rkkwan's 3-week adventure in Tibet 6/10

Jul 18th, 2010, 12:56 PM
  #21  
 
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Great reading, Ray. I am one of those who won't likely make it to Tibet given altitude-related problems, so thanks for the opportunity to visit through your report and photos.
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Jul 19th, 2010, 09:44 AM
  #22  
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Days 1-2: 6/5/10 to 6/6/10 Lhasa & Altitude Sickness

We were all super tired by the time we got to our hotel around 4:30p. Not so much because of the lack of oxygen, but more likely because of the lack of sleep the previous night and dragging the luggage from HK across Shenzhen and across Guangzhou the day before. So tired that there was no reaction from our first sight of the Potala Palace when entering town.

After chatting for a while with Find China and fellow travelers in the hotel, we all took a long nap, only to cross the street late at night to the 24-hour Fenghualou (风华楼) for some beef noodles. While a bowl of noodles cost 3.5RMB in Lanzhou, it is 10RMB in Lhasa, though there's a bit more beef in it. I noticed that most cooking are done with pressure cooker. Makes sense, as at Lhasa's altitude, water boils at only 88C.

Next morning, we got up at around 9a as breakfast is served from 7:30a to 9:30a, and we don't want to miss it. D had no issues with altitude at all, but both M and K threw up in the middle of the night, and still didn't have much apetite. I just felt tired and wanted to get some more sleep. Consequently, we all went back to sleep some more, until middle of the afternoon.

By that time M already felt fine, but K wasn't - headache and no appetite. But we were hungry, so decided to all go find some food and get some fresh air. Right around the corner, we found Lanzhou Ma's Beef Noodles (兰州马记牛肉面) and ate there. The southwest part of the old city where our hotel is located is the muslim area. The main mosque is there, and so are many beef and mutton shops. [Ma (马) is a common last name for muslims in China. Same character for horse.]

Well, a few steps out of the noodle shop, K threw up all she'd just eaten. It's been 24 hours since we arrived in Lhasa and we started to get worried as K hadn't had any real food intake. So while we started to walk around the old city, we also called Mr Wu of Find China. They would come pick us up to go to the altitude clinic next to their office at the 4* Jiangsu Ecological Garden Hotel.

One thing Chinese clinics and hospitals always give you is IV. No idea what they put in it, but they always keep you for a few bags of fluids. So, while K got her treatment (final cost: 480RMB, also with assorted nameless medicine for the next 1.5 days), we wandered outside to the bank of the Lhasa River. [That hotel is located on Xianzudao (仙足岛), an island on the river]. Some girls were catching tiny fishes, and it was very quiet and serene out there.

The treatment worked and K was feeling immediately much better. Find China dropped us back at Luwo Restaurant (驴窝餐厅) on Beijing East Road for some Cantonese food. Yes, just 30 hours after arriving in Tibet, we were already having Cantonese food. It is also a popular place for independent travelers to Tibet. We would eat there again, and got take-out from them yet another time.

After dropping K off at the hotel, D, M and I went out again in search for some yak butter tea (酥油茶). We found our place - a very dark tea house with a bunch of Tibetans sipping tea and watching TV - Nima Teahouse (尼玛茶馆) on Beijing East Road and went in. 8RMB for a large thermos. First time I had yak butter tea, and I think it most resembles Campbell's Cream of Mushrooms. Without the mushroom, and add more water.
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Jul 20th, 2010, 06:10 AM
  #23  
 
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The yak butter tea I had in Inner Mogolia had a strong gamey flavor to it, it really didn't taste like anything I had ever tasted. The color did resamble Campell's soup.
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Jul 20th, 2010, 12:12 PM
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mohan - All the tea houses also offer Sweet Tea (甜茶), and I prefer that to yak butter tea. Sweet tea is pretty similar to the milk tea people drink in Hong Kong.

