Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tibet, Yamdrok Lake To Shigaste


One of the interesting stops on the way to Shigaste is at Yamdrok Lake, the third largest lake in Tibet. This is definitely a tourist stop but the views and scenery are still worthwhile. For a few bucks you can have your picture taken on a yak or next to a Tibetan Mastiff.



Tibet CAN D1 065Yamdrok Lake


We all refused to shell out the yuans for the photo opportunity as I think we were all worn out from the constant pay for a picture routine.


2013-04-29 15 19 55Back on the road what amazes me is seeing homes where yak dung is used for decorations as well as for building walls and steps.




Soon we leave the paved road and we are on an E-ticket ride for what I think is a shortcut. However, it turns out to lead to another sort of checkpoint out in the middle of nowhere.


2013-04-29 15 20 37This time it cost us about RMB40 per person to continue.

An admission fee of sorts for the area we are about to enter.



Again, the scenery although barren is awesome with multiple layers of mountains, some brown and void of vegetation, others covered with bright white glistening snow. One of the mountains is so beautiful that at a scenic spot we are told it is RMB50 to take a picture.



Tibet CAN D1 082


Fortunately after we all refused to pay our driver takes us to a spot where we could capture pictures for free.

In Gyanste, from the highway we get a glimpse of the largest stupa in Tibet, Kumpa Stupa. Although a close up visit to this and Pelchor Monastery which is nearby is on our itinerary, we are all so exhausted from being on the road so long that we just want to get to our hotel in Shigaste.



Tibet CAN D1 094Our 6-7 hour planned drive is turning into 11-12 hours on the road. Part of the reason for this is our official time control between various checkpoints.





Numerous times we pull to the side of the road and wait for 10 to 40 minutes because we are ahead of schedule to be at the next checkpoint. These stops turn out to be bathroom breaks for us along open and almost desolate highways with everyone claiming a different portion of the landscape.


2013-04-29 15 23 09Soon we are crossing farmlands where yaks or other farm animals are hard at work toiling the land.

Farming done the old fashioned way.




Approaching a small community we pass an interesting caravan of sorts. A group of men seem to be returning home, all riding horse drawn carts with lots of bells ringing.




Friday, June 21, 2013

Tibet, Leaving Lhasa


I am excited as I check out of The “noisy” Yak Hotel as I am looking forward to seeing more of Tibet. Today, our journey involves about 6-7 hours of driving that will have us spending the night in Shigaste.

As I get comfortable in the back seat of our mini-van it is interesting to see a few items added on board. We now have “oxygen pillows” which hopefully none of us will be needing anytime soon.


Tibet CAN D1 052Just outside of Lhasa we make a brief stop at what will become just one of many checkpoints.

Looking out my window I am amazed at the stunning scenery along with the beautiful weather.




Clear blue skies contrast nicely with a landscape that in some areas seem so arid and in others so lush. To me, the surrounding forbidden mountains are spectacular.

Soon we are climbing a mountain pass that to me is an “E-Ticket” ride but has some of my fellow travel companions a bit nervous. At some points only small barriers of what we hope is solid concrete separates us from a certain death plunge.



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Even as others are nervous at times, I do appreciate our drivers skills as he passes large trucks on the curving and blind spot road. We did have one or two close calls all of which were skillfully handled like I think I would have done so myself.

At one point we make a stop to look back and take in the landscape where we have just defied death a time or two. A bit out of breath I climb a small hill and peer down a vast valley below. The views are magnificent as I stand near prayer flags whipping in the wind.



Tibet CAN D1 062Some of these prayer flags have writing on them which is foreign to me. If I were to take a guess I imagine a few of them say….

“Thank you for helping us make it this far, whew!”





Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tibet, Sera Monastery


After lunch, we are back on the road to a monastery that I am looking forward to visiting.


Tibet CAN D1 038Arriving at Sera monastery I am already impressed as I learn about a mustard colored building standing alone on a nearby mountainside.





I am told the building I am looking at is a mediation place for monks who sometimes spend months there after what seems like a very difficult climb to get there. This discourages me from wanting to make the conversion.

Inside Sera monastery is a little different than the other monasteries we have visited so far. We are told it is primarily a teaching facility.

However, since it is a Sunday afternoon we do not get we witness any of the teachings or debates I was looking forward to.



Tibet CAN D1 046Sera Monastery


What is the same here is the restrictions on picture taking with all the cool stuff being stored in my brain which I am sure sooner or later will begin to crash like my Vic-20 floppy drive.

Outside, Craig points out something interesting that I have never noticed before. There are government firefighters sort of just sitting around. They are necessary because things around monasteries and monks have been known to go up in flames, unexpectedly.

This is often a form of protest against the Chinese government and its policies towards Tibet.



Tibet CAN D1 049Leaving Sera monastery from the closed teaching and debate area, I am disappointed.






However, I do spot something I still find very interesting here as we exit the main grounds. Repairs are being done to an entrance area and most of the tough manual labor is being performed by women including mixing cement.



Monday, June 3, 2013

Tibet, No Naan For You



Tibet CAN D1 030 I am excited and I think Kathy is also as we leave Dreprung.

This afternoon we are going to eat at a restaurant that is highly reviewed on Tripadvisor for one of its menu items that we both enjoy.





As we drive across town, I am still amazed how beautiful the weather is although the air is still dry and in some areas dusty. Kathy's tip with Chapstick has really helped with my dry nose situation.



Tibet CAN D1 027 A Beautiful Day In Lhasa


Dropped off on a main street we navigate construction filled alleys and make our way to Lhasa Namaste rated well because of its famous naan bread. It is the main reason we asked our tour guide to bring us here.



Tibet D2 010 It is a Sunday afternoon and Lhasa Namaste is a little busy as we grab a table on its very cozy outdoor patio dining area.






There seems to be a bit of confusion to the wait staff why we are here as we do not get what I consider the traditional restaurant welcome.



Tibet D2 009 With the help of our guide we eventually get menus which have very nice main dish selections.

Rice or naan is offered with all of the main dishes.




Drinks and food are ordered but with one big disappointment, today there is no naan bread. 

After attempting to get an explanation of how a restaurant known for its naan bread has none of it even though it is offered on the menu, we are left to figure it out on our own with no apologies.

Our food arrives and it is served with Western utensils. Our waitress seems taken back when we ask for chopsticks which takes her about 10 minutes to bring to us. I hope she now realizes that there are some non Asians that know how to eat with chopsticks.



Tibet D2 008 Mutton Bhuna Goast Set


All of our food is very good although Kathy's “Cashew Chicken” looks a little different than expected. Craig and Marciso salads are fresh and they say better than the ones they had at our last lunch stop restaurant although a bit more expensive.


Tibet D2 005 Bill has no complaints about his “Pizza Margherita” which he offers to share with the rest of us.






My “Mutton Bhuna Goast Set” is a good size portion and is deliciously full of flavor. I have no problem finishing my meal although some garlic naan sure would have been nice.