What I learned in Tibet

This has also become a regular feature on my blog. Here are my observations from Tibet.

1. There is a police station/desk every corner. So carrying your passport and visa is a mandatory.

2. Sweet tea with yak milk is heavenly. Just don’t look too closely on what it’s served in.

3. People in Lhasa wear more face masks than in Beijing (said Sylvia and I now have to agree).

4. I should have bought a yak shawl while in Kathmandu. Never mind, too late now.

5. The Tibetans eat solely with a spoon.

6. The smell of the butter in the temples is almost intoxicating.

7. Also the butter is spilled everywhere in the temples, so get used to sticky feet.

8. There are only so many monasteries you can watch.

9. If you are wondering what kind of philosophical questions a monk might have for you, the monk we saw wanted to know if I color my hair.

10. The Chinese in Tibet were the unfriendliest of all of China. Maybe because they know they don’t belong there?

Goodbye Tibet

Our last day in Lhasa started without breakfast. Due to the lack of guests there was no Chinese buffet waiting for but actually only an empty dining room. But somebody must have noticed because after a while we got some tea, coffee and Western breakfast (fried egg, bacon and grilled tomato). Not the start I would have wished for, but what can I say.

At 11:30 our guide and driver arrived to bring us to the airport and after a relatively easy security check we were waiting for our plane. This was delayed as every other flight that day, but eventually we boarded and left Lhasa.

Three hours later we arrived in Xi’an where I got off and Sylvia changed plane to Urumqi.

I helped her to check-in since she was taking my warm clothes back home and then she came with me to the airport shuttle. It was time to say goodbye, we hugged (actually quite often) and then I was on my own.

The shuttle came and I got my first idea how it will be with the Chinese. There was no lining up, there was just ‘who is first on the bus’. Clearly I had the wrong tactic but I managed to store my backpack and get a seat on the bus.

Although the hostel had a description on their website on how to get there, it was not as easy. I got off in the city with everybody else but then couldn’t find the 603 bus station to get to the hostel. At least I could see it driving by and I just followed in its wake. When I found a bus station that looked like the ones in Lhasa, I stopped and hoped for the best.

The best was then a young couple who asked me in English if I was waiting for the bus. I had been forewarned that all approaching Chinese are scammers and just want to steal something so I tried to keep my distance. But they insisted and also told me to take care of my belongings since their phone got stolen the day before, so I just followed since the stop I was waiting at was clearly not the right place.

And here I have to apologize to them because they brought me to the right stop and were really helpful! I got on the bus, and after two stations and some more running around in back alleys I found my hostel, the Han Tang House where a dorm bed waited for me.

I loved the good start to my traveling adventure. Let’s see what else it holds in store. Yours, Pollybert

Back to Lhasa and Lake Yamdrok

After yesterday’s work we had nothing on our tour program except to return to town. Which we did with several toilet stops. Since the air was so dry we had to drink a lot. And as long as you can pee you don’t have a health issue or so according to Dr. Sylvia. Whatever, we were all very healthy.

We made it back to our hotel and after a power nap of 2 hours we once again took the bus downtown. As I said before Sylvia was fed up with Chinese food so we went to Lhasa kitchen (the restaurant from the first day) again. There in the dining room was also an old picture of Lhasa on how it had looked before it was remodeled into a Chinese satellite city.IMG_1828
On the way into town we had noticed at the bus stop a coffee place where someone spoke German.IMG_1830 IMG_1831 But on the way to it I saw a street seller with a bracelet I liked and haggled with her until the price was right. And what a surprise, Sylvia bought it for me as birthday gift, so I will have something from her with me for the rest of the trip! I think she would have preferred to travel further with me, but now the bracelet will do it in her stead.IMG_2831

And it was to this German café that we went after dinner to enjoy a cup of excellent coffee and a cheese cake made from yak curd. Delicious!! The owner of the little place had lived for 15 years in Switzerland and also in Vorarlberg. It was such a pleasure to talk to someone in German here. Definitely worth a visit if you are ever in Lhasa.IMG_1967

After coffee we went home and that was it for day 5 in Tibet. Suddenly it was already our last full day. Since we had had enough of the monasteries we had asked on the second day for a change and instead of seeing more religious places we went to see Yamdrok lake.