Day 3: 6/7/10 Finally some sightseeing (and shopping) in Lhasa

We chatted with a young couple from Hong Kong during breakfast at the hotel. They've been in Tibet for about 3 weeks and were returning to HK the next day. They were going to visit some wholesale stores inside the old city that sells the same souvenir stuff as on the Barkhor, just a lot cheaper, so we followed them. For those interested, they are actually about 4-5 stores side-by-side directly across from the main entrance to the big Tromsikhang Market (冲赛康市场). As an example of how much cheaper things are there, a silver bracelet may sell for 8RMB; but a stall on the Barkhor will ask for 35RMB before you start bargaining. We would go back to the same stores at least 3 more times.

Not realizing that we would have having Sichuan food for the next 3 weeks, we found lunch at the small Kouweixiang Sichuan Cuisine 口味香川菜 on Beijing East Road. Then M shopped for a nice pair of hiking shoes from Toread (Chinese equivalent to Timberland; and their prices are similar too). Then we stopped for a long time at the main Post Office - I have no idea what my friends got, as I took a nap there.

Finally, 48 hours after arriving at Lhasa, we got a good look at Potala Palace, and took tonnes of pictures in front. We then went to the ticket office at the southwest corner of that block to reserve our time for the visit next day. During the summer period, you have to get that reservation a day in advance.

We were approached by an agent of a tour company right then, and we made our biggest mistake in our whole trip in Tibet. We agreed to join their tour the next day for 200RMB/ea, which include guided tour of the Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple, lunch, as well as transportation to/from our hotel. Sounds like a good deal at that time, as entrance fees to those two are 100RMB and 85RMB respectively already. But we'd find out how bad that decision was the next day.

With a couple hours left before dinner time, we took a taxi (35RMB, as we forgot to bargain with the driver) to Drepung Monastery (哲蚌寺, admissions: 50RMB), one of the six most important monasteries of the Gelugpa branch of Tibetan Buddhism, and one of three inside Tibet. Because it was late in the day, and there was quite a bit of construction going on, the temple was very quiet with only a handful of visitors. It seems like we had the whole complex for ourselves - which was simply magical. There is quite a bit of stairs and grade climbing at Drepung, so only go there after you feel fine with the altitude. Inside the main hall, I paid the 20RMB photography fee, and the young monk who took my money was very happy to show us everything.

There was no public transportation to/from Drepung, so we started walking down towards the main road. We waved down a minivan, and the Tibetan driver was happy to drive us back to Deji Lu (德吉路) near Potala Place for 25RMB. We had dinner at Xiongjiya (熊记鸭), a restaurant famous for its smoked duck.

We went back to the Nima Teahouse again, mainly to drop off some pictures we printed for the kid there. This time we had sweet tea (甜茶), which I prefer to the yak butter tea. A small thermos of it only costs 4RMB.
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Jul 21st, 2010, 07:54 PM
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Day 4: 6/8/10 Potala Palace and our Big Mistake

Instead having to get up super early for the included transportation from our hotel to the Potala Palace (布达拉宫), we decided to just take a taxi (again, 10RMB) there before 10am. We knew something's not right soon after we checked-in, as the tour guide there simply told us to "hang around" and go "take some pictures". Turned out they were still trying to sell a few more tickets and kept delaying us - and we ended up waiting for an hour before allowing to go in.

The guides these "operations" use are young Han Chinese girls. They were okay, and described all the things they were supposed to tell us, but not much more. But one problem is that there's this unwritten rule for these tours that they have to rush the groups through the main palace sights in an hour (not including the time to climb up and down). There are about 10 rooms in the White Palace and 30 rooms in the Red Palace with stuff to see, so you do the maths. It is really better off to go on your own, or just hire your own outside Tibetan guide to visit the Potala, as there are also clear descriptions and signs in Chinese and English about what's in each room.

The Potala is really an amazing place to visit. To me, it really showed who and what the Dala Lamai is. What's disturbing is that there is armed Chinese guard (not sure if police or military) in basically every room. No place else in Lhasa does is it more apparent that Tibet is an occupied territory - like the West Bank - if you ask me.

After being rushed through the Potala, it was already lunch time; but we were then forced into the souvenir store to look at the "Three Treasures of Tibet". We knew that's part of any tour in China, but what really pissed us was that we were really hungry, so would like to get some yogurt before going into the store. But a handler (not our guide) and demanded that we went in. We fought with him, and got really really upset.

