"Dr. Beefy's Tibet Page" Tibet by Beefy_SAFC
Tibet Travel Guide: 1,402 reviews and 4,147 photos
Not China, Tibet: July/August 1998 - Fly from Nepal to Tibet (Gonggar Airport), Lhasa (Potala, Jokhang Temple, Drepung and Ganden Monasteries), Yam Drok Tso Lake, Gyantse, Shigatse (Tashilhunpo Monastery), Shegar, Hot Springs, Obscured View of Everest, Zhang Mu, walked across border back into Nepal. See 'A True Story' and 'Tibet - Frequently Asked Questions' at http://www.tibet.freeserve.co.uk for more information. This website also contains all my photos from my Nepal-Tibet trip.
I have also been to Beijing, Xi'an and Chengde in China proper. To see details of this trip, see http://mysite.freeserve.com/kathmandu
STRANGE HAPPENINGS: Stayed in run down hotel in Zhang Mu, last night in Tibet. Told to stay clear of Dirty Rooms, where it appears prostitutes were plying their trade. Note to Chinese government; if you're going to stay in Tibet, clean up Zhang Mu!
Sight of Yaks starts full scale argument over circumcision?!
TRAVEL ADVICE AND INFORMATION: Do not be discouraged from travelling to Tibet, because of the situation there. Even the Dalai Lama has said that contact with tourists is a useful way for ordinary people to keep in contact with the outside world (... alongside the Internet). A visit to Tibet is still a trip of a life time and it is still possible to see bits of Tibet as it was, with many Buddhist monasteries now restored, especially in and around Lhasa. Fairly safe, though at night time it is better not to travel alone. Avoid talking politics in public.
Don't ask Chinese settlers for directions, they sometimes have difficulty in answering (250 metres from the Jokhang temple and they didn't know where it was). When using taxis, look for tied bit of cloth around rear view mirror (for luck), as the driver will be Tibetan. Haggling possible, look for 60% of first price.
In Shigatse (Xigaze), beware of the red light district in the town centre. Also the monastery in Shigatse has a resident population of dogs, which people believe to be reincarnated monks. During the day, these animals are relatively docile, but tend to be more active in the early morning. They have been known to turn on people, so do not be tempted to pet them and give them a wide berth - rabies is present in Tibet. If going overland from Lhasa to Nepal, before crossing the border, it is advised that the traveller stays overnight in Nyalam, 20 km from border. Zhang Mu at the border is not the healthiest place on earth to stay. If you have to stay in Zhang Mu, avoid Hotel Gyan Tsen (not sure that spelling is correct), as half the rooms are used as a brothel. If unavoidable, use the 'clean rooms'.
Sending a quick e-mail is possible from the Barkhor Café (opposite the Jokhang Temple, on the corner of Jokhang Square), which has a small number of computer terminals.
For more information, see 'Tibet - Frequently Asked Questions' at http://www.wkyo.freeserve.co.uk, which gives passport, visa and permit information required for Tibet. It also gives information on how to get to Tibet, as well as attempting to answer other questions that prospective travellers have come up with on the Internet (why go given the situation there, where to go and what to do).
ALTITUDE SICKNESS: Altitude sickness cannot be ignored when making a trip to Tibet and with Lhasa at an altitude of 3,660 m and most places in Tibet higher (many of the passes are 5,000 m or 17,500 ft plus), taking account of altitude is of crucial importance for a healthy and comfortable trip. I have placed a sizeable section on altitude sickness on my 'Tibet Frequently Asked Questions' page (SEE MY WEBSITE AT http://www.tibet.freeserve.co.uk).
WEATHER: Relatively cool winters (Lhasa daytime temperatures between 5 and 10°C) and warm summers (Lhasa, lower to mid-twenties) in the valleys of Tibet. Shigatse (Xigaze) is normally a couple of degrees cooler than Lhasa. The high altitude and thinness of the air means the daytime heat is lost quickly and night time temperatures can fall well below freezing at any time of year. The higher plateaus tend to be a lot colder and can be extremely cold (well below freezing) for up to six months or more during the winter.
Above 4,500 metres, precipitation always falls as snow, but melts very readily during the summer. The main rains come during the mid to late summer, when the Monsoon makes it across the Himalayas, leading to sharp, heavy rain storms. Hail, sleet and even snow are possible, even at the height of summer, though the latter tend to be very short lived. More prolonged snow is possible during the winter, though in Lhasa and the valleys of eastern Tibet, this melts readily during the daytime. At higher altitudes, the passes can become blocked with snow any time between early November and early April, hence making the summer the best time to visit.
TRAVEL COMPANIES: Companies to try for a reasonable deal are 'Exodus', 'The Imaginative Traveller' and 'Travelbag Adventures'.
CURRENCY: Chinese 'Yuan'. You can only official change to Yuan in Lhasa itself. Changing back to other currencies is only possible on the black market outside Tibet. In Zhang Mu, it is possible to change at a good rate to Nepalese Rupees before crossing the Tibet - Nepalese border.
BEER, BEVERAGES AND FOOD: The Chinese Tsing Tao beer is readily available, but for local stuff try Chang, which is Tibetan barley beer. Please remember, however, that alcohol consumption is not the best idea for the first few days on arrival in Tibet, due to the aforementioned 'Altitude Sickness'.
As for none alcoholic stuff, tea here is called 'Jah'. Also look out for Tibetan butter tea, which is made from Yak's milk, often with roasted barley flour or 'Tsampa' added, Tsampa being the staple diet of Tibet.
Whilst I'm here, I may as well mention that Yak's butter is also used for the candles seen burning in the temples and monasteries all over Tibet, this producing the strong smell noticeable on entering. Also, the barley produced in the area of Shigatse and Gyantse is said to be that from which all the world's other varieties of barley are derived. Tibetan herders are also known for a yoghurt made from the thick creamy milk of the Yak cows (the Yaks themselves being the bulls).
In the towns, Chinese food and restaurants are now much more common, though the Moslems of Lhasa do have some 'Halal' restaurants. I can also tell you that the Snowlands Restaurant, just off the Jokhang Square does some very nice pizza.
LANGUAGE: Tibetan, but the Han Chinese immigrants do not tend to speak the language. Similarly, the Tibetans tend not to speak Chinese. A very few educated people can speak a little English. The keenness of the monks to speak to foreigners, normally in English, but also less commonly in French or German, is a point worth remembering.
RELIGION: Lama Buddhism, headed by the exiled Dalai Lama. Some Tibetans follow the older animist Bön religion. There is a resident grouping of Sunni Moslems in Lhasa, but the balance has been upset by the influx of Chinese (Confucianism and Taoism) and Hui Moslems.
Beefy at http://www.tibet.freeserve.co.uk
- Pros:An experience of a lifetime and the Potala Palace will literally have your jaw dropping. The Jokhang is more special and more intimate and a better place to see the devoutness of Tibetans to their beliefs.
- Cons:The Chinese presence, but the opportunity to meet the Tibetans for themselves will soon help you understand how they really feel - away from Chinese ears. Altitude sickness a problem on first arriving there.
- In a nutshell:Tibetan culture is alive and well despite the Chinese and the Cultural Revolution, which did much damage. Despite the damage, Tibet still exists - within the hearts of the real Tibetans who live there.
If going overland from Lhasa and Shigatse to the Tibetan border with Nepal, a detour will take you to Rongbuk monastery... more travel advice
Travelling overland in Tibet, it's truck, bus or Landcruiser. It appeared to me that the Landcruisers were the worse... more travel advice
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