Another scenic drive awaited us and we made several stops on the way (also for the police when necessary).IMG_1833 IMG_1836 IMG_1837 IMG_1843 IMG_1848 IMG_1855 IMG_1856 IMG_1862 IMG_1865 IMG_1867 IMG_1868IMG_1871 IMG_1872 IMG_1963 IMG_1880 IMG_1881

The lake was beautiful but since the sky was a bit overcast the view was lacking. Still we had a good time taking more pictures and it was clearly preferable to more monasteries. At the pass it was so quite cold and Sylvia said that she saw flurries in the air. It was definitely nippy at 4441m.IMG_1882 IMG_1883 IMG_1966 IMG_1895 IMG_1896 IMG_1900 IMG_1915 IMG_1917 IMG_1920 IMG_1921 IMG_1922

We drove back to the hotel and agreed on a time for our ‘Welcome Dinner’. Since we had missed to do that on the second evening we made it into a farewell dinner.

Another bus ride into the city (by then we felt like locals) and we met Dundhup at his favorite tea house in the center. Restaurants have a grading system A to C with A being indicated with a green smiley and C with a red mean face, ours had a C (probably already a health hazard).

We were greeted by our guide at the door and set down at a table on which a rag laid that I wouldn’t even use to clean the toilet. But here it was good enough to clean the table and also to stay on it for the entire dinner. And still the food was yummy, so we all need to relax with the hygiene standards.
We each had a soup (mine with yak) and then rice with more vegetables. It was served with pickled radishes which were so good that Sylvia asked for seconds and thirds (and then drank the pickle juice).IMG_1972
Then it was time to make the bus ride home while Dundhup jumped on his electric bike with a pink license plate! Yours, Pollybert

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Exploring the Yalong valley

The next morning we left already at 7:30, we had a long drive ahead to the Yalong valley. There we wanted to see the Samye Monastery. This was the first time we left the city and noticed that there were police controls every 45 minutes or so. We often had to show our passports, plus in the city of Tsedang on the way to the monastery our guide had to get another permit for us to visit said monastery.

The drive to it was very scenic and we made a longer stop at a river where you could see the monastery from across but due to a missing bridge we had another 2 hours drive ahead. As you can see the highlight of this stop was a dog with blue eyes. Sylvia was clearly in love.IMG_1706 IMG_1708 IMG_1713 IMG_1714 IMG_1715 IMG_1717 IMG_1719 IMG_1724 IMG_1728IMG_1739IMG_1742IMG_1745IMG_1811
Finally we arrived at the Samye monastery and while it was impressive with three different levels (lower: Tibetan, second: Chinese, third: Indian style), it was basically more of the same (including disgusting toilets, the word washroom is definitely wrong here since there was never any water to wash the hands).IMG_1753 IMG_1755 IMG_1756 IMG_1759IMG_1761IMG_1765IMG_1767IMG_1768
Then it was time for lunch which we had at the monastery’s restaurant. After that we drove back to Tsedang and already did the program for the next day. First was a stop at the Yambulakang Palace, the most important palace in the country since here the ‘first five’ happened.
First palace, first monastery, first city, first king, first written word (at least I think these were the first five).

Here in this little village I also saw the worst toilet imaginable, I will spare you the details though. What was even more offensive was that they wanted money for it which I flat out refused. So the guide paid them and when I had calmed down sufficiently I paid him back. But it still irks me!!

As usual there was a walk up to be done and this one looked very steep. Sylvia was glad that she brought her trekking sticks with her and looked only a little bit worse for the wear upon her arrival on top.IMG_1781 IMG_1783 IMG_1812 IMG_1788 IMG_1789 IMG_1791 IMG_1813 IMG_1794
The view was amazing from the top, we could see the whole valley and understood why the first palace was built here. IMG_1787 IMG_1795 IMG_1797

On the way down we saw some horses that looked interesting because of their forelock! These here are for Cat!IMG_1799 IMG_1800 IMG_1801 IMG_1804 IMG_1805
And since we were already doing so well we also went to the second program point for the next day, the Tradruk Temple. No pictures from here because really more of the same although it was our last one for this trip.

A short while later we checked into our hotel for the night in Tsedang and were pleasantly surprised by the heater in the bathroom. Also the room was a bit warmer than the one in Lhasa and this although here we were told that the heating was not working. It was still warmer though.

Dinner was a tasty affair in a small Tibetan restaurant with more yak meat for me and vegetables for Sylvia. After the meal we went back to the hotel and rested our weary bones. Yours, Pollybert