During lunch, we found out that they'd bring us to some more shopping before taking us to the Jokhang. We'd had enough and just took off after lunch, forfeiting the rest of the tour. We simply couldn't take it. Lesson learned.

After resting for a few minutes at our hotel, we walked through the old city to the Spinn Cafe 風轉咖啡館, in an alley just off Beijing East Road. I have its Chinese name in traditional character, as the owner, Kong, is from Hong Kong, and that's how he writes it. Very popular with independent travelers and cyclists, especially those from Hong Kong. He's even published a book in HK about his adventure, and their website has plenty of information on independent traveling in Tibet: http://www.cafespinn.com/ We ordered our coffee and then found out Kong was in. He came over to chat with us for like 2 hours about himself, about our coming trip outside Lhasa and everything else. A really nice and fun guy.

By the time we were done with Kong, the touring time for the Johkang was over, so instead we wandered to the Ramoche Temple 小昭寺, the smaller sister temple to the Jokhang. The visiting hours was over as well, but we could go inside its compound and circle the building (lined with dozens of prayer wheels) with the Tibetan worshippers. No admissions required. And we also climbed up to the roof for pictures.

Worth mentioning is that Xiaozhaosi Lu (Ramoche Rd) that leads to the temple is quite lively, with lots of eateries and shopping places for locals. And there is some of the best French Fries I've ever had - along with those I had in Belgium. Definitely worth trying.

For dinner, we went back to Luwo for Cantonese food. Wouldn't have any Cantonese for the next 2+ weeks, as we would depart Lhasa the next morning.
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Jul 21st, 2010, 08:06 PM
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I'm following along, appreciating your observations.
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Jul 21st, 2010, 08:54 PM
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Just want to add one observation. There's heavy Chinese police presence inside the old city. At all the roadway or alleyway entrance, there are at least 4 or more armed guards. Along the Barkhor circuit and in front of the Jokhang, you'll see 10-12 guards matching around every few minutes - counter-clockwise against the pilgrim's direction. They are also armed with fire extinguishers, besides guns.

Finally, at junctions of the major alleys, you'll find one or two scouts on top of one of the buildings - under a beach umbrella. And there are also uniformed "special police" who will walk around the old city individually.

The Chinese are also very sensitive about the major bridges. You'll find armed guards on each end, and we were told by our guides not to shoot photos on or near the bridges.

And of course, it'd be foolish to take pictures of any police or military personnel in Tibet, period.
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Jul 23rd, 2010, 10:09 AM
  #28  
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Day 5: 6/9/10 Lhasa to Nyingtri

Our Tibetan guide Bianba Ciren (边巴 次仁) and the driver came to our hotel early to pick us up and started our 3-day excursion east to Nyingtri (林芝, Linzhi). From what he told us, another guide was supposed to take us, but had some family emergency so he came instead, despite just having come back from a trip to Ngari. Bianba has a been a guide for 20 years and is highly experienced. He speaks very good Putonghua, but no English. M remembers reading about him on various travel blogs and forums, and we would hear more about him. In short, we were extremely fortunate to have him as our guide - and he would also accompany us for our longer trip to Ngari after we'd return to Lhasa in a few days.

He also brought along a big folder with all the travel permits that I'd need. The two page permit I brought up from Guangzhou now becomes like 10 pages in his folder, from various agencies and the Chinese military. And I also got a paper permit to put inside my passport. Over the next 2.5 weeks, we would have to show those papers at least 6-7 times, and Bianba had to go to the police stations at Nyingtri, Shigatse and Ngari to notify them of my visit, and have stamps chopped onto the papers.

Our driver is also Tibetan, and only speaks broken Chinese. He drives safe and very very smooth - on both pavement and on gravel. And he would need to do some minor repairs a few times on the car - cleaning the fuel filter - with no problem. The vehicle was a previous generation Toyota Land Cruiser with the 4.5L inline-6 that is ubiquitous in Tibet (built between 1993-97). When fully loaded with 6 persons and luggage, it could still be a bit slow on the steep grades, but in general quite comfortable and very reliable. I would sit in the front passenger seat, D, M and K in the middle row, while Bianba would sit in one of the 3rd row jump seat in general (except for a day or two where I switched with Bianba when it was necessary for him to be in front).

