Posts Tagged With: Lhasa

Day 102: Lhasa (拉萨) – September 27th

Returning to Lhasa again, we had a few errands to run. Most importantly, we had to pick up our laptop charger! The worst part about not having a connected device is that, you don’t have the option of looking up any useful information while traveling (GPS, phone numbers etc), or to resolve arguments amongst ourselves (i.e. which was the world’s largest empire in history, what is the capital of Switzerland etc).

With charger in hand, we proceeded to get a much needed haircut as it’s been bad-hair-day for well over a week already. Walking into the local streets of Lhasa and finding a barber, Alan got a wash and cut for a whopping $15RMB, or the price of a small fries at McDs back home. And before we said farewell to Lhasa, we sat down for a few more cups of delicious milk tea and took some night shots of the majestic Potala Palace….

Farewell Lhasa…. It’s been nice to see you, but now we won’t have to deal with boatloads of tourists, artistic youth vending Nepalese wares on the street and over-privileged 20-somethings with an early-life crisis. We did meet some great people along the way, but we were just extremely lucky!


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Day 80: Lhasa (拉萨) – September 5th

In the morning, both of us felt slightly worst than the day before and figured we should see the doctor again. We went into the Military Police Hospital, which serves both the public and the military police. The nurses here rock! And the doctors use different medicines, so afterwards we both felt better after the IV treatment, yay!

Through a stroke of luck, we managed to find another couple looking to head into the Ali region with similar interests, and we booked our 15-17day trip, departing tomorrow! Awesome!

We spent the rest of the day preparing meds and foods for the trip, as the average altitude will be around 4200m above sea level. The trip includes many scenic lakes, Everest Base Camp, numerous glaciers and even some wildlife sightings (real wildlife, untamed by mankind).

Can’t wait! Finally we can get back on the road!

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Day 79: Lhasa (拉萨) – September 4th

Visiting the Potala Palace, which is one part of the UNESCO world heritage site broadly labeled “The Historic Ensemble of Potala Palace”, which also includes a separate ‘summer palace’ and the Jokhang monastery. Aesthetically, Potala Palace is really impressive, with its long staircase, atonal buildings and red/white colour palette.

The walk up was not that bad except it being a bit hot, and no liquids were allowed except for over-priced water sold at the very top. The walkway was pretty darn cool, as the rocks used were ‘imported’ from the Himalayas! Most of the mud/brick walls though, were still built with the awesome song+hammering process we saw a few days before.

Inside, no pictures were allowed so we can’t really share the excitement. To be honest, like most other castles of old (think Versailles, Schonbrunn), the exterior architecture is much more grandiose than the interior. The stories though are rather interesting, but again its got a distinctive ‘influenced’ flavour. The most impressive parts of the interior are the stupas of passed Dalai Lamas and Banchengs. Specifically, the stupa of the 5th Dalai Lama, which apparently uses over 3700KG of gold in addition to countless precious gems. Seriously, there is so much gold used in the stupas, it feels like it was bronze and nothing special at all!

Interesting Facts:

  • The label, Dalai Lama was ‘officially’ granted to the 3rd Dalai Lama by then Mongol ruler, and was posthumously applied to the 1st and 2nd.

  • The exterior ‘red’ parts of the Potala Palace is actually made of grain stalks mixed with Tibetan medicine! It can withstand 500years of wear and tear and earthquakes!!

  • Potala Palace was created by the 5th Dalai, whom unified Tibet both religiously and politically

  • It is now a museum, and not a place of worship.
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Day 78: Lhasa (拉萨) – September 3rd

Being sick is all part of the process of travelling, but being sick in high altitudes seem to complicate things. The biggest difference is that recovery rates are slloooowww! Jiajia’s been sick ever since riding that bus from Yushu into Xining, and hasn’t recovered since and seems to have gotten worst.

We were planning for a 17-day trip around the rural parts of Tibet (Ali region) with an average elevation of well over 4200m! The trail is bare bones, without roads and very limited modern day facilities such as hospitals. To be on the safe side, we probably need to get better before heading out.

So we went to the hospital, got everything checked out and got some prescription. The one difference in visiting the doctor in China is that, they like to do IV drips. Thinking it being the fastest way to recovery, we gladly followed suit! And coming up with a minor cough, we thought we might as well both get the treatment just to be ‘safe’. Continue reading

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Day 77: Lhasa (拉萨) – September 2nd

To visit Potala Palace, you have to line up the day before for the next day’s ticket. Sleeping in, we missed out on buying tickets, some people actually start lining up at 5am, but we hear tickets are still for sale at 10am so we’ll sleep in a bit for another day =)

We took a bus up to Drepung monastery, and after a brisk walk up (which monastery isn’t set aside on top of a mountain?), we were welcomed by a massive gate and a ticket booth asking us for $60/person. One nifty way of travelling within China is that, they’ve always seemed to have a way to get in for free! So we turned away from the entrance and started walking along the local Tibetan village dirt roads up the mountain. At the top of the mountain we were greeted by our friends who showed us the way =)

