(filtered by month 'August 2009')

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Sunday, 12th of July. Our plan is to go to Drepung Monastery. It was optional program and only 4 people decided to go. Maybe because it is expected to be worse than Ganden Monastery yesterday and the price is only slightly lower than we paid for Ganden.

Original intention was to use taxi as it is cheaper than bus, but when Tenzin went to police to obtain permit he was told groups are not allowed to use 2 taxis, they need to go as a group by bus. "Don't you know the rules?!?". Strange...

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On Saturday 11th of July I finally started to feel completely well. And it is about time because we are heading to Ganden Monastery with altitude even higher than Lhasa is at and we will have some walk with nice views today. I am looking forward for that!

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We looked forward to explore Lhasa for nearly a year since we decided to go and paid deposit. It finally happened on Friday 10th of July.

I could not sleep whole night, but not because of excitement. It was due to headache caused by time shift (I had some problems since Monday) mixed with problems with high altitude. And to make it worse I forgot to buy enough bottles of water in the evening and I was really thirsty. Drinking tap water is not the best idea as we were told and I eventually tried it myself (it was bitter). So shortly after midnight I set out for a quest. To find the bottle of water somewhere in the hotel. I have tried to ask some people in courtyard, I am not sure they were employees or they just lived there. Then I tried reception. It was deserted, but after short time dark figures got out of the sofas in the lobby. Receptionist and some more staff members were sleeping there (sorry guys). No water as well (or just too annoyed staff?).

So the first thing after "waking up" in the morning was that I went out to city to buy water. Most of shops we have seen yesterday were still closed. Only a few of them were preparing for next working day. But all of them located around hotel sold clothes, shoes and souvenirs so I had to wander further away.

It is pity I was primed to my task so much I could not concentrate and enjoy morning life around Jokhang Temple. It is very nice experience, Tibetan pilgrims going around it on the sacred path of worship named kora. They are nicely dressed, with prayer wheels in the hand. Some of them are doing prostrations.

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Thursday, 9th of July. Waking up soon today will be rewarded later by seeing Tibet! But first we need to pay for it by inconvenience of breakfast box like yesterday.

I am not very happy that sky is blue today, because we cannot take advantage of it. But it gives a promise we are heading to place where sky is blue, snow is white, the yaks are black and ... well, I am getting a bit too much poetic.

We nearly missed our plane, because after security check we went quickly to gate and we were the last passengers getting to the plane. I would say passport control took longer than I am used to, because they could not understand we have group Visa to Tibet so that all 19 people need to go through the same booth while there are 2 other idling. Eventually they decided to share us between themselves without checking one piece of paper with Visa. The security check took longer too.

Our flight was not direct, we stopped in the Chengdu, with some delay. After 30 minutes we got to the same plane, this time delayed even longer before we took off.

Sky was really cloudy during most of the flight and we had terrible visibility in Chengdu, so I slowly stopped hoping I will see Himalayas from the plane. But sky cleared partially shortly before landing in Lhasa so we could see very nice mountains through windows on both sides of plane. It is pity we were not sitting next to window, so we could not take any pictures. Next time...

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Wednesday, 8th of July. Wake up call is at 6am. We are leaving in 30 minutes because Rich wants to beat crowds at Great Wall. I like this approach. It suits me well. If I can come somewhere soon I usually do it.

We have been warned about breakfasts in Chinese hotels, but that is nothing compared to warning we have received regarding today. The breakfast boxes hotels give to people who cannot come to proper breakfast are terrible. They were probably invented to torture people by hunger. So I cheated a bit and ate a few things I brought with myself. It did not help at all :-( Unfortunately this was not the only time we ended up with dreaded breakfast box. Well, even getting to places before crowd forms has some disadvantages.

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China Day 2 - Beijing

Added: August 09, 2009

Tags: China city lake photos

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Morning 7th of July starts with a wake up call. Twice. Either human factor or failure of technique. Or too eager receptionist. Or maybe I did not say Xie Xie (谢谢) the first time, because I thought it is an automatic call.

Rich has warned us during briefing yesterday breakfast in China is different from what we are used to. It is the same stuff you will get for dinner. So he usually does not bother with it. But not us! We came here to taste as much of Chinese meals as possible... at least I did (well I looked forward for Tibetan meals more, but that does not eliminate Chinese ones).

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China Day 1 - Beijing

Added: August 03, 2009

Tags: China city photos

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After 10 long hours of flying we landed at modern Terminal 3 in Beijing. But it was not over yet. We had to wait till Swine Flu Prevention Squad measures temperature of all passengers. Now, we will see if all of them were coughing and choking for nothing. And whether my claim in Flu Assessment paper "I have not been in close contact with anybody with flu symptoms" is correct.

Great, we (and everybody else) passed! So now to get rid of assessment and to pass infra thermometers in terminal. Success again. It looks like doors to China are open for us! Yippee! And I can say they take swine flu more seriously than in UK.

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China, Tibet and Total solar eclipse

Added: August 02, 2009

Tags: China info photos

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Last week we have returned from our 3 weeks long vacation in China. It was amazing holidays. It was our first vacation with a tour operator. We decided to use tour operator because it is not easy for individuals to get to Tibet. Visa are hard to get and going out of Lhasa needs "paperwork" too. Not to mention it is very hard to read Chinese for us ;-) , "nobody" speaks English and it is not possible to book train tickets online (tickets can be bought 2 days ahead and that does not suit my life style well).

We were bit unsure how it will be with operator, because we prefer to travel alone, but I have to say Explore outdid all our expectations. It seems Explore is oriented to customers similar to us (just older). And our tour leader Rich made our experience even better. He was fantastic. He worked hard to satisfy everybody (that is very hard in my point of view) and he succeeded. He helped Zuzka in restaurants to get meals suiting her allergy and he stopped bus any time he heard me taking pictures frantically (yes, I started to take photos through windows of bus, which is... not very satisfying).

I have taken unbelievable number of photos, all our colleagues were shocked or amused after learning how many I have made. But many of them were just repeating existing photo just in case previous one was not good (remember - many of them were taken in bus or train (Rich could not stop train for me unfortunately)). So total number of independent compositions is much smaller...

I am in the middle of processing them now and it will take some time before I am done, but I am able to publish about a few days from beginning. So stay close to Internet :-)

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