We would take G318 east out of Lhasa. G318 is the major national highway or guodao (国道) between Shanghai and the Nepalese border. Initially we followed the Lhasa River Valley, but then it climbed over the 5,013m/16,450ft Mi-la Pass (also known as Pa-la Pass, 米拉山口). ["La" in Tibetan is Pass.] That'd be the first of our many 5,000m crossings, and easily the highest point any 4 of us had been in our lives. We were feeling fine, and walked around and took numerous pictures. At the top of most mountain passes in Tibet are lots of prayer flags, and no exception here.

Not far beyond Mi-la Pass, we'd stop at a "lunch village", still at over 4,200m/13,800ft. About 2 dozens of restaurants (mostly Sichuanese, remaining Muslim) line both sides of G318 cater to travelers and truckers. We ate at one called Chuanweixiang 川味香菜馆. Things are not cheap, and we ordered some wild mushrooms that cost 60RMB! [They also have some specialty Tibetan chicken and pork that costs up to 300RMB a dish!] We would stop at the same place on our way back from Nyingtri for dinner two days later.
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Jul 25th, 2010, 11:13 AM
  #29  
 
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Ray, I find your observations of the Chinese presence chilling. The guards walking counter-clockwise reminds be of the repeated deliberate desecrations of Buddhist monasteries, temples, etc in the years since the Chinese take-over of Tibet. I wondered if things were getting any better - apparently not.
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Jul 25th, 2010, 03:53 PM
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Kathie - While I was reporting what I saw on the street, I tried to look a little deeper to see what is the underlying problem or problems. What I find is less about politics or religion or the Dalai Lama, but more a social-economic problem.

First, I don't think most Tibetans want or care about seceding from China. It is a practical impossibility, and most are not willing to raise an army to fight a war for independence - and with the low population density, how can they fight off subsequent influence from the Indians and other peoples from Central and South Asia?

Second, from my 3 weeks in Tibet, with some contacts with Tibetans - including our tour guide who was jailed for a year following the Tibetan uprising in the Spring of 1989 (before Tiananmen a few months later) - the influence of the Dalai Lama is pretty slim these days in Tibet. For one thing, which I realize after my visit to the Potala Palace, the Dalai Lama is basically a king, or like the Holy Roman Emperor. It is a political position, not really a religious one (which is more the "job" of the Panchen). With Tibet now part of China, there is zero chance China will let him visit. And the people realize it.

And the Dalai Lama position and title is only established in the 13th Century, and only after the Gelugpa Branch became dominant in Tibet, under the rule of the 5th Dalai Lama in the 17th Century that it became so powerful over the whole Tibet. Now, after 1959, there's a new lord over the place, and gradually people has accepted it.

Tibetans are not 2nd class citizens like Palestinians in Israel. They are full Chinese - they can travel all over Tibet and any parts of China just like anybody else. In fact, there are benefits to be a "minority" in China - I know some Han who claim to be a minority group for that reason.

Now, here's the real problem. Beijing thinks that by bringing great great economical development to Tibet, Tibetans will be happy and embrace Beijing rule. Part of that may be true, but that development also brought huge number of Han and other Chinese to Tibet to live, work and make money. That is what the Tibetans see - people who don't look like them, people who don't believe in their religion, people who don't speak their language - took over their capital Lhasa. The Lhasa today is probably 10 times the size what it was in 1959, with that 9 new parts all ethnic Han or other non-Tibetans.

While some Tibetans (mostly younger ones in Lhasa) learned to take advantage and move up economical with that - like our guide or driver, or others who open up Tibetan guest houses and restaurants - most haven't. They enjoyed their lives herding sheep, circling the Potala and Jokhang, and drinking yak butter tea all day, why out of the sudden they have to work their butts off to compete with these foreigners who have come to overtake their land?

