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On 22 July 2008, we left Beijing in the evening, and we took the train to Lhasa. China Highlights arranged our train tickets and our permit for Tibet, which they had dropped off at our hostel in Beijing the day before we left. They even called the hostel to inform them that they would drop it off! So nothing could go wrong, we took a taxi and we arrived on Beijing West Train Station on 8.30 p.m. We checked in, found our waiting room and waited for approximately 45 minutes before we could enter to the train platform. It was very busy, the train was fully booked so we had to be in time. We booked soft sleeper tickets on the train, which means you share a compartment with 4 people in total. It looks very nice, your bed is made, everybody has their own television and there even is a little flower on the table. So nothing to complain about that! The train left exactly at 21.30 hrs.
Stay on train.
Today was the last day on the train, exactly 47,5 hours later from our departure in Beijing we arrived in Lhasa. Unbelievable how they can be so stipt while you are travelling for such a long period!
We have reached hights of maximum 5000 meters, approximately 3 hours before arrival in Lhasa, and the views are spectacular. On the train there is extra oxygin, in case you need it.
In the evening we arrived in Lhasa, which impressed us immediately. Because of the situation on March 14 there were many military people in Lhasa everywhere.
China Highlights arranged a guide for the whole period in Tibet, which is necessary to obtain a permit. At this time, tourists are not allowed to enter Tibet without a guide. So Losang picked us up from the train station, and with Sawa (the bus driver) they took us to our hotel -> Shangbala hotel in the old part (and the best part) of the city. Lhasa is devided into two parts; the old Tibetan part and the new Chinese part. We really liked the fact that our hotel was situated in the old part, because here you can see and feel the real Tibet!
Losang really took good care of us, and informed us that we should not drink any alcohol, take it very easy and eat normal Western food instead of trying the local food. This all because you have to get used to the height, if you are used to live in Holland below sea level, 3600 metres is quite high! So we took it easy and we had a good evening meal before we went to bed.
Today we got up early, at 8.00 am we had breakfast and at 8.30 am Losang was already waiting for us at the lobby of the hotel. We went to the Potala Palace, and before we could enter the palace he informed us about who had lived here before the current Dalai Lama and all the history with it. He also arranged all the entrance tickets and booked a tour at 9 am. The best time, because there were not so many tourists by then and also no big American groups!! So he arranged this very well!
In the palace you are not allowed to take pictures, but it is very impressive to see how everything is inside the palace. Also here Losang told us everything about Buddism, the Dalai Lama's and the history about the palace. Very impressive!
Almost one hour later we left the palace and by mini van we went to the Tibet Museum. Inside the museum we were on our own, because there are English speaking automatic guides which you receive when you enter the museum. We have been in the museum for almost one hour, for us this was not so impressive and actually very boring. If we could skip it we would have done it. Some things are nice such as paintings and clothing, but the rest (jade, stones, animals etc.) is not what we really like. So we finished a little too early and we had to wait for about 15 minutes for Losang and Sawa. They did not count on people who were so fast so they arrived a little later. Of course this was no problem for us, because we didn't have to wait for a long time.
After the museum we went for lunch at a very nice Tibetan steak house, where we had a very good meal. We could pick what we liked, things such as soup, main course, dessert and drinks. All was included in the total price we paid in advance.
Hereafter we could choose if we would like to continue the tour or if we would like to have a rest in the hotel. We are still young so we wanted to see the Sera Monastry, and after that we had free time. The Sera Monastry is also impressive to see, still many locals visit the monastry for blessings. We have seen almost everything, including the place where the monks usually debate every day and the kitchen of the monastry. Very nice place to visit. Unfortunately we were not allowed to see the Drepung Monastry, as of the situation on March 14. Because of this some sights were closed for tourists. We were very lucky to see the most important ones!
At 3 pm we finished the tour for today and Losang and Sawa dropped us off at the hotel. We had our own time now so we went to see the Barkhor area, which is the old part of the town. We walked around to see the real Tibetan life, which is very impressive to see, especially the religion. In the evening we found a very nice restaurant in the old part of town, although many others are closed at this time because not many tourists are allowed to enter Tibet.
Today, Losang picked us up at 9.30 am at the hotel, to visit Jokhang Temple in the Barkhor area. In and outside the temple we were amazed by the Tibetan people who are praying there all day. Losang explained a lot about the temple. After a great view from the top of the temple (the view of the Potala is magnificent) we walked the pilgrim route in the Barkhor area which is great to see. We have had a little spare time before we had lunch in the old part of town.
After lunch we went for a visit to Norbulingka, the summer palace of the Dalai Lama. We haven't spent a long time here, we must say that all the other places of Lhasa are more special then Norbulingka. While we were here Losang received a phone call from Sunny - she informed us that our booked flight to Shangri-La was cancelled. Sunny immediately arranged a new flight to our next stop Lijang, even though it was her weekend! We really appreciated this!
After our visit to Norbulingka we spent time in town, we walked around again to experience the Tibetan life. In the evening we went to the Lhasa Hotel to have the best Yak burger of all times!
In the morning there we no plans - we had some free time to spend.
At 12.00 hrs we met Losang to have lunch at Lhasa kitchen, the same restaurant as yesterday. At 13.00 hrs Sawa picked us up for a drive to Yamdrok Lake at approximately 5200 metres! It was a long drive, but very interesting as we also went to a water burial place. At the top the view is excellent!! We have spent half an our on top when we returned to Lhasa again.
Tomorrow we leave Lhasa so at the hotel we said goodbye to Losang because he was not able to drop us off at the airport. He arranged another guide though, so many thanks to everything he did for us! In the evening we went for a last walk through the old part of town, and we ended up at a beautiful Potala Palace at night!!
Today was our last day in Lhasa, at 7.30 am Sawa picked us up at hotel and dropped us off at airport.
We must say that visiting Tibet was one of the best things during our whole trip to China! It is a very special place to visit, and we enjoyed every moment of it!
Many thanks to Sunny and China Highlights, who arranged everything in an excellent way!