We arrive at the Lhasa train station and as a group face a little bit of confusion. We all expected that we would be met by our tour guide once we got off the train. Earlier as we pulled into the station at one end of the platform there was a large group of singing school kids that for a fleeting moment I thought was our welcoming committee.
As we are pondering our dilemma, we are approached by a smiling and friendly police officer or member of the Chinese military. I guess he has seen this situation many times before and beckons us to follow him. I quickly gather that all visitors are met at the outer boundary of the train station.
Scanning the crowd we are a bit disappointed that no one seems to be there to meet us and we are right. A phone call by our police escort and we learn that our driver is late to pick us up. I guess 44 hours was not enough notice that we were coming.
Before too much longer we are given a lame “Tibetan Welcome” and loaded into a mini-van that we will spend a lot of time in for the next few days. Traveling solo, I am a bit lucky because I will have the whole back seat to myself along with just a few small pieces of luggage.
My first impression of Lhasa is “wow”. This is a lot different than expected especially when I see an amusement park with a large Ferris wheel being built not too far from the train station. I am told that last year only about 30,000 non Chinese nationals visited Tibet, so no doubt this is a popular destination for locals to support a "Mini-Disneyland".
The weather is near perfect as we cross a modern bridge and head into town. The main street where our hotel is located is lined with high end shops and is bustling with activity. I wonder if I can get a bargain on an iPhone-10 at The Apple Store?
It is about 5pm when we arrive there and I am definitely feeling the need for a hot shower and a comfortable bed without beanie bag pillows.
However, we have been advised to not take a shower until the next day. Not quite sure of the reason but it is suppose to help with the altitude adjustment and prevent us from getting sick with a cold.
This will make about three days that I have not taken a shower. The last time I did that I started to grow a long black and white tail and lost a few friends. At least this time hopefully it will be a group effort and whether they like it or not Bill, Kathy, Craig and Marciso are stuck with me for the next eight days.
I get my first dose of not being use to high altitude living as I climb a set of stairs to my fourth floor room and probably should have bought a can of portable oxygen from the convenience store next door.
By the time I hit my bed there is not much motivation to do much of anything else than to catch my breathe. Taking the "no shower" advice comes easy. Now if I can only drown out the street construction noise beneath my window I just might get a good night's sleep.