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Start of tour, setting foot in Lhasa

Lhasa Travel Blog

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View of a glacier from the airplane on the way to Lhasa

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.
View of sand and ponds by the Yarlung Tsangpo river on approach to Lhasa airport.
  Luckily, the usual departure time from the hotel was 7am, although we did not get an early start, the traffic was Ok, and we got to the airport in good time anyway. (Joel bought them a cheap alarm clock once we got to Lhasa!)

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.

View of the trees in the sandbars in the middle of the Yarlung Tsango River
At the airport, we got off the airplane, took a shuttle bus to the waiting area. About 10 minutes (or it seemed) later, we were all boarding the shuttle bus again back to the airplane! The airplane took off again around 1:30pm, and we arrived in Lhasa about 3:15pm. I was actually a little disappointed, because this was supposed to be an amazing flight over the high Tibetan plateau, with many snow covered mountains. We had  some cloud cover, at times we could see some rivers, villages, and snow covered mountains, but not as many as I thought. The best part were some glaciers I was able to see in between clouds. Maybe this time of the year is not best for seeing miles and miles of snow-covered peaks? The airplane approached the airport along the Yarlung Tsangpo river, which had trees planted in the sandbars in the middle of the river and riverbanks.
Yes, were were now in Lhasa, outside the airport.

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.

Driving over the Yarlung Tsangpo River
It was surrounded by the white scarves people have thrown onto the hill, kind of a strange sight. Next to the buddha are carvings of the white Tara with the 3rd eye on her forehead, and another eye in her plams and bottom of her feet. Behind the buddha, the hill had lots of prayer flags going up and up to the top. Just think what it took to put up those flags!

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.

View of the Yarlung Tsangpo river and trees from the bridge

Our hotel the Kyichu Hotel was on Beijing East Road, the main road which goes directly to the Potala. We were checked in, and bellboys (except they were girls) carried our luggages up to our rooms. Going up the stairs was not that easy, we felt the altitude and climbed slowly up the stairs. Luckily we were only on the 2nd floor. There was a courtyard in the hotel, and people were chatting and enjoying the evening. Next to it was the business center, with a couple of PC's where we would connect to the internet later.

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.

Approaching the tunnel (on the way from airport to Lhasa)
I first saw a photo of it while I was probably only 13 or 14 in the geography textbook in school. My thoughts then were "wow, this doesn't look like any palace I had ever seen in any photos before." It was tall and extremely impressive. It was well lit, and I found the lakes in the park in front of the palace to take the photo with the reflections of the Potala in the water. Obviously a popular spot for photographers, as there were many photographers and tripods stationed there by the lake. I did not take my tripod tonight, so I would have to come back for some more photos in the next few nights.

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.

The Kyichu River.
At Potala Square, there were tourist photographers who would dress you up in Chinese costumes to pose for your souvenir shots.

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.

rowanberry says:
I enjoyed this, it's preparing me for my trip, can't wait to see the Potala Palace. Thanks for mentioning the oxygen levels!
Posted on: Dec 27, 2009
calvin263 says:
Your writing is so descriptive and detailed. Very good for the guys like me who will set my first step to tibet. hope to see more pictures of tibet.


Posted on: Feb 25, 2008
portia says:
Did you go this year? I never saw a blog about it.
Posted on: Oct 14, 2007
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View of a glacier from the airplan…
View of a glacier from the airpla…
View of sand and ponds by the Yarl…
View of sand and ponds by the Yar…
View of the trees in the sandbars …
View of the trees in the sandbars…
Yes, were were now in Lhasa, outsi…
Yes, were were now in Lhasa, outs…
Driving over the Yarlung Tsangpo R…
Driving over the Yarlung Tsangpo …
View of the Yarlung Tsangpo river …
View of the Yarlung Tsangpo river…
Approaching the tunnel (on the way…
Approaching the tunnel (on the wa…
The Kyichu River.
The Kyichu River.
More of the Kyichu River.
More of the Kyichu River.
The hillside buddha and the white …
The hillside buddha and the white…
The large buddha carved on the hil…
The large buddha carved on the hi…
A white tara carved and painted on…
A white tara carved and painted o…
a 3 faced tara
a 3 faced tara
Closer look at the white tara
Closer look at the white tara
Prayer flags going up the hill beh…
Prayer flags going up the hill be…
The white scarves above the buddha…
The white scarves above the buddh…
Me walking past the buddha on the …
Me walking past the buddha on the…
First view of the Potala, with pil…
First view of the Potala, with pi…
A drive-by shooting of the Potala …
A drive-by shooting of the Potala…
Potala palace on the first night w…
Potala palace on the first night …
Potala Palace reflected in the lak…
Potala Palace reflected in the la…
Another view of Potala at our firs…
Another view of Potala at our fir…
Lhasa General Tips & Advice review
We used Geographic Expeditions (www.geoex.com), a company in San Francisco. They have the most beautiful catalogues to many exotic places (they don't … read entire review
Lhasa
photo by: mountaingirl