The problem was, the main entrance way was about 3km downhill from the actual monastery, and there’s ticket hoarders everywhere!! We got halfway up towards the monastery past what resembles a small peasant shopping alley where locals sold their grossly overpriced wares, but were quickly spotted by an officer in a cowboy hat, so we had no choice but to walk backwards on the dirt road. Not wanting to waste our efforts, the 6 of us stepped off the dirt road from the shopping alley, and into a dried up river in an attempt to flank the monastery as the river cuts through the back end. As we all dropped down into the river, we heard this strange laughter that scared us a bit, but looking backwards we didn’t see anybody out there to catch us. So we beat on, hiking up along the river-bed where poop (human), old scripture paper and single shoes lay. Continue reading

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Day 74: Lhasa (拉萨) – September 1st

To most, Lhasa is really a magical place. Some arrive with their loved ones, some arrive to forget certain loved ones, some arrive with the sense of victory whilst conquering the treacherous roads, some arrive to pay their utmost respect to the holiest land in their hearts. Most importantly, whenever people return to Lhasa, all of their hopes and dreams are filled to the brim, and nobody leaves without having the city touch their hearts.

Seriously, this place is pretty freakin’ interesting. The most interesting part is the people you meet here. People arrive in Lhasa with some sort of alternative mindset and are extremely welcoming. Here’s a quick summary of people we’ve met.

Sharing our 6 bedroom hostel is

-An artist from Hong Kong. Not quite sure what he paints, but he definitely got the perverted long hair and ‘artsy’ glasses to match with.
-A pair of girls who are sharing a bed (because there’s not enough beds in the hostel), and apparently in love but can only meet once a year.

Random people we met:

-A well travelled older gentleman from Hong Kong we met at a restaurant, whose been coming to Lhasa for the past 10 years. And I quote “There is not a place you can name that I’ve never been.”
-Two guys from Jiangsu who are best friends after playing DOTA
-A 22 year old Chinese herbal medicine whole-seller, who repeated Grade 3 three times, and gave up school afterwards.
-Multiple groups of riding their bikes into Lhasa

The city itself is small, extremely walkable, and centralized mostly around the infamous Potala Palace and the Peaceful Liberation Monument Square, which is bisected by “Beijing Middle Road”. It actually reminded us of Tiananmen Square in Beijing, but instead of the Forbidden Palace its the Potala Palace. During the day, its impression is full of grandeur and a not-so-impressive white. BUT, when we headed to view the night views, the views were breathtaking and pictures do absolutely no justice to it.

Not sure exactly how to pinpoint it, as it may be a combination of the cops/military stations every 100m, or the infinite amount of Tibetans praying around town, or maybe the numerous cozy coffee shops, the feeling of being in a ‘sensitive’ area, and multitude of a wide array of cuisine, but there’s one thing that’s certain. Lhasa is amazing.

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Day 73: Lhasa (拉萨) – August 31

Waking up in the train, we stuffed ourselves with cookies and checked out the surroundings a bit. This train was much better than our previous trips, most likely because there wasn’t that many people on the train. It also seems like all the trains going into Lhasa are specially equipped with nicer beds, windows, water heaters, everything! The people working were also much more friendly and chatted with us quite a bit.

The total distance of the Qinghai-Tibet railway ( ) spanning 1956km, and is the highest train service operating in the world! Passing through Tanggula railway station, which is next to the Tanggula mountain ranges and Cuonahu (措那湖), the second-highest fresh-water lake in China. And after crossing the mountains, we are official in Tibet!!!

The railroad is considered one of the four greatest modern engineering feats in China, and it definitely deserves the title. After leaving Golmud (格儿木), the train begins pumping oxygenated-air into the cabin to combat the effects of high altitude, as there were parts of the ride that surpasses 4900m elevation! Apparently water used to flush toilets have to be heated to avoid freezing in pipes since it gets so cold outside.

The strangest part was, despite being in SERIOUSLY “the middle of nowhere” for a long period of time, you still see nomadic life scattered throughout, herding yaks and sheep in places where elevation rises well above 4500m. It really is a testament to the strength of human beings….

Two cup noodles and a couple of naps later, we finally arrived in Lhasa! And when we got there, we were greeted by….. a thunderstorm!?!? Seriously, seems like wherever we go, the rain clouds have been following us! From the desert cities of Dunhuang to the dry high-elevation climate of Lhasa… We’ve been consistently welcomed to most cities with pouring rain!

We found a hostel, and met a bunch of people to travel with. Some people we met at the hostel actually rode their bikes well over 2000km in high-altitude to arrive into Lhasa, and they checked in right before us. For dinner, the group of 5 went to celebrate by feasting on 50 lamb skewers and 2 cases of beer, all at a nice and cozy elevation of 3600m above sea level….. balls.

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