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Journey To The Roof Of The World, Tibet. LXA - PEK  
User currently offlineckblah From Singapore, joined Jul 2010, 60 posts, RR: 0
Posted (4 years 2 weeks 21 hours ago) and read 10590 times:

Having visited Xinjiang in the summer of 2009, Tibet was next on my to-visit-while-in-China list. This year's national day holidays lasted almost ten days, which was why I decided to make a trip the roof of the world. If you're interested, my Xinjiang photos are located at: http://chinkeat.com/tag/xinjiang

It's a lot more difficult for foreigners to visit Tibet, as compared to Chinese nationals. The Chinese government is afraid that foreigners would incite political unrest in the region that's extremely sensitive. Hence, we had to join a tour group and apply for a separate Tibet Travel Permit. If you had taken a domestic flight from PEK's terminal 3 before, you may notice that there's a separate security area for CA4112 as its routing is PEK-CTU-LXA, (the flight makes a stopover in Chengdu) hence all passengers undergo a more stringent security check and I would assume that foreigners had their Tibet Travel Permit checked.

The trip started on the night of the 30th of September. Armed with all sorts of medications (for the altitude sickness) and luggage, my friends and I made our way down to the Beijing West Railway station to embark on our 45 hours train ride to Lhasa, Tibet. We decided on taking the train as that'll ensure we ascend at a much slower pace and also because it's much cheaper! The train ticket for a hard-seater costs 400RMB compared with more than 2000RMB for a one-way PEK-LXA.

The train ride lasted from 30th September 2010, 930pm to 2nd October 2010 640pm, a whopping 45ish hours!

Here are some pictures of the train ride:

http://chinkeat.com/trip_report/tibet/trip_01.jpg

http://chinkeat.com/trip_report/tibet/trip_02.jpg

As you can see, the train is EXTREMELY crowded! We departed from Beijing at 930pm and arrived at Shijiazhuang at 1155pm. There, quite a few people alighted but there remains to be a huge number of people on board. Unable to move nor go to the toilet, I drifted in and out of sleep until the next morning. Arriving at Xi'an at 850am in the morning the next day, many people alighted. It was then that the train became a lot less crowded. However, there were still people standing! The train then reached the following cities:
Lanzhou at 350pm, Xining at 625pm, Golmund at 4am (on 2nd Oct), Naque at 230pm and finally Lhasa at 640pm.

I'm really glad I managed to survive the train ride on the hard-seater!

At an altitude of about 3500m, the first thing I noticed was how thin the air was! I breathed really deeply and took slow steps as we walked around with gimongous back packs.

After contacting our tour guide, she fetched us to our youth hostel. We had dinner at a nearby restaurant called Tibet Steak House which was really popular with foreigners before washing up and resting for the night.

The very next day, the tour of Tibet began!

Our first stop was obviously the Potala Palace, the seat of the Dalai Lama (currently in exile in India). The palace is really grand and nice with a lot to offer. My only peeve was that I had to climb up steps which was really really tiring as I was not used to scarce oxygen is at this altitude! I was literally panting like a dog! Having said that, I really enjoyed the visit. After lunch, we visited Jokhang Temple which is the most important temple in Tibetan Buddhism.

Here are some photos:


Potala palace

http://chinkeat.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/jokhang1.jpg
Jokhang temple

The next day, we made a trip to Gyantse. We visited Yamdrok-tso lake along the way. An awesomely beautiful lake whose beauty will be etched in your memory if you had ever seen it.

http://chinkeat.com/trip_report/tibet/yamdrok.jpg
Yamdrok-tso lake at 4400m, viewed from 4700m

The next morning (5th Oct), we visited Palcho monastery before heading to Shigatse, where we visited the Tashilhumpo monastery, which is the seat of the Panchen Lama.

On the 6th, we started our 500km journey from Shigatse to the base camp of Mount Everest, also known as Mount Qomolangma to the Tibetans and the Chinese. It was an exciting sight to the world's highest peak! Here it is:




We spent a night about 7km from the Everest Base Camp, sleeping in tents built by the Tibetans. It was a cold shivery night as we wrapped ourselves in thick layers of blankets! The next morning (7th), we took an internal bus to the base camp but unfortunately, the cloudy weather meant that Mt Everest was covered by clouds.

