Day 9: On the road to Tingri

Tingri Travel Blog

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Since the Tashilumpo Monastery only opens at 10 AM, there's no need to get up early today. We have breakfast with the entire group in a little separate function room and I have to say this is the best breakfast we encountered on this trip so far. There is fresh warm and crispy toast, omelet, cherry tomatoes, jam and even water mellon. No need to bring out my emergency breakfast bought at Aili cake yesterday.

At the gate of the Monastery, dozens of begging children are invading upon our group. Not easy to get in through such a crowd! At the courtyard of the monastery it's also busy, but in a more relaxed way. It's full of pilgrims with their prayer wheels and stack of yak butter to fill up the many butter candles.

While Jimmy explains all about the monastery, I take ample pictures of the people and the surroundings.

The Tashilumpo Monastery is the largest and most important monastery in Tibet and belongs to the Gelupa cult; the cult with the yellow hats. Moreover, it's the seat of the Panchen Lama, who is 2nd in line behind the Dalai Lama. Allegedly this monastery is full of Chinese government spies... so our guide needs to watch carefully what he does or says.

Unfortunately it's not allowed to take pictures inside, unless you want to spend a fortune. We look inside in the many temples and prayer halls and admire th many statues. But actually I find it far more exciting to observe the many pilgrims. Entire families with children and small babies come from far and wide to pay their respects. It's wonderful to observe and be part of it.

But also here our modern world is not far away.
In one of the temple halls I notice a fully traditionally clothed old woman whispering prayers and piously walking the kora until suddenly..... her cell phone rings!

The Tashilumpo monastery is really enormous and we visit numerous prayer halls and chapels on several floors. The most beautiful area is the main building with the huge statue of Buddha.

At the end of our tour, some of us go in search of the rest rooms. But these are the most horrible toilets I have ever visited! The stench is horrifying and the piles of shit underneath the hole that counts as toilet seat are over a meter high! But I really need to go so we try to ease the smell by tying a perfume drenched scarf around our nose and mouth in order not to breathe in the stench. But even then I can hardly keep myself from puking!

This was now the very last monastery of our trip and we continue towards Tingri.
Today we'll still pass a few more mountain passes, including the highest point of our journey. After a few hours in the jeep, we stop by a black memorial at the side of the road. This sign marks km 5000 on the Friendship Highway. It means that we are now 5000 km away from Shanghai. The Friendship highway, on which we are driving, stars in Shanghai and leads all the way to Kathmandu. While we are taking pictures, the local children come on over to beg for money and presents. these are quite persisitant and obviously used to tourists and their generosity.

Only a short stretch later, a little before the town of Lahtse, we get to the first mountain pass of today. A few of us climb up to the top and take pictures of the surrounding desolate landscape.
Apart from a few little humps of grass or moss, those hills are completely barren. Of course the pass is doted with prayer flags, but there are also many little colorful pieces of paper with mantras flying around. Tibetans throw around these mantras so that the wind can carry them up to the sky. From afar they look like colorful little butterflies.

As a practical joke, we have tied a bright yellow smiley face doll to our driver's rear view mirror. But the driver does not seem to notice at first. Only when the landscape gets rougher and the thingy starts swinging back and forth, he figures it out. Fortunately he can laugh with it and seems happy with his present.

A little later we reach Lathse. It's a tiny dusty and sleepy town where at first glance, there's not much to be seen or done.
We only stop to have lunch. The jeeps pause at a large new building housing a hotel and a restaurant: Lathse Kitchen. It's a simple but cosy place with a traditional Tibetan interior. Even the proprietor is dressed traditionally. I order a banana lassi and noodles, but the drink is not arriving. When I eventually get up and ask what's taking so long, it turns out they are out of bananas... but nobody made the effort to ask whether I perhaps wanted to order something else instead. The noodles however were quite okay and even the restroom wasn't all that bad. So this seems a pretty recommendable lunch stop!

With a well filled stomach we continue our journey. It is still a bit rainy and I discover even a rainbow in the sky!. After a long drive we arrive at the entry of the Qomolangma (Everst) National Park.
This is also the highest pass of our journey: 5248 meters! This is even higher than the Everst Base Camp! It's very cold up here and rather overcast, but despite the clouds I spot a few snow capped mountains in the distance. The pass itself is dotted with prayer flags and there are several herds of yak around. One of our fellow travelers' mother passed away during our trip and therefore she would like to hold a little ceremony here at the highest point. After the speech, we take a few pictures and discovered the fun of making jumping pictures. Fortunately the hight does not bother me at all, but one of our travel buddies does need the bottle of oxygen.

A little further ahead we arrive to a place from where it ought to be possible to spot Mount Everest, but unfortunately it is much too overcast .
All summits are hidden behind a vast deck of clouds. But with a strong zoom and a bit of imagination somthing does seem to appear. But whether it is really Mount Everest...? Who knows?

We continue towards our hotel in Tingri, which is coincidentally called the Qomolangma (or Everest) hotel. The hotel is very isolated in the middle of nowhere and it's extremely cold here. My polar fleece will be most useful! After a little briefing we get the key to our room. Ils and I got a room near the end of the corridor and it turns out to be a large one with 3 beds. The extra bed is most welcome because it means extra blankets, which we surely need around here. The bathroom however is extremely tiny. While sitting on the toilet, one hurts his/her knees against the bath tub. We wonder how the big Austrian guy manages, who we spotted earlier on in the lobby.

We will have dinner at the hotel's restaurant since there's nothing else around here. But first we take a peek at the little shop in front of the hotel. It's a good chance to buy extra water. The shop is kept by a Nepali looking women and her little son. After paying, I give the boy a little matchbox car and he is over joyed. Immediately he is driving it all over the shop's floor.

The hotel's dining room is hidden behind a heavy curtain and we end up again at the customary large round tables.  I order Chinese vegetable soup, which is really delicious, and we all share the fries of our table mate. After dinner we stay talking for a while until it's time to return to our room. A quick shower seems like a god plan but turns out to be a mission impossible because it takes forever for the water to heat up. Luckily an extra thick layer of blankets takes me quickly to dreamland.










Mozumbus says:
waiting anxiously for some detailed accounts :)
Posted on: Sep 01, 2010
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at 5000 km from Shanghai on the fr…
at 5000 km from Shanghai on the f…
photo by: lrecht