I've found a lovely little cafe (called The Summit Cafe), its reasonably priced and they have a decent wireless internet connection.. So its all about Lattes and cake until 3pm today when we get picked up to head off up the mountain for a monastery trip.
Well Tibet so far... what can I say, its fucking gorgeous. The people here (the original Tibetan people I mean) are some of the happiest and nicest people I've ever met. For example: 3 of us from the tour group and I were walking around the market last night when I felt a pull at my hand in my back pocket."Aint no fucker lifting my wallet" thinks I, so I turn around and a little kid is grabbing my hand to shake it and saying "Ni Hao, hello hello!" to me. We've had hundreds of people just shouting "HELLO!" at us across the market and smiling/waving wildly. Its amazing.
My last post was a little vague and rubbish as I spent most of the first day trying not to pass out. Theres a long story about the journey here and I couldnt cram enough air into my lungs to concentrate long enough to type it. I seem to have got used to the altitude (to a degree, I still get tired going up stairs) so now I can go crazy wit ma keyboardizzle.
I got to the airport in Chengdu for 11am to meet Spencer (the tour operator in Chengdu), I recognised him because he was standing with Zoe (whom I met on the Panda tour the other day). After everyone had arrived we went to check our bags in and get our Tibet passes stamped.
There was a little chinese back-and-forth between the checkin monkey and Spencer, after a few minutes of phonecalls and arguing it transpires that I dont have a seat on the plane. Great.
We managed to argue China airlines into moving everyones flight to 3pm and me being able to purchase another one (which the tour company reimbursed me for later). So 1550 Yuan later I have a seat on the 3pm flight. Hells yeah.
Here is our "invitation" to come to Tibet. You still have to go through all this political bollocks to get there.
Flight went without a hitch, I managed to wangle myself a window seat and the view once we reached the Tibetan plateau was stunning. The cloud formations were huge and I noticed on several occasions we actually flew round them. Later I spotted we were on an Airbus....
The landing at Lhasa airport was interesting, we flew down a valley (something I've done before in Norway) so it was windy but as we were so high up and the air so thin the landing was done at a much higher speed. The plane itself took about 10 seconds longer to slow down on the runway too, all very worrying stuff when you dont like flying...
So the first thing you notice when getting off the plane is that walking up the exit ramp is a proper pain in the arse, the air is 30% thinner up here and it takes a few days to get used to it, its ok though, grab a trolley and go very slowly when walking anywhere.
We popped outside to meet the guide for the airport transfer and they greeted us with silk scarves
The drive wasnt bad, about an hour in total to the hotel. On the way we got given a load of local advice, some useful ones being:
- Dont drink alcohol tonight
- Dont walk anywhere, just relax
- Dont talk about the political situation
The last point is a hard one when there are groups of 6-8 armed chinese guards patrolling the streets all day... Apparently the chinese employ some locals to listen out for dissent and tip the police off. Oh and you cant beat the chinese news for propaganda, theres a photo exhibition on in Berlin at the moment all about Tibet and its "modernisation" and moving away from "Old ways" - or traditions as most people know them. FFS guys they dont need your fucking help to do that
I'm going to be very careful here.
Next day we visited the Jokung temple and The Potala Palace, just two places until we get used to the altitude
From the top of Jokung you can see most of Lhasa including the Potala Palace
It doesnt look far but I definitely didnt want to walk it...
The city is split in half, on one side you have the "new" city which was so graciously built by the chinese in the 50's. Its shit. The other half - the "old city" looks like the photo above. Its got a lot more character and is far more interesting than the new side. Its also home to more Chinese army guards, especially yesterday as it was the Dalai Lamas birthday.
And thats the first full day over really, we all popped out to a restaurant for dinner, I had a Yak Curry which was rather nice :) I've been craving a curry since I left England and it hit the spot rather well. Had some local beer too
I'll post about Potala separately, theres already too many pics in this post and my bandwidth allowance is near "raped level" already