I decide to do my morning run to The Three Pagodas and Temple which is apparently about half and hours walk away. I take just enough money to go in incase I want to enter when I arrive. Its a hot and dusty day and after about 20 mins I get there and decide I may as well. The briliant Jade Roo and Jade Emu Hostel where I am staying (and cannot recommend enough) do excursions – and I discover are quite possibly the only hostel that don't try and rip off their guests by charging a premium for the privelege. When I get to The Three Pagodas I realise that a taxi and entrance fee would have been cheaper booked and done from the hostel than by running there and just entering myself. Extraordinary – but i'm here now so I go in. The three sand coloured pagodas are set against the hill side. There is a peaceful lake and paths leading up to them. I storm ahead of the tour groups and Chinese so that can get some photos without hundreds of people in. Luckily its still quite early and the Chinese don't seem to like being up at the crack of dawn – even the bakery was still making its cakes at about 9.30am in the morning!
Although its around 12 pounds to enter its worth it as I spend about 3 to 4 hours in the grounds. After the Pagodas which you can't enter – there are a series of Buddhist temples stacked all the way up the hillside. There are various incarnations of Buddha and the Bhodivistas along the way including a rather beautiful Buddha whose trim little waist i'm admiring when I realise this is named “The Yunnan Star” and is a hermaphrodite – half man and half woman – that explains it then. I'm again taken aback by all the gold and the menacing anger on the faces of some of the statues. One of the Buddhas stands towerng above me with one arm flung up in the air swirling a whip with the other pressing its palm down as if to smite the person below – his lips curled, his eyebrows locked and the whites of his eyes bright with menacing anger. He is a spiritual warrior but this intimidating and aggressive posture is not what I associate with Buddism at all.
I get to almost the very top temple – called The Lake Viewing Temple - set far up into the mountain side . The Virgin Cedars that flank the hillside are thicker here and the hot morning sunshine has given way to fresh and misty mountain air. I think – can I be bothered to go to the top – then I think “its the last temple – and er.... what else are you doing with your life right now???”
So I carry on up the steps and get to the top of the final temple and am rewarded with a view that looks down over all the other temples and to Er Hai (ear shaped) Lake itself. There are only a couple of Chinese men at this temple – and they start chatting to me straight away:
“You are the only one whose made it up this far apart from us!” they say.
Then gesture at the crowds below who turn back in their tour groups way before this temple.
Some Chinese Buddhist nuns in long grey robes and shaved heads are walking up through the trees to this temple wth a novice or visitor. There is a training academy here. One of them stops and greets me:
“Ami tuo Fo” she says.
I gesture that I don't understand but she keeps repeating it until I realise she is giving me a Buddhist chant – so I say it and as the others come to join her I say it again which they are delighted by.
I look it up when I get back to the hostel. It's a Buddhist chant that Chinese buddhists also use to greet each other.
Amituofo is the name of the Amitabha Buddha - Buddha of infinite light and infinite life.
I make a mental note to try it the next time I meditate. Her little brown face was so happy and alive and warm. They lean over the balcony and take deep lungfuls of the clean mountain air and gasp appreciatively. I love nuns...
I feel bad when I return because i've missed saying goodbye to Nick and Hannah. I walk into town and visit a little restaurant called Mama's Place where i've seen someone I presume to be Papa making Jiao – Dzur – fresh dumplings in the window. I could live off dumplinsgs. I order pork and leek dumplings and a chinese beer – Tsing Tao (pronounced Ching Dao) for a couple of pounds. Tsing Tao is at 4% probably the best of a bad bunch. It seems to be all or nothing with the Chinese and alochol– either fortified plum or pine nut or rice wine liquor for a terrifying 45 – 50% proof or pisswater beer like the local attempt – Dali beer at 3.3%!