Continued from Yangshuo Day 3 & Guilin.
We are heading to Tibet today!! I am stoked, but also stressed out about it. It has been a logistical nightmare to travel to Tibet. For an American, you can’t just buy a plane ticket to Tibet and call it a day. First, you need to get a China Visa, which is pretty expensive and a little difficult. First, you need to have an itinerary for your whole stay in China along with plane reservations to send to their embassy. But, if you send them an itinerary that’s too complicated or mention that you are going to Tibet, your visa might get denied. So, you need to get a temporary plane ticket and hotel reservation that shows a simple itinerary and then apply for the Chinese visa.
After you get the Chinese visa, you need to contact a Chinese travel agency to apply for a Tibet Travel Permit for you. There lies the logistical issue of which agency to use, which one to trust, etc. etc. Then after you send lots of money overseas using a Chinese payment service that you’ve never once used before, you cross your fingers that hope that they’ll be able to get a Tibet Permit for you. Sometimes the Chinese government will for no reason just stop issuing permits. Sometimes they’ll issue you a permit, but then just deny all foreigners to travel to Tibet out of the blue.
So, assuming the China based travel agency gets you the Tibet Permit, you will need this permit in order to board a flight to Tibet. The permit can only be mailed to a hotel in China, so you better hope that you get your addresses correct and that the hotel accepts your mail on your behalf. Then after everything else, there’s the issue of cost. The plane tickets are really expensive to fly into Tibet. Foreigners are also required to have a guide and planned itinerary for their whole stay in Tibet. It’s about $600 a person for us to go to Tibet for 4 nights. That only includes our transport to and from airport, outside of Lhasa, hotel, and our guide. Very expensive!!
Well, we jumped through all those hoops mentioned above through very many fingernail biting moments. Now, it’s time to board a plane to Tibet and hope that our permit checks out at the airport.
We were a little worried about the weather today, but it seems like it’s just a light rain. We need to make a connection, so it’s important that this flight leaves on time. Even though we have a layover, since we are connecting to a different airline, the check in counter was unable to have our bags connect. So when we get to Chongqing, we’ll need to get our bags and recheck them to Tibet! Ugh.
OMG, this is some of the bluest sky either of us have ever seen. The photos can’t do it justice. The mountains in the background also look so foreign to me. They looks just like giant rocks/dirt jutting out into the sky.
We got our luggage, and couldn’t find our guide who was supposed to come pick us up. Let’s hope that he’s outside.
We had just passed a check point before getting into the outskirts of the city. Our guide had to take our passports along with our Tibet Permit and get it registered. They don’t joke around here with security.
There she is!!! When I first saw a photo of this building, it was sort of like the moment I saw a photo of the Mehrangarh Fort in India. I couldn’t believe that a building like this exists. This is where the Dalai Lama used to reside and this is the seat of the government for Tibet…well, now that Tibet is a territory of China, it has been turned into a Museum.
In the one hour that it took us to get from the airport to our hotel, altitude sickness has kicked in. We both have splitting headaches and can’t think straight. Our bodies are really fatigued, heart pumping really fast, and fast breathing. Lhasa is at 11,450 feet above sea level. The oxygen level at this altitude is only 60% of sea level. No wonder we are both feeling like crap. It is also very very dry here. Our lips are getting chapped.
Walking is so labor intensive. When I went to Breckenridge to ski, the top of the mountain sits at 13,000 feet, and I didn’t feel quite like this there. Then again, I didn’t stay on the top for very long. This is definitely a whole different ballgame. Altitude sickness is kicking our asses.
I am now half the man I used to be. I couldn’t even finish all the food here. Sigh. I’ve been eating about half of what I usually eat for the past few days, and yet, I am not losing any weight. Lose Lose.
To know more about why there is security everywhere, please visit Wikipedia.
OK, our heads are killing us and our limbs are barely moving. Time to go to bed and sleep.
To be continued at Tibet Day 2.