We didnt think we would be getting to Tibet, but we managed it and what a place it is….
Filed Under: Tibet by Rob November 18, 2012, 10:17
We arrived in Kathmandu, and had planned 3 weeks in Nepal. Back when we planned the trip in May we had tried to schedule in a 1 week trip into Tibet, but come July the Chinese gov decided to stop all visas and no tour company could help. Then in August they started them up again, but blocked 6 random countries, the UK being one of them. You also needed to be in a group of 5 or more, so it looked like we wouldn’t get in. We kept talking with 3-4 companies about trying but they couldn’t do anything. A few weeks before we were due to arrive we were lucky enough to find a company called ITourNepal, and they said they should be able to get us in. Well, we didn’t find out until the night before we were supposed to fly into Lhasa, but we magically got all the paperwork and everything back that night, so we were set!
The few days before Tibet we spent chilling in Kathmandu. What a lovely place! Food was great, there was shopping everywhere and people were really friendly. We stayed in the tourist area Thamel and did some sightseeing to the famous Durbar Square on a rickshaw. We had a few meetings with the tour company and the owners Rabi & Shiva, they explained everything about our trip to Tibet, and we also booked a 8 day trek in the Annapurna mountains for when we came back to Nepal. They were great and thought about everything for us.
We flew into Lhasa and the first 3 days we spent there, we saw the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery, and fought against the altitude sickness that we were getting because we were at 3600 meters. We had headaches a lot of the time, and it was just impossible to climb more than about 10 steps at a time before you got out of breath. It made you feel like you were a 90 year old asthmatic.The only thing we could do to combat it was drink tons of water, it was recommended 5 litres a day and rest a lot.
The Potala Palace was unbelievable. So many things inside, all there from 100s of years ago, books, tombs, statues, tons of things. Our guide, Bhuchung, was great, he knew everything about it all, so we had a good idea of the history behind everything. The other monasteries were also great, but Lhasa did have one thing that wasn’t so good…
Everywhere you look you see police and military guys. Along the streets they would sit around tables just seemingly doing nothing. Until of course Rob decides to take a photo of a street market and didn’t realise that there was a group of them in front of him. Once we got closer to them they ran over and asked us to give them our camera and that we needed to delete the photo we had just taken. Little bit intimidating to have 4 police and a military guy surrounding you.
After the 3 days in Lhasa we then started our 1000km jeep journey back to Kathmandu, passing through the Himalayas. We had a driver and guide who drove us, and it took 4 days of travelling, going through passes up to 5200 meters. At that height it was almost impossible to do anything more than walk a few meters from the jeep and back again. But the scenery was amazing. We stopped for the night at Gyantse, then Xigatse, and finally the border town of Zhangmu.
All along the way we saw towering snow topped mountains, lakes, and lovely little Tibetan villages. Unfortunately, we were supposed to see MT Everest at a certain point, but it was cloudy and we couldn’t see it. Not too bad as we had seen it earlier from the plane when we flew here, but it would have been nice to see from ground level also. We were supposed to go to the Everest base camp as well, but unfortunately the Chinese had restricted all access to that area.
About every 50km there were police checkpoints setup. We found out that we actually had a maximum and minimum time that we had to get between the points, so that they could monitor where we were! It was a bit like playing a racing game on the computer and having to get pass the checkpoints within time limits
On the final morning we crossed the border with lots of checking on the Tibet side, and then just a quick check on the Nepal side and we were into Nepal. Those Chinese sure are paranoid. The guys behind us got stopped and it took them 1hr to get through because they found a lonely planet book in their luggage and it had a picture of the Dalai Lama in it.
The trip back to Kathmandu was quite hair raising. We spent about 4 hrs going down a valley with near vertical cliffs, and a very narrow unsealed road. Every now and again the road basically disappeared into just rocks as we get to an area where there had been a landslide… It was beautiful to see, and we were glad we were doing this after the monsoon season, as that is when all the landslides happen! Also the smaller jeep we were in looked far safer than one of the local buses that hardly fitted on the track.
We were back in Kathmandu after 6 hrs, and quickly had to prepare for our trek, as we left early the next morning….
It was a wonderful experience to see Tibet, and we really were lucky to get the Visas. Rabi & Shiva from the tour company were excellent guys. They managed to get the visas that no one else could, and they organised everything for us and it all went so smoothly. I can only say great things about them and the Tibetan guide they picked for us, they were with us all the time and were a wealth of knowledge and info. I would recommend using them for anything you need in Nepal or Tibet.
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