We then visited Rongbuk monastery. At 5100m above sea level, it is undoubted the highest monastery in the world!

http://ftp.chinkeat.com/trip_report/tibet/rongbuk.jpg
Rongbuk monastery

We then headed to Shigatse for the night. The 8th was spent traveling from Shigatse to Lhasa.

We woke up early on the 9th and traveled up (and) north to Namtso lake, another sacred lake of Tibet. Namtso lake, unlike Yamdrok-tso, is a salt water lake. At an altitude of over 4700m, it is the highest salt water lake in the world of over 500km2! The lake is a beautiful sight, being surrounded by snow-capped mountains with extremely clear water.

http://ftp.chinkeat.com/trip_report/tibet/namtso.jpg
Namtso lake

On the 10th, we visited a nunnery and did some last minute shopping before heading to the airport, back to Beijing.

The flight was booked on Air China's website, which was rather easy, provided you have an internet banking account with any major Chinese bank. Otherwise, Expedia or Travelocity should be able to do the job. It cost 2440RMB (including taxes, which is about US$360) which IMHO was extremely expensive. Oh wells, who said China is a communist country? Besides, one 45 hours train ride was sufficient, we didn't need another one!

LEG ONE

http://ftp.chinkeat.com/trip_report/tibet/map-1.gif

Flight number: CA4111
Carrier: Air China
Routing: LXA - CTU (Lhasa Gonggar - Chengdu Shuangliu)
Date: 10th October 2010 (10/10/10)
Dep. time (scheduled/actual): 1600/1710
Arr. time (scheduled/actual): 1750/1845
Aircraft model: A330-200
Aircraft serial number: B-6070

Lhasa airport is located quite a distance from the city, it took us slightly more than an hour to reach the airport. Check-in was easy, simply check in at any available counter. Thereafter, we went through the security check and waited near the boarding gates. Here are some photos:

http://ftp.chinkeat.com/trip_report/tibet/trip_03.jpg



http://ftp.chinkeat.com/trip_report/tibet/trip_05.jpg

http://ftp.chinkeat.com/trip_report/tibet/trip_06.jpg

http://ftp.chinkeat.com/trip_report/tibet/t.jpg
Generic boarding pass for all airlines

As expected, the flight was delayed due to late arrival of aircraft. Unexpectedly, the Chinese started queueing in front of the gate at 1540 even though the aircraft only arrived at 1545. Rather amusing if you ask me. We finally boarded at 1618 and pushbacked at 1654. After a sharp turn, the plane took off at 1710. Here are some more photos:





http://ftp.chinkeat.com/trip_report/tibet/trip_09.jpg
Light meal consisting of rock melon, cake, fried noodles and dried beancurd. Not that tasty, but sufficient.

We finally arrived in Chengdu at 1845 where everyone disembarked, including those who were on the onward journey to Beijing.

LEG TWO

Flight number: CA4111
Carrier: Air China
Routing: CTU - PEK (Chengdu Shuangliu - Beijing Capital)
Date: 10th October 2010 (10/10/10)
Dep. time (scheduled/actual): 1900/2000
Arr. time (scheduled/actual): 2130/2157
Aircraft model: A330-200
Aircraft serial number: B-6070

Passengers on the onward flight to Beijing were given a green transit ticket before we were allowed into the departure area.

http://ftp.chinkeat.com/trip_report/tibet/t2.jpg

Inspired by what Loubert did in his trip report, I also brought an empty bottle onboard from Lhasa. Here it is:




At Chengdu, it became:



We boarded the plane at 1915 followed by push back at 1946. At 2000, the plane took off. Dinner was served at about 2030.

http://ftp.chinkeat.com/trip_report/tibet/trip_12.jpg
Dinner consisting of rice with curried fish, rock melon, preserved radish and a salad of lotus root

The plane finally landed in Beijing at 2157 before I took a taxi back to my university hostel as it was pouring.

This marks the end of my trip report.  

More photos of Tibet are available at my website: http://chinkeat.com/tag/tibet As I have yet to edit and upload all my photos, do check it from time to time!

Thank you for reading, comments welcomed!