Besides motivation or habits, they probably also lack the skills and business networks to compete. One of the most profitable exports from Tibet these days is Cordyceps Sinensis, or caterpillar fungus, or 冬虫夏草 in Chinese; which I find them selling for up to 12,000RMB for 60grams retail. Now, on Dongzisu Lu (东孜苏路) inside the old city, just around the block from our hotel, are at least 30 wholesale stores in brand new buildings. Each day we saw people bringing the fungus there, and people would sit around choosing and grading them. But these stores are entirely owned and run by the Muslim Hui (回族) people, not Tibetans. You know where most of the profit of this trade goes.

As a result, the Tibetans in Tibet remain in the bottom of the economical layer, and getting worse. And whatever benefits or welfare the Chinese and foreigners give to the Tibetans only make them more reliable to handouts - and often literally. Each day walking around the old city, we were asked by Tibetans for food or money, old and young and even capable working-age men. At many scenic spots across Tibet, young kids were taught to harass tourists by forcing crappy souvenirs on them or asking for money for photos. Other kids learned to stand in front of public bathrooms and demand 1RMB for each visit. In turn, the Hans see the Tibetans as lazy and inferior to themselves.

---

That's the situation there, and it is not pretty. I don't know what is the right solution. Only telling what I saw and what I think.

BTW, I'll try to keep this thread to my trip report - what I saw and what I thought. For deep political debate, please start your own thread in the Lounge, and put a link here to that thread. Thanks.
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Jul 25th, 2010, 04:01 PM
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Ray, thanks for your observations. I don't want to get into a political debate, but wanted more information on what Tibet is like now to a visitor. In preparation for our November trip to Sikkim, I've been viewing a lot of documentaries on Tibet, as there are Tibetan monasteries in Sikkim, established as monks fled the Chinese.
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Jul 25th, 2010, 04:41 PM
  #32  
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Kathie - Let me add that all four of us are Han Chinese, and we were treated very nicely and warmly by basically all Tibetans we've met. I don't like people following me for money, but they never get aggressive or violent (which has happened to me before in other parts of the world).

And we just ignored the armed police and military people, which is what the local Tibetans do as well.

Never saw any conflict.
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Jul 25th, 2010, 04:43 PM
  #33  
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Oh, here are some pictures of me. The link should work even if you're not logged in to Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?ai...6&l=11830937ef
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Jul 26th, 2010, 04:43 PM
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Getting back to the trip, let me first mention that once we crossed the 5,013m/16,450ft Mila Pass, we left the municipality of Lhasa and entered the Nyingtri Prefecture (林芝地区, Linzhi Diqu). Nyingtri looks very different from Lhasa and the western part of Lhasa. It gets a lot more of the monsoon, so the flora is vastly different. Instead of deserts (think Utah) of Lhasa, Nyingtri is like the Alps, full of tall pines and meadows. In the valleys are lots of canola, and they are all in bloom at this time of the year. Very beautiful.

The houses are also totally different. Instead of the whitewashed flat-roof buildings, here they have slanted roofs, as there's significant snowfall in the winter. But here's what's get weird. In the past, the roofs are made of wooden planks, held down by pieces of stones. But the Chinese government are either giving away or selling them "environmentally-friendly" metal roofs to preserve the trees there. These roofs come in only a few colors - pink, purple, blue or red. All of them very bright and none matches the environment. Also interesting is that while some villages go with same color in all the houses, others are random. Makes for very interesting pictures.

Religion is different in this part of Tibet as well. The Gelugpa Branch is not as dominant here, with many practice the Nyingmapa and Kagyupa branches of Tibetan Buddhism or Bön. We saw a lot of the single-colored prayer flag on poles, rather than the multi-colored ones tied to ropes.

On the roadway, we'd often see pigs in this region, as the elevation is lower and warm enough. No pigs in Lhasa or west of it. We'd also see pilgrims walking along G318 towards Lhasa. They would walk a few steps and then prostate themselves - full body on the ground - common sight in Lhasa. Usually a few members will represent their village, with a donkey cart following them. It could take years for them to reach Lhasa, and again years back.

We'd follow the Nyang River (尼洋河), one of the main tributaries of the Yarlung Tsangpo, from its source all the way down to Bayi, the largest town of Nyingtri where we would stay the night. Along the way, we saw a lot of new and rebuilt villages, built with support from the coastal Fujian and Guangdong provinces. And there were lots of new high-voltage transmission lines all over the region. Bianba said most villages started to receive electricity in the early 90's in that region. Overall, it is one of the more affluent part of Tibet.

