Friday, December 27, 2002

Just returned from the top of Emei Shan, a 9200 foot mountain in Sichuan
Province, China. I arrived in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan on the 21st
and the next day took a bus to the base of the mountain. On the backside of
the mountain there is a road up two-thirds of the way and then a cable car
to the top. This is the route for sluggards. Up the front of the mountain
there is a trail which climbs up about 7000 vertical feet to the summit.
This is the way I went. The first day I walked in the steady rain about
halfway up the mountain and stayed in a monastery. It started to snow just
as I got there. Ten or hundreds of thousands of people visit this mountain
in the summer but now I was the only guest at this monastery. There was no
heat in the rooms and it was very cold and damp. The next morning I started
up the trail now covered with new snow and ice. Again I was the only
foreigner I saw all day and indeed I did not see any Chinese for several
hours at a time. It was very foggy and visibility was limited to about 50
feet. There are numerous Buddhist temples on the way up where you can stop
for a break, and most of them have a tea house in the vicinity where you can
get noodles and whatnot. Trudged up all day and arrived at a guest house
about an hour and half short of the summit. Again I was the only guest in
the place. I was also the only customer in the restaurant. Here I spent
Christmas Eve. The next day, Christmas, I got up an hour and a half before
dawn and headed up the trail to the summit. Most people go here for the
sunrise but today there would be no sunrise. It was very, very foggy and
visibility was only about 50 feet. Right at the summit of the mountain is a
big Buddhist Temple. There were perhaps a dozen Chinese people and a few
Tibetans here who had come up on the road and the the cable car. I stayed on
the summit all day and that night slept in the monastery attached to the temple.
Again I was the only foreigner there. The next morning was no clearer, so I did not
get to see the the sunrise . . . I headed back down to the base of the mountain
and took the bus back to Chengdu, where I am now. So that was my Christmas for 2002!

It snowed here in Chengdu today, the first time this has happened in years, according to locals . . .

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Hong Kong: Just arrived here. Everything is green and the temperature is up into the high 70s. Hope to spend the Holidays in China. Details to follow . . .

Saturday, December 14, 2002

It' a Heat Wave! This morning at 6:00 it was 0 degrees F. (that's 17 below 0 to you Europeans). Yesterday it went up to a scorching 21 degrees F. (that's 6 below 0 to you Europeans) in the afternoon! That's 62 degrees F. warmer than it was last Sunday morning.

Sunday, December 08, 2002

Weather Update: at 8:00 am Sunday morning it is now 41 below zero F. (40 below zero C. to you Europeans). Since the sun just came up I suspect this might be the low for the night.
Spent an immensely enjoyable Saturday evening curled up on the sofa in my warm apartment with the current object of my infatuation: Volume III of History of the Civilizations of Central Asia, which contains an excellent section on the ancient country of Sogdiana, which from the 3rd to 7th centuries occupied most of the Transoxiana region in what is now Uzbekistan. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the Sogdians, but more on that later . . .

This morning it is 39 degrees below zero F. in Ulaan Baatar. Oddly, it is also 39 below zero C. (for all you Europeans). 39 below zero is where the two types of temperature, F. and C. coincide. The good news is there is zero wind, so there is no wind chill factor. So it also feels like it is only 39 degrees below zero, F. or C. This reminds me of the notorious winter of '78 in Fairbanks, Alaska, when it never got above 40 below zero F. for the whole month of February and went down to as low as 65 below zero F. at night. Chilly . . .

Saturday, December 07, 2002

It is a chilly 37 below zero F. here in Ulaan Baatar this morning. That's 38 below zero C. for all you Europeans.

Friday, December 06, 2002

Met today with 90-year old Lama Gombo (left), bareheaded despite the 8 below zero F. temperature.