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China Day 4 - Heading to Lhasa

Added: August 15, 2009

Tags: Tibet city mountains photos river
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...

Road to Lhasa

There is nice and modern airport in Lhasa. With only a few planes a day chores were quick. We stepped out of terminal, into hot air (in my opinion). It was unbelievably bright, beautiful blue sky was covered with fair number of nice white clouds. Very nice (but bare of snow) mountains were all around.

Our bus was already waiting also with our local guide Tenzin. We got a gift from him - white silk scarf khata or hada Tibetans traditionally give to guests, use for ceremonies and in temples.

We decided we will not sit on one side, but took seats on both sides to cover whole "perimeter". It did not took me long time to start taking photos through window. I hate it, because photos are terrible due to reflections and white balance is off, but it was impossible to resist. At least I sat at side with less attractive views, otherwise I would spend "years" editing them in vain attempt to fix as many as possible.

Two photos from the bus. Many others were much worse.


Fortunately we made 2 stops along the road. All cars going in both directions were honking horns at us like mad. Only later Rich told us it is mandatory in China, they have defined situations when they need to honk.

Both places were wonderful. Well, whole road was wonderful, if we went by private car I bet it would take us 6 hours to drive 60km (or how far it is). Every few metres there was nice spot for taking photos.

Typical house in Tibet.


Yarlung Zangbo River, flowing to India where it becames Brahmaputra.


The white streaks are khatas like those we received from Tenzin. We did not "install" them here of course (apart from Rich, but he probably has many of them already).

Stove for burning Sandalwood, barley and other offerings.



Eventually we arrived to Lhasa. We arrived later I hoped for due to delayed flight and our stops along the road. (Well, I have never known when our flight was scheduled, everything was managed by Explore, but I hoped we will be there shortly after noon.).

City boundaries are modern and not very attractive (Chinese city), but then we got to old part and that is different story. Very nice, old buildings with strong character. We have been accommodated in Mandala Hotel. Very friendly and nice staff, hotel has its character with only a few slight glitches (more later).

I am not used to ask porters to haul my baggage, but I am glad we did, because getting to 2nd floor was more difficult I could imagine. Simply, low oxygen level at this altitude works against newcomers. We got 1.5h to refresh ourselves and to rest. Acclimatization takes some time and 1.5h pause is only thr 1st step.

After that we went to nearby restaurant New Mandala (later we found similarity in names is not a coincidence because their menu was also the same).

Nearly everybody went for some kind of yak meal (I hope I do not have many vegetarian readers... well frankly... I do not care :-) ). I ordered also Tibetan tea (Butter tea) I was looking forward since I have read about it in the book by Ivan Bulik. I liked it a lot (as I have mentioned in the 1st post about our trip).


Restaurant with roof top terrace.

I could not take better photo from the roof of restaurant, because all nice places I wanted to aim at (pun intended) had military posts in sight. And taking pictures of military objects is obviously asking for a trouble, mildly said.