We stopped a few times in the afternoon. First to view a huge stone "pillar" in the middle of the rapids on the Nyang (中流砥柱). Then we stopped at one of those newly rebuilt villages with funds from Fujian - Apei (阿沛), which is just east of the Gongbo'gyamda county seat (工布江达县). We went to what's basically a Tibetan B&B to see their traditional furniture, clothings, and had yak butter tea there; for 5RMB per person. We were told that the building costs about 400K RMB to build. [Remember, our guide Bianba had only met us earlier that day, so he was taking us to all these standard tourist stops. Later in the trip, we would stop at more authentic places.]

Finally, we would stop at a little suspension bridge on the Nyang and cross it on foot. On the other side is a one of the few remaining village building dated to the Tufan (吐蕃) period in the 7th to 9th Century. Unfortunately, there were lots of dogs there, so we could only take pictures of it over a stone wall.

At around 8pm (or 10 hours since we left Lhasa), we arrived in Bayi (八一, 2,994m/9,826ft), the modern booming town which name means "August 1st", the founding date of the People's Liberation Army in 1927. Its main roads are named after places in Guangdong and Fujian Provinces. Even has a Xianggang Lu (Hong Kong Road). It is located in a beautiful valley with mountains on all sides. We stayed at the very new Basongcuo Hotel (巴松错宾馆), named after the Pagsum-Tso, a lake we would visit 2 days later. Not cheap at over 200RMB per standard double room, and no free internet. For dinner, we walked around the corner to a noodle place for something simple. Bianba took my travel permit papers to the local police station to get it stamped.
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Jul 26th, 2010, 06:25 PM
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Day 6: 6/10/20 Bayi to Paizhen, Nyingtri

After a simple breakfast at the hotel, we checked out and continued east on G318. First stop was the Serkyem-La, (色季拉山口), the high pass at 4,560m/14,960ft that if one's lucky, can get a good look at the very prominent Namcha Barwa (南迦巴瓦峰) across the Yarlung Tsangpo at 7,782m/25,531ft, which was only summited once by a Chinese/Japanese expedition in 1992 and not since. The summit is rarely visible due to cloud cover, and no difference on this day.

On the eastern side of the pass is our next stop, the Lunang Forest (鲁朗林海). It's a primitive forest of spruce and pine on both sides of a valley going from around 12,000ft in the bottom to the snow line near the top at over 15,000ft. There is an observation tower there but is not worth its 40RMB admissions, so we simply strolled down G318 leisurely. Further down the hill, we stopped again for views of the valley before having lunch at the bottom of the valley. Another "lunch town" with about a dozen restaurants catered to travelers, all with the specialty stone pot chicken. We went to one called Liao's (廖记). The chicken soup is awesome.

After lunch, we'd backtrack on G318 to Bayi and then turned south onto S306 and followed the Nyang again to its confluence with the Yarlung Tsangpo. The only bridge to cross the Yarlung Tsangpo is at the Nyingtri Airport at Milin (米林). It is a new airport with commercial service, but we didn't see a single aircraft. Then we turned onto a smaller road and went east along the south bank of the Yarlung Tsangpo (with a couple of picture stops) to reach Paizhen (派镇, ~2,935m/9,630ft). It is the entrance to the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon (雅鲁藏布大峡谷), now a park run privately. Entrance fee is 270RMB, including 150 for admissions, 90 for the bus tour, and 30 for mandatory lunch.

We stayed at the Brothers Hostel (兄弟旅舍, Xiongdi Lushe), a new and clean place. They were not that busy that night, so they gave us two rooms - I stayed in a double room, and my three friends stayed in a quad. I was charged 40RMB and 30/each for them. There are public sinks with running water, and individual shared toilets with seats. They even has a couple of shared showers though none of us used. I would highly recommend this place if not for the lounge right below our rooms. There is no insulation in the building - just wooden boards for the walls and floors/ceiling. But I was tired enough to fall asleep soon after dinner, despite the incredible noise.

