.

The Chinese have a saying "If a monkey stands in your way, 1000 soldiers canont pass" and the Lonely Planet advises you to hold out your hands and show the monkeys that your hands are empty when this happens. Apparently it makes them go away. The locals prefer to hit them with sticks.

As I walked up the mountain on my own, sucking on a throat pastille and breathing in the first clean air I had had for weeks, a monkey stepped out into my path. Having seen these buggers and their canines up close, I decided that the stick option may not be a good idea. Falling back on the wisdom of Lonely Planet, which has saved my life more than once (Donkey-Mountain incident in Nepal, Shit-flicker in India to name but a few) I decided to hold my hands out palms up for inspection.

As if to say, "Sod off you dirty con arist, I'm not havin any of that crap. How could you seriously expect me to believe you have walked halfway up the mountain without provisions on a 2 day trip! What do you take me for? A chimpanzee or something?!", the cheeky bastard took it on himself to climb up my leg, across my chest then over onto my back. Here he proceeded to rummage around the outside pockets, where he extracted a half-eaten packet of biscuits and 16 Strepsils.

Looking at the size of his (yes he had a dick as well but that's not what I was about to say) teeth, I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and sat back and watched as he skilfully manoeuvred his opposable thumb and ripped the biscuits out of the packet before stuffing the lot in his greedy mouth.

Then, perplexed he worked out a very novel strategy for removing pills from blister packs. Holding it up the strip blister side he would bite down trying to get at the contents, which faithfully popped out the other side to be picked up and eaten. He then proceeded to repeat this 15 times further until he'd gone through 16 Strepsils.

As he staggered off through the undergrowth, I made sure to remind him that he should not operate cars or heavy machinery for the next 4 hours without first consulting his doctor.

As I lay my weary head down to rest that night, in a temple without locks on it's dormitory doors and monkeys roaming free, I prayed and thanked God that he didn't find my stash of Viagra.
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