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Road to the Roof of the World

Lhasa Travel Blog

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A classic train ride
At 6am, the train stopped at Golmud (Geermu in Chinese), our last stop before the Tibetan Plateau, and everyone in my cabin had all gotten off. The cabin attendant then gave out oxygen cannulas for the oxygen vents just beside the bedside window.
The sun finally rose at 8:30 am behind the snow capped mountains of Nanshankon (Southern Pass), and the snow glistened on the mountain rigdes and were just a stones throw from the train. Truly a breathtaking sight i thought, as i plugged my oxygen mask while passing through the Kunlun Pass (4776m). From my cabin window, I saw the first prayer flags of the trip just after exiting the first tunnel. With my favorite Christmas songs playing on my iPod, being alone and in one of the most classic train rides in the world, was becoming such a sentimental ride.

There's no doubt the Qinghai-Tibet train ride is indeed an engineering marvel. It's the world's highest railway, topping at 5072m. Eighty-six percent of the line is above 4000m and half of it lies on permafrost. A cooling system of pipes were driven in the ground to keep it frozen all year round and avoid the summer thaw.
I'm glad I took the 875yuan hard sleeper bed over the 4hr flight from Shanghai which cost twice as much as it was a better way to acclimatize to the altitude. I had to take Acetazolamide in the last 2 days as prophylaxis for altitude sickness, and so even without the oxygen mask on, i was feeling fine.
The Tibetan plateau was breathtakingly raw and barren. Patches of ice covered the land, rivers turned ice, and the caramel colored mountains now white.
Na Qu
Every now and then, we would pass by a nomadic tribe, with their herd of yaks, and or a group of antelopes, and wild asses grazing on the 'barely' there brown colored grass of the plateau. I somehow understood why the Chines would never give up this land, it was such a rich resource, both for it's natural beauty and obviously, tourism potential. At 3 pm, we passed Tsonak Lake, the highest freshwater lake in the world (4608m). Out last stop was Na Qu at 6pm, and at 7:20 we finally stopped at the Lasa Train station. I walked out the modern station and met up with my Tibetan guide, Lamu, who was out holding out a name board with my name in block letters. 4500km from Shanghai, 48 hours, I was finally here! It was freezing as we headed for the city about 6kms away, and got a glimpse of the lighted Potala Palace as we approached the city center.
The Tibetan Plateau
Impressive.
Lhasa was nothing like i expected, modern cars, traffic, modern shops, and fast food too! The western part of the city were all primarily Chinese and in the east, Tibetans. Even the building designs differ as those of the Tibetans were older and the latter all probably just built in the last 5years. Its a shame, the Chinese now outnumber the Tibetans at 3:1. After checking in at Lhasa International Youth Hostel, we walked to Spinn Cafe, to meet Kong, the organizer of my trip. He was Cantonese, but migrated to the city back in 2006 together with his Thai friend after falling in love with the city and its people.
As i looked through the bedside window of my hostel bed that night, the lighted Potala Palace was in full view, as though welcoming me to the holy city. I was alone in the 4bed hostel room yet the view was just the right company I needed for the night.
mabby says:
Thanks Kris :)
Posted on: Jan 09, 2010
WorldXplorer says:
Great blog! :)
Posted on: Jan 08, 2010
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A classic train ride
A classic train ride
Na Qu
Na Qu
The Tibetan Plateau
The Tibetan Plateau
My TTB Permit
My TTB Permit
3,337 km (2,074 miles) traveled
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Lhasa
photo by: mountaingirl