We were a party of three, a Swiss couple and a German doctor. We had been to China several times, once to Tibet. This time, we wanted to visit Guangzhou and from there to go on to Lhasa to catch the train there back to Guangzhou.
After Guangzhou, we went to Dali to get into contact with Henriette Buist at Jim´s Tibetan Hotel [firstname.lastname@example.org or www.china-travel.nl]. We planned the trip like this, after our stay in Shangri-la:
7 day route:
Day 1 Zhongdian (3200 m) -Deqin (7 hrs drive) (3480 m)
Visit: Dongzhulin monastery and nunnery
Day 2 Deqin-Yanjing (6 hrs drive) (3109 m)
On the road: Mt. Meili, Catholic church, hot springs
Day 3 Yanjing-Dzogong (9 hrs drive) (3780 m)
Views of Mnt. Hongla, Weise monastery (Markham)
Day 4 Dzogong-Pasho (7 hrs drive) (3700 m)
Bamda monastery, Mnt.Yela, Nujiang river
Day 5 Pasho-Rawok-Pome (2743 m) (7 hrs drive)
Day 6 Pome- Basum Tso Lake (7 hrs drive) (3100 m)
Mnt. Serkymla, Lamaling monastery
Day 7 Basum Tso- Ganden monastery-Lhasa (7-8 hrs drive) (3500 m)
Let’s see, what came out of our plans.
We took a bus to Shangri-la and went on to our Hotel next to the Samtsoling temple. We spent two days to acclimatize, when suddenly the borders to the Tibetan Autonomous Region were closed. All permits revoked! So we made up a new plan, let’s call it plan B: 1. Sangri-la to Xiancheng, 2. Litang, 3. Gandze, 4. Manigango, 5. Dege, 5. Manigango to Shiqu, 6. on to Yushu, 7. stay at Yushu, 8. to Maduo, 9. to Ganghe, 10. to Tsaka, 11. Gangcha (North road Qinghai Lake), 12. Huangyuan and Huangzhong, 13. Xining.
But the next day we had to cancel plan B, too, as the Chinese authorities closed also the Tibetan regions, that lie in others provinces like Yunnan or Qinghai. So, on to plan C : 1. fly the Chengdu, 2. Chendu – Kangding, 3. Kangding – Tagong, 4. Tagong – Danba, 5. Danba – Maerkam, 6. Maerkam – Hongyuan, 7. Hongyuan – Zoige, 8. Zoige – Langmusi, 9. Langmusi – Xiahe, 10. Xiahe (Labrang), 11. Xiahe – Tongren (grasslands), 12. Tongren – Kumbum – Xining, 13. Xining – Bird Islang / Huangyuan, 14. Huangyuan, 15. fly to Guangzhou.
But it didn’t come to plan B and C as finally, all tourists with older permits were allowed to travel on. Only, we didn’t get a permit for Basum-tso.
Normally, we travel on our own, but that’s permitted in TAR. So we had to rent a car with driver and guide from Lhase, which was expertly done by Henriette Buist. As I studied Chinese, I can still write and speak it fairly well (see for yourself at twitter.com, where I write as rheumatologe). As the journey progressed and we had been stopped for health inspection, baggage inspection, car inspection, passport inspection, permit inspection, and so on, I was happy, that I didn’t have to spend time to find out what should be ispected, because it was randomly done. In the small towns our permits had to be registered yt the police. Now these small town are getting big town, the Tibetan village expands into a big Han Chinese town. These towns aren’t much to tell about. But the landscape on the Southern route was extremely wonderful and would make the trip alone worth while.
Some highlights: Dzondrupling Gompa (東竹林寺), Baima Pass (白馬雪山) and Meili Mountain (梅理雪山根明永冰川), the upper areas of Mekong and Salween, after Rawok (然鳥) the Lhegu glacier (米堆冰川), Lamaling monastery (喇嘛寧寺), and Ganden monastery (甘丹寺).
Lhasa was heavily guarded with posts at every streetcorner and busstop. A platoon with fire extinguishers, communication, First Aid kits, and of course guns was marching anticlockwise around the Barkhor. They changed the platoon every hour. The pilgrims, however, weren’t much impressed and did their kora. We’ve been to Lhasa and Tibet before (1998) and were surprised about the many things that hadn’t changed. There are even more pilgrims nowadays, profiting from better infrastructure. I’ve seen elderly ladies coming out of buses with rucksacks – maybe a new age of older backpackers.
We left Lhase on train. Before we could enter the train, we needed to fill out a Passenger Health Declaration form (“My health condition can adapt 3,000 m above high elevation area travel”) – very strange as we were already at this altitude. The ride was very nice and again above 5000 m, showing plains in sunshine and in snowstorm. To tell the truth: after the high altitude area the train ride lost its flair, though Guangdong showed some nice regions. I’d suggest to get out of the train in Xining and fly out, whereever you’re heading to.
Lothar M. Kirschhttp://twitter.com/Rheumatologe
And I like to throw in some pictures.
Ploughing hard on beast and boy
From Dong Da Pass - above 5000 m
Preparing for winter
Snow covers the mountains
Trying to prevent landslides with prayer flags
Serene lake Rawok
On Lhegu glacier
Prostrating pilgrims - already on the road to Lhasa for nine months
A good bridge
Keep the prayer wheel turning for prayers to be sent into the world
Pilgrims at Ganden
Golden bells on the roof
Prostrating in front of the Jokhang
Pilgrims at the Barkhor
Spinning a small prayer wheel