A Travellerspoint blog

Lhasa, Tibet

The long awaited journey

sunny 65 °F

After months of planning and permit uncertainty we were actually on the train to Lhasa! Although controversial in Tibet, the railway connects Beijing and Shanghai to the highest train station in the world at Lhasa (above 3,500m) via the highest railway pass in the world (over 5,000m) and in the process passes by the highest lake in the world (Lake Nam Co above 4,700m). The graph of the trip looks sorta like this:

The journey passes through unbelievable terrain including Tibetan villages with their unique square like architecture with their longhaired Yaks grazing in the plains all towered by picturesque mountain ranges. As we were sitting by the window we noticed that there were two little red hearts pinned to our curtains. There were no other curtains with these markers and no other white folks on the train so we started asking the other cabin members and determined that they were ‘foreigner’ markers. Who knows why we had to be marked but we thought we’d have some fun with ‘em and wore them around for a while.

Lhasa is sadly very much like it is described in Wikitravel – flooded by the Chinese Military. There are always two points of view on how history has come to pass. In this case there is the Chinese run Tibetan History Museum we visited in Lhasa where the “Peaceful Liberation of Tibet” is boldly proclaimed and then there is the BBC documentary series on China we watched as well as the blockbuster called “7 years in Tibet” which both show a not-so-peaceful conquering of Tibet. We decided to spend half of our time with Ganlan in a newly established Chinese part of town called Jia Malinka where we enjoyed some of Ganlan’s home cooked Chinese food and talked about what it is like to be Chinese living in Lhasa. We then we moved into the Tibetan quarter for a contrasting experience where we had some homemade Tibetan food at Mima’s house including sambat, dried yak cheese, butter tea and some barley beer transported from his village in an old oil 2L bottle. Conversations on politics were extremely hush-hush even in the comfort of his home.

Our Tibetan guide Tashi gave us a breakdown of how to find locally owned businesses. We were then off and exploring sweet tea houses, slurping dumpling soup, and dominating momos one by one… the Tibetan tea houses welcomed us in but we were definitely not their normal customers and it was an experience all together trying to order. Luckily ‘momo’ was easy to pronounce and we are now comfortable using other patrons’ food as a menu selection.

Instead of basing our touring around visiting all of the monasteries in Lhasa, we continued with our “unorthodox yet effective” lifestyle and cycled around the city. We still rode around to see some of the major tourist sites, stopped to walk the clockwise circumambulation path at Sera Monastery and trekked the mountain high above the Pabongkha Monastery. To say the weather was good would be a complete understatement, it was AWESOME and had us excited for what we hoped would be clear days at Everest base camp.

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 00:45 Archived in China

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by megandibiase

Your trip to Tibet is absolutely astonishing and the pictures are wonderful. In Losaling Monastery, Southern India where monks in exile study, I have a young Tibetan monk who yearns for any information from his homeland. I will be sending him most of your blog on Tibet. However I was wondering if you could copy a few pictures that show Lhasa and Tibet. The one above of the city with the city with mountains behind it is wonderful. He and 34 other monks walked for a week without food to cross into India. I see your pictures and wonder how they crossed those mountains and lived. They had to travel in winter to escape. Thank you for this wonderful blog.

by Sharilyn

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