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Day 8 6/12/10 Lhasa to Yamdrok-Tso to Shigatse
Because of the arrival back in Lhasa and K's visit to the hospital the previous night, we had a fairly late departure - leaving Lhasa at around 10a - on this short travel day. We took G318 towards the southwest - same route to airport initially. We'd cross the Yarlung Tsangpo into the Lohka Prefecture (山南地区, Shannan Diqu), and left the G318 for S307, which is the original and southern Friendship Highway between Lhasa and Nepal. [The new, current G318 follows the Yarlung Tsangpo to Shigatse]. The S307 made in incredible climb from 3,600m/11,500ft to the 4,794m/15,730ft Kamba-la Pass (岗巴拉山口) in 22km/14mi, for an average grade of over 5% with probably 50 hairpin turns.
Right over the pass, one can get a good view of Yamdrok-Tso (羊卓雍錯), the incredibly beautiful blue-green lake at 4,441m/14,570ft. It is first of the three most sacred lakes in Tibet we would visit. The top of the pass is now a "scenic area" with a 40RMB admission, which we bypassed, and stopped just below it for photos. We then took a lot more pictures after getting down to the lakeshore. There are lot of beautifully cows and yaks by the lakeshore, but if you just point your camera towards one of them, some guy will suddenly appear from nowhere to ask for money.
Next stop on the Friendship Highway is Nagarze (浪卡子, Langkazi), where we had lunch at the Chongqing Restaurant (重庆大饭店) alongside the road.
Continuing west on S307, we crossed Karo-La Pass (卡若拉山口) at just over 5,000m into Shigatse Prefecture (日喀则地区, Rikaze Diqu) - our 2nd 5,000m mountain pass. And just beyond it, we stopped for a close-up view of the 7,191m/23,592ft Nojin Kangsang (乃饮康桑雪山) and the Karola Glacier (卡若拉冰川) beneath it. This is the region pictured in the popular 1997 Chinese movie "Red River Valley" about Tibetans fighting the British Younghusband Expedition in 1903-4.
Late in the afternoon, we came down to the fertile plains of a different Nyang River (年楚河) and the town of Gyantse (江孜, Gyangze; 3,977m/13,050ft). We stopped at the main square in town for a view of the 14th Century fortress (Dzong). M saw a group of ladies sitting on the ground drinking Chhaang (青稞酒) - the popular alcoholic drink of the Himalayas - and she joined them for a few shots. Because of time and that none of the four of us is Buddhist, we skipped the Pelkor Chode Moanstery (白居寺), but stopped on the highway just outside town for pictures of the Kumbum (十萬佛塔), the largest chorten in Tibet.
We followed the Nyang northwest, and stopped at a watermill, where Tibetan hulless barley (青稞) is milled. Once roasted, this becomes tsampa (糌粑), which Tibetans eat with yak butter milk, regular milk, beer, or basically anything (from our observation of our guide Bianba).
Finally, we arrived at Shigatse (日喀则, Rikaze; 3,840m/12,600ft), the 2nd largest city in Tibet, and checked-in to the nice Shandong Hotel (山东大厦), which calls itself the tallest building in the highest city in the world - which may indeed be true - but still no free internet. For dinner, we had Tibetan cuisine for the first time, at the popular Songtsan Restaurant (松贊餐厅) on the Xigezi Pedestrian Street (喜格孜步行街). They have pizza on their menu, but we had Tibetan roast lamb chop, dumplings, etc, instead.
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rkkwan's 3-week Adventure in Tibet 6/10 Part II
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