Compared to other travel destinations, one needs to do a bit more preplanning before visiting Tibet. Apart from applying for a China visa, one also needs to apply for a Tibet permit. In order to secure this permit, you need to prove that you will be accompanied by a local tour guide throughout your trip and the easiest way to make these arrangements is to go through a travel agent. So backpackers will be disappointed to know that there is no such thing as free and easy travel unless you hold a China passport. Travel agents take advantage of this fact to charge a premium for their services.
However, once you get there, you will think to yourself that it was worth the trouble. Tibet is a mountainous region and this is apparent even before you step out of the plane
The altitude sickness may not hit you immediately but it is wise to prepare cans of oxygen to help you adjust to the thin air
On the way to Lhasa city we were caught in a traffic situation because 2 vehicles ahead of us collided. Most roads outside Lhasa city have 2 lanes ( 1 lane each direction ) and one should be alert to avert accidents
Some of the smaller vehicles tried to pass through the wreakage and I was touch by how the locals were willing to help a fellow stranger. Selfless teamwork required here to nudge his vehicle along the sideroad
Upon arriving at Lhasa city, I was impressed with the organised layout and modern amenities
The most happening area is around Barkhor where you will see hundreds of stalls selling local products to tourists
Locals enjoying a cuppa. Milk butter tea is a favourite but do not need to travel thousands of miles to try it. Just google the recipe if you want to sample a home version
Engrossed in a game of Chinese chess
Snooker is also popular here
I have been to a few snooker parlours in my life but not one that is OUTDOORS !
Pilgrims walk clockwise around the city carrying prayer wheels. They were walking along the outer circle of the city and this walk takes several hours to complete. It is not only good for the soul but provides plentiful exercise too
I also learnt that many Tibetans are named after the day of the week which they were born. When I arrived at the airport and I called out my tourguide's name, many people turned their heads. I read that in Myanmar they have this same practise and I will definitely ask my tourguide about it when I visit Yangon at the end of this month
I was also tickled to see outdoor seamstresses. They were rather shy when I pointed my camera their way
I chanced upon a wedding lunch. The host gives away cigarettes as party favours. I guess this gives the early birds something to do whilst waiting for the bride and groom to arrive
Tibetans hang plastic bags of water next to their window as it is a turn-off for the flies. I wonder what is the scientific explanation for this ? Perhaps the light is deflected due to the index difference ?
Monks embrace modern telecommunication technology
I wonder if he is debating the Buddhist scriptures
So many chickens transported on a small motorbike
They sure know how to load a lorry
We saw lots of military vehicles. Tibetans have been lobbying for political freedom for many years now but the China government has reasons to control this region
A trip outside Lhasa is worthwhile and it is a leisurely drive because of the good roads that the government has provided
You are not allowed to speed on the road from Lhasa to Shigatse. There are many check points along the way and if you arrive at the checkpoint even 1 minute before the allowed time you will be issues a hefty fine
Petrol price is affordable
And yet the locals choose to travel on basic vehicles.
We saw many hitchhikers along the way
In the middle of nowhere
They look friendly. I wouldn't mind giving them a ride
After Shigatse, the plumbing facilities are not up to Western standards.
This is one of the better ones and you need a toilet buddy to hold the door for you if you want some privacy
Tibetan houses in the outskirts - if you want to move into a new house you need to fork out money for the materials but your neighbours will chip in their skills to build the house for you. How nice it is to have so many caring people living in your neighbourhood which is such a contrast to city living
The nomads live in makeshift tents during the mild weathered months
They want to be close to their yak herds - and also must be a nice change of scenery
Bridge across river - lots of goats taking shelter from midday sun
Lady cleaning turnips at the drain opposite her house. She was rather amused that we wanted to take photos of what must seem to her to be the most mundane job
You will go past three passes on the last 100km stretch to Mount Everest. Although we visited during the summer season, the weather up the was pretty chilly. I can't imagine how unbearably cold it would have been if we visited during winter time
Locals are enterprising and sell souvenirs to tourists at these passes.
Myself I bought a few stone fossils but I was told that there is a high chance that these may not be authentic. Other tourists were tempted to buy head gear but please be warned that they may not be originals as claimed by the merchant.
Despite the harsh terrain we saw construction workers climbing the slopes carrying long poles
I guess someone has to maintain those hundreds of kilometre of electric transmission lines
In view of the transmission lines, I was baffled to to see that some of the villages got their electricity via solar power panels. Does not make sense to spend billions of dollars setting up the infra and not want to pay a little bit more to lay the low voltage cables
The locals fahioned a ingeneous way to heat up their kettles
And what is this ?
A solar power panel to charge your mobile phone. How clever.
Energizer recently launched a portable mobile phone charger ( very useful for someone like me who carries 2 phones around and uses iPhone excessively ) and you can charge it up using solar energy. I wonder if they copied this idea from the innovative Tibetans
Well with that in mind, I will always be amazed at the innovativeness, charm and uniqueness of the residents of this amazing place and if I don't see you guys again, I want to wish you a happy peaceful journey to the staircase of heaven
For Part 1,2 and 3 of this Photoessay, please click on the following links
Part 1 - Sightseeing and Scenery
Part 2 - Mount Everest, Food and Accommodation
Part 3 - The residents of Tibet