The owner of the place is a nice lady from either Sichuan or Hunan, which I forget. She's also the cook for the hostel restaurant where we ate, and she has a a couple of nice dogs, one of them a beautiful golden retriever! They seem to have quite a few foreign visitors, including trekkers who would start their multi-day hike across the mountain to Medog or Metok (墨脱), an almost mythical place deep inside the Yarlung Tsangpo Canyon and is the only county in China not reachable by roads. (Construction started last year).

At under 2,950m/9,700ft, Paizhen is the "lowest point" of our entire 3-week stay in Tibet. And to celebrate that, we had Lhasa Beer - first alcoholic drinks since arriving in Tibet 5 days prior.
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Jul 26th, 2010, 10:07 PM
  #36  
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Day 7: 6/11/10 Nyingtri to Lhasa

After breakfast at the hostel, we boarded the 8:30a tour bus into the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon. We (the four of us plus another single traveler from Shanghai) were put in a minibus just ahead of several bigger groups, which I believe departed from Bayi early in the morning. That was crucial, as each scenic spot would be quiet and empty when we got there and became a market when we departed for the next one.

The tour was not bad, with our guide a young girl from Chongqing. We stopped at like 5-6 spots for pictures, with the last one right next to the river, about 20km from Paizhen, and is also the eastern-most point in our journey in Tibet. We get clear views of the 7,294m/23,930ft Gayla Peri (加拉白垒峰) on the northern shore of the river, but again the summit of Namcha Barwa was mostly covered except for a few seconds.

After our mandatory 30RMB lunch back in Paizhen, we started our long trip back to Lhasa. We tried the famous Nyingtri watermelon from one of the stalls on G318. These watermelons are slightly larger than the "personal-sized" PureHeart from California - very juicy, but not the sweetest. Then we visited the beautiful Pagsum-Tso (巴松错), an alpine lake at 3,460m/11,400ft. Again, we would need to ride their own bus (admission: 100RMB/each) up to the lake. We would cross a floating bridge on foot to a little island with a small temple belonging to the old Nyingmapa (宁玛派 or 红教) branch of Tibetan Buddhism. On the far side of the lake is a spot where water burial is still done today.

We had dinner back at Chuanweixiang 川味香菜馆, just east of Mi-la Pass, and got back to the Kyi Shol Hotel in Lhasa at around midnight.

K was not feeling the best once again, and with our next part of the journey reaching even higher altitude, she decided it's better to see a doctor again. Instead of going back to that clinic, Bianba took her (and M) to the big and modern Lhasa People's Hospital (拉萨市人民医院), just a few minutes' walk from our hotel. Again, they gave her IV, and the doctor said she should be fine for the rest of the trip. Cost: 160RMB, which is 1/3 of that clinic.

Bianba also confirmed that he would indeed be our guide for our trip to Ngari starting late next morning.

---

This concludes the first part of our trip. This page is starting to load slowly, so I'll continue in a new thread.
rkkwan is offline  
Jul 27th, 2010, 02:50 PM
  #37  
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 224
Ray, good job with this report. As you know I am waiting for the next installment so I can incorporate your info into my Sept. trip to Lhasa. Enjoyed the pictures but, I have seen you face to face, let me see the three ladies you traveled with.
MSheinberg is offline  
Jul 27th, 2010, 03:52 PM
  #38  
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Posts: 23,074
MSheinberg - They are shy. If they want to share their photos, they can post them... Hahahaa...
rkkwan is offline  
Jul 27th, 2010, 08:18 PM
  #39  
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Trip report continues here:

http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...10-part-ii.cfm
rkkwan is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2010, 10:56 PM
  #40  
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
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Very thoughtful travelogue , enjoyed it a lot. Re the train vs. fly in issue : your comments would be accurate for a bus journey , but not for the train. The left out factor here is the onboard oxygen : everyone gets extra oxygen ( http://korta.nu/3e3c ) after Golmud , so the effective altitude is nowhere near 4500 - or even higher than Lhasa. The best way to do this is to spend one or two nights in Xining , and then take the train in -I´d be extremely surprised if you´d find anyone vomiting in Lhasa on that route.
vistet is offline  

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