Start of tour, setting foot in Lhasa
Lhasa Travel Blog› entry 5 of 24 › view all entries
This is the start of our group tour. Booked through an American tour company called Geographic Expeditions almost 1 year ago! I specified the key places we wanted to go, Lhasa, Everest base camp, and that we want to end up in Kathmandu in about 2 weeks. I asked around and found 2 other couples we know, so we have a small group of 6 people: my husband Kevin and I, Kevin's friend Dave and his girlfriend Kristin, and a couple Jan and Joel from Tucson. We have known the others for almost 20 years, and have been to many computer related conferences before, but this is the first time we traveled together for fun.
We were supposed to leave the hotel at 6:30am, however, not seeing everybody in the lobby, we found out Dave and Kristin did not have an alarm clock or even a watch! They rushed down without eating breakfast after Jan called them from the lobby.
We took a flight from Beijing via Chengdu to Lhasa. We took a shuttle bus from the terminal to the airplane, which was parked way over at the other end of the airport! The Air China flight left about 9:15am while the actual wheel up time was about 10am. We arrive in Chengdu about 12:15. It was interesting, since the clouds were almost at the ground, by the time we could see the ground, we were perhaps 500 feet up! The airbus had a nose camera, so we could see it land, that was pretty neat.
At the airport, we were met by our guide for the next 2 weeks and a driver in a minibus and drove to the city of Lhasa. While waiting for our luggage at the airport, we saw 2 Siberian Husky puppies about 6 weeks old being taken out of the luggage area. So somebody was moving to Tibet with their puppies! They were very cute and we couldn't help but think of our own huskies at home!
The tunnel newly finished cuts about 40 km out of this drive. It was very pleasant drive along the river for the most part, and we stopped at one point to walk to the banks of the Kyichu (aka Lhasa River) and touched the water, cold, not swimming temperature for sure, but not freezing. We saw some seagulls flying over the river. Then we stopped again at this big buddha carved on the side of the hill from about 11th century.
We went under the railroad bridge before getting into the city, we had a view of the Drepung monastery on the left, very massive looking. We will come back and visit it in the next few days. Then we had our first look of the Potala Palace, as we drove through the square in front of the palace, and to our hotel. There were pilgrims prostrating in front of the Potala, our first encounter with the pilgrims on this trip.
We ate dinner at the hotel to take it easy the first night. But after dinner, 4 of us walked the few blocks to the Potala square to see the Potala Palace at night and took some photos. Finally, the Potala Palace was right there in front of us. It was an awe inspiring building.
The stores on Beijing Road (the main road) were rolling up their screen doors around 9pm, so I suppose Lhasa is not a place with late night shopping! There were also vendors selling pashmina scarves from Nepal (15 to 35 Yuen! amazingly cheap), baked potatos, roasted chestnuts, bead necklaces, etc on the street.
We were in Tibet now, and the air was thinner! Kevin had the oxymeter and we measured our oxygen level at dinner time. We were doing fine, from mid 80% and up. With a little deep breathing exercise, we were able to get our oxygen levels up to the 90's. At sea level, healthy people would measure 98 or more.