[Edited 2010-10-11 08:41:04]

[Edited 2010-10-11 09:31:45]

11 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineStaralliance38 From United States of America, joined Jan 2008, 1445 posts, RR: 3
Reply 1, posted (4 years 2 weeks 21 hours ago) and read 10400 times:

Interesting TR! Very cool! Thanks for sharing!


Roar, lion, roar
User currently offlinetoby25 From Hong Kong, joined May 2008, 78 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (4 years 2 weeks 16 hours ago) and read 9910 times:

OMG I am so envious of you, I would love to visit Tibet. was it easy booking yourself onto the tour? What requirements do they request of you to join? I thought the train went via a place in Qinghai called Golmund?

A few years back on when I was living in Chongqing i went to Guilin during the National Holidays, it was a nightmare of a journey to get to the airport, everywhere was busy. I have never taken a train in China - kinda scares me! Are you allowed to stand in the trains there? That must be one long heck of a stand, I thought you were assigned seat numbers. My friend took the train in china and was telling me about the toilet facilities which i care to forget!

fantastic photos, is the high altitude really noticeable? Maybe I wont be able to survive up there! How are the Tibetans? Friendly? Someone once told me about the rituals when someone dies? I am not too sure on the intracies of this but something like the eagles eat you?! Are you able to get by in Mandain there? I assume everyone speaks Chinese?

The train scenes must have been spectacular!

Well Done on going to Tibet not many people can say that!

Thanks
Toby



Seriously dude! I swear!
User currently offlineBA319-131 From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2001, 8561 posts, RR: 54
Reply 3, posted (4 years 2 weeks 16 hours ago) and read 9863 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Thanks for posting, Tibet is on my hit list to visit, not sure when I'll fit it in though!

Quoting ckblah (Thread starter):
The train ride lasted from 30th September 2010, 930pm to 2nd October 2010 640pm, a whopping 45ish hours!

- I'll not bother with this option, the wife will never go for it!

The pitcures are great, I'm sure it's an amazing place to visit, thanks so much for giving us a taste.

Speaking of taste, not sure about the Air China catering!

Cheers

Mark



111,732,3,4,5,7,8,BBJ,741,742,743,744,752,762,763,764,772,77L,773,77W,L15,D10,30,40,AB3,AB6,A312.313,319,320,321,332,333
User currently offlineckblah From Singapore, joined Jul 2010, 60 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (4 years 2 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 9462 times:

Quoting toby25 (Reply 2):
What requirements do they request of you to join? I thought the train went via a place in Qinghai called Golmund?
...
Are you allowed to stand in the trains there?
...
is the high altitude really noticeable?
...
How are the Tibetans? Friendly? Someone once told me about the rituals when someone dies? I am not too sure on the intracies of this but something like the eagles eat you?! Are you able to get by in Mandain there? I assume everyone speaks Chinese?

Hi Toby,

The requirements are pretty simple really. I emailed the tour agency a scanned copy of my passport's data page, Chinese visa page and a certification from my school that I'm studying in a Chinese university. The Tibet Travel Permit was issued in no time! They sent me a scanned copy of it as I was taking a train into Tibet. You'll require the original if you're flying in though! The train did went through a place called Golmund. The whole list of cities the train stopped at are: Beijing at 930pm, Shijiazhuang at 1155pm, Xi'an at 855am (+1), Lanzhou at 350pm, Xining at 625pm, Golmund at 4am (+2, ie, on 2nd Oct), Naque at 230pm and finally Lhasa at 640pm.

They actually sold standing tickets for the trains! The longest I saw someone "stand" was from Beijing to Lanzhou! I did give my seat to them from time to time though. I think it's really amazing how they are able to tolerate such a long journey!

The high altitude is extremely noticeable! I went to the Potala on the first day of the tour which required me to climb steps. I was panting non-stop!!!

Tibetans are pretty friendly I guess, though some are really irritating, pestering you to buy stuff (but that's common all over the world with tourists). I did not witness a sky burial, but from my understanding, vultures consume the bodies instead of eagles. Rituals are conducted before the "priest" processes the corpse. Mandarin will get by at most places. However, interestingly, my tour guide (Tibetan educated in Nepal) spoke Tibetan, Hindi, Nepali and English!

