From Chengdu to Wuhan via Emei (and the Emeishan) and Chongqing (through the Changjiang gorge)
Chengdu can be reached from all major Chinese cities either by train or plane (Beijing 2050km/1270 miles; Shanghai 2350km/1457 miles; Xi’an 842km/522 miles and Kunming 1100km/682 miles). There are a number of reasons for the undoubted charm and attraction of this city – the lively atmosphere ofthe countless tea-houses, the narrow alleyways hemmed in by traditional low buildings, partly of wood and partly of stone, the colourful, well-stocked markets and not least the many small restaurants where visitors can sample one of China’s most celebrated regional cuisines. Take care: the food served here is very spicy!
Take the train to the town of Emei on the Chengdu to Kunming railway line (130km/80 miles). Emei is the starting point for an ascent of Emeishan, the highest of China’s holy mountains. At least two days should be allowed for such an expedition and climbers should be fully equipped, particularly for the second part of the climb. All the necessary equipment can be hired there. The Jinding Buddhist Temple stands at the summit and it is possible to stay overnight but be prepared to be woken at sunrise for morning prayers by the sound of gongs and cymbals.
After this visit to the holy mountain try to fit in a quick trip to Leshan, an old town founded about 1300 years ago. A short boat trip to the biggest Buddha sculpture in the world starts here.
An overland bus service operates from here to Neijiang (150km/93 miles), which is linked by rail with Chongqing (220km/136 miles). This important industrial centre stands on a hill at the confluence of the Changjiang and the Jianlingjiang. The city is noted for its wet climate and for most of the year it is covered by a thick mist.
Chongqing is a starting point for cruises on the Changjiang and every morning at 7am a boat sets off on a three-day journey downstream to Wuhan.
The cruise, which passes through a changing landscape (the Three Gorges, the Gezhou dam and Shashi), is a marvellous experience. The boat moors in Wuhan in the early afternoon of the third day so there is sufficient time for a stroll through the two interesting quarters of Hankou and Wuchang. Wuhan lies on the railway line approximately halfway between Beijing and Canton – eighteen hours to Beijing and seventeen hours to Canton. Regular flights link Wuhan airport with China’s major cities.
Some of the cruise ships from Chongqing proceed to Nanjing (two days) or Shanghai (two and a half days).