Some photos I took of Tibetans are available at: http://chinkeat.com/china/tibet-people/

BA319-131 and Staralliance38,

Thanks for reading!

Cheers,
ck

[Edited 2010-10-11 19:58:35]

User currently offlineAvianca From Venezuela, joined Jan 2005, 5934 posts, RR: 40
Reply 5, posted (4 years 2 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 9420 times:

incredible report of a part of the world which is never ever covered up here!

The altitude remembers me to the highlands of "Lago Titicaca" here in Peru

thank you and cheers
Avianca



Colombia es el Mundo Y el Mundo es Colombia
User currently offlineLoubert From United States of America, joined Aug 2010, 61 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (4 years 2 weeks 5 hours ago) and read 9116 times:

Hi CK,

Thanks writing up this cool trip report and for the mention. Your trip report certainly brought back some memories for me.

Quoting ckblah (Thread starter):
Here are some pictures of the train ride:
Quoting ckblah (Thread starter):
As you can see, the train is EXTREMELY crowded!

-I'm impressed that you hard seat for 45 hours! Seeing how crowded it is, I think I'm glad I flew from CTU rather than taking the train.

The airport in Lhasa looks the same as it did in 2007, but it's interesting that you were on A330. I didn't see any widebodies when I was there (I went in and out on an A319 & A320). How full was your flight out of Lhasa?

Quoting ckblah (Thread starter):
Inspired by what Loubert did in his trip report, I also brought an empty bottle onboard from Lhasa. Here it is:

That the bottle crushed so much surprised me. Although looking back, I am reminded that the opposite happened after arriving in Lhasa from Chengdu: my toothpaste exploded out of the tube when I went to brush my teeth.

Great photographs (here and on your website) by the way, and thanks for taking the time to put this together!

-Loubert


User currently offlinegabrielchew From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2005, 3311 posts, RR: 12
Reply 7, posted (4 years 2 weeks 4 hours ago) and read 9042 times:

I can't believe you took hard seat all the way to Lhasa! My only hard seat trip was from Baotou to Yinchuan (8 hours) and it was so crowded and dirty it put me off forever. You got some really nice pics of Tibet. When we went the weather was too bad to visit the base camp, which I was really annoyed about. We flew on out on the direct PEK-CTU-LXA flight (seems like the transfer system in CTU is still the same as back in 2005), but on the way back we went LXA-CTU-NKG.


http://my.flightmemory.com/shefgab Upcoming flights:LCY-ARN-AMS-LGW,STN-OTP-AMS-YUL,YQB-JFK-LAX-DUS-STN,LGW-DXB-BKK-HKG-
User currently offlineMadameConcorde From San Marino, joined Feb 2007, 10906 posts, RR: 37
Reply 8, posted (4 years 2 weeks 3 hours ago) and read 8980 times:

Thank you very much for this most interesting trip report. Beautiful pictures!

I was wondering. Do these Chinese trains have a First Class? What would be the price difference and difference in comfort? Do they have sleeping berths in First Class? If no food, how about tea? Nuts and crackers can be taken from other places so it is not a problem.

Is Tibet only accessible from China nowadays? What airlines fly to Lhassa?

Is the Mt Everest Base Camp you visited on the tour the only base camp there is or are there others? Talking about the lower altitude base camps of course there are the higher ones for climbers not tourists. How did it feel being at base camp? Did any people in the group feel altitude sickness? Have some of you ventured higher up? Was there a possibility of adding treks?

Did you see many other tourist groups while you visited the temples and towns?

I will certainly look at your blog pictures. The "roof of the world" looks like a beautiful place, certainly one on my list if circumstances permit!



There was a better way to fly it was called Concorde
User currently offlineckblah From Singapore, joined Jul 2010, 60 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (4 years 2 weeks 3 hours ago) and read 8938 times:

Quoting Loubert (Reply 6):
How full was your flight out of Lhasa? ... That the bottle crushed so much surprised me. Although looking back, I am reminded that the opposite happened after arriving in Lhasa from Chengdu: my toothpaste exploded out of the tube when I went to brush my teeth.

It was totally full! Guess it's because it's the end of the October holidays.

I knew that my tubes and stuff would expand, so I squeezed most of the excess air out of them to prevent a concoction of facial foam and moisturisers! The extent the bottle got crushed due to the difference in air pressure surprised me too!

Quoting MadameConcorde (Reply 8):
I was wondering. Do these Chinese trains have a First Class? What would be the price difference and difference in comfort? Do they have sleeping berths in First Class? If no food, how about tea? Nuts and crackers can be taken from other places so it is not a problem.

Is Tibet only accessible from China nowadays? What airlines fly to Lhassa?

Is the Mt Everest Base Camp you visited on the tour the only base camp there is or are there others? Talking about the lower altitude base camps of course there are the higher ones for climbers not tourists. How did it feel being at base camp? Did any people in the group feel altitude sickness? Have some of you ventured higher up? Was there a possibility of adding treks?

Did you see many other tourist groups while you visited the temples and towns?

The Chinese trains are divided into the high speed kind and the conventional ones. The high speed trains have 2nd class seats and 1st class seats, resembling economy and business seats on planes. You get a free bottle of mineral water on the high speed trains but that's it. The conventional ones have hard-seater, soft-seater, hard-sleeper and soft-sleeper. The hard-seater I took cost about 400RMB (60USD), a hard-sleepr cost 800RMB while a soft-sleeper cost 1200RMB. There isn't a soft-seater on the train I took. Food is not included in the ticket prices but there are restaurant carriages on the train for food, BOB.

Tibet is accessible from Nepal too. From what I understand, only Chinese airlines such as Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, Sichuan Airlines, etc fly into Lhasa.

I'm not sure if the Everest Base Camp is the only one available for tourists, but it's highly likely the only one on the Chinese side. Air was extremely thin at the Base Camp, I had some headaches and felt really breathless when we climbed up a small knoll. My other friends felt really breathless too, with varying degrees of headaches, while some seemed unaffected. I'm not too sure about adding treks though.

There were other tourists, foreigners and Chinese nationals alike when I visited the tourist attractions. But, it's not as crowded as other Chinese cities during the National day holidays.


User currently offlineRogerbcn From Andorra, joined Sep 2006, 1209 posts, RR: 20
Reply 10, posted (4 years 2 weeks 2 hours ago) and read 8809 times:

Hola ckblah!

Woaw! That is a TRIP....

45 hours on the same train, that is something. it reminds me, at a minor scale, my trips around Europe with Inter-rail in my 20s; and we thought that was something....

Loved the pictures of the Tibetan landscapes, really great.

How much is left of Tibetan culture besides the tourist minded attractions?

It is certainly a place to visit, in my book, when? What really put me behind is the altitude, I tend to get altitude sickness pretty easy, as when I traveled to North Eastern Argentina... until I discovered coca leaves tea which was served at every cafeteria in the area and was the best remedy I could find. What are the traditional remedies for it in Tibet?

Thanks a lot, a real pleasure to look and read.

Salut!

Roger



"At reise er at leve" H.C. Andersen (Travelling is Living)
User currently offlineckblah From Singapore, joined Jul 2010, 60 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (4 years 1 week 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 8315 times:

Quoting Rogerbcn (Reply 10):
How much is left of Tibetan culture besides the tourist minded attractions?

It is certainly a place to visit, in my book, when? What really put me behind is the altitude, I tend to get altitude sickness pretty easy, as when I traveled to North Eastern Argentina... until I discovered coca leaves tea which was served at every cafeteria in the area and was the best remedy I could find. What are the traditional remedies for it in Tibet?

You can actually experience a lot of Tibetan culture! My tour guide and drivers were Tibetan, so we did ask them quite a lot of questions on how Tibetans lead their lives, their wedding, funeral, etc. Even in the tourist minded monasteries, you'll see many devout devotees carrying either bags of yak butter or flasks of oil, eagerly filling up the lamps in the chapels.

I would think that summer to early autumn would be the best time to visit. Say, July to early October.

As for local remedies, I took a Tibetan medicine made from rhodiola root. It comes in capsules and is red in colour. I only experienced headaches at the higher altitudes (above 4400m) which panadol extra solved. :P


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