Kathmandu/Nepal – Lhasa/Tibet/China

Dead end Nepal. What to do now? The best would be to enter China through Tibet. But to enter West- Tibet is not permitted for individual travellers. I knew that before, but things can change and sometimes, if you are there in person, more options open up. But I wanted to visit Nepal anyway. To pass Tibet on a southern route by land, has to fail for the political situation in Myanmar. (1) Also there are no more Ferries from India to South east Asia since the Tsunami in 2006, as it seems. The only other way would be the route to the west and the north – a few thousands kilometres more, through Pakistan and the Taklamakan-desert, at this time of the year extremely hot, extremely dry, no asphalt, altitude. So almost everybody, who wants to travel from India and Nepal further east boards an air plane. There is one alternative. You can book a guided group tour and then you go by car and with a local tour guide from Kathmandu to Lhasa. One of the authorised travel agencies deals with all the papers. It’s not cheaper than a flight, but so I could at least see a bit more from Tibet. So I take it this way. But also in China your options widen up, if you have money. From 4000,-US$ a personal guide and watchman would come to the border to drive behind you in his car.
“Tibet is closed.” suddenly is announced in Kathmandu. “The Chinese don’t give any permits any more.” “Don’t fool me!” Fortunately I am not affected, because my agency had the permit for me already. “China is like a sleeping baby” somebody tells me, “You never know, either it sleeps 10 hours more or it wakes up the next moment and starts screaming”. Finally the sanction only lasts a few days. Supposedly the cause was a protest trial of a handful of people in Beijing. Recently the situation in Tibet became a bit more tense again, after some US-Americans in the chinese Everest base camp put up a Tibetan flag and proclaimed a free Tibet.

So I thought, it will be a ‚follow-the-coloured-signs-trip‘. 8 days, with Sightseeing-program, guide, a set up time schedule. It all started with a disappointment. Somebody came to the hotel to pick me up – with a motorcycle! “The bicycle has to stay here.” Although they have told me, there is no problem, to transport it on the roof racks of the Toyotas . “The cars have no roof racks.” At the end I had to take it apart and they squeezed it in the back of the car between bags and backpacks, with the result of further damage. Then we got a tour guide, who did everything the first time, has problems with that situation and furthermore only speaks a bit of English. So a good part of the information about what we see along the way stays with him.

Very pleasant still are the members of our group, 21 in total, from the USA, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Finland, UK, Germany, Singapore, Korea. Nice people, intelligent chat partners. Quickly it feels, as if I would travel with friends. I spend a good time with Simone, an open minded Italian. Interesting also the story of Toni from Singapore. He wants to travel all the buddhistic countries. When he thought about where to go next, he was dreaming, that he received a letter from a monastery in Lhasa. This monastery is one out of our sightseeing tour and when we arrived there at the end of this week, it surely is a great day for him.

We visit 5 monasteries and temple. At some point that’s sufficient. So I am fine with the idea to go to the “Tibet-Museum” in Lhasa instead of another temple. There it’s interesting to see, how they present that, what you could call an occupation, the abatement of a protest with 10.000 of deaths, the repression of Tibetan religion and traditions, as a peaceful unification process and coexistence. A taboo is the current, the 14. Dalai Lama. In the museum, monasteries and temple it is not allowed to show his portrait.

At the end of our tour we visit the famous ‚Potala-palace‘ in Lhasa, originally house of the highest religious, Tibetan representative, the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile. A strictly set up time schedule, airport like controls. “Don’t explain, keep moving” a watchman is asking our guide. She (Tibetan) is also not allowed to give explanations about the current Dalai Lama. Beside the architecture and religious art of temple number x, I find it even more interesting to watch the people around – monks studying Sutras, traditionally dressed, praying Tibetans with prayer wheels and especially the ceremony of the so called prostration. One claps the hands together over the head, lays oneself down on the ground, full length, face down, gets up and starts again, over and over again. That can happen in one place or one moves slowly forward, around the temple, even in crowded pedestrian zones.

Very beautiful is the Tibetan scenery. Quickly you are up in high altitudes, sometimes over 5000m. Many of our group at times have serious problems. One night only 8 out of 21 show up for diner, most of them with headache. It seems I am the only one, who is already well adapted, because of my time with bike and backpack in the high mountains of Nepal. My appetite is perfectly fine and soon they call me ‚the barrel without soil‘ (but ‚barrel‘ in conjunction with ‚Tom‘ ?? :) They also help me as good as they can with their lack of appetite. Thank you all very much for the support during this tour.

From Lhasa I am allowed to ride my bike again. There are only 19 days left, to leave Tibet. In China-mainland, I can change my Tibet-group-permit into a Visa for China.

Also some of my tour mates have a weblog. Who likes to have a look – here are the links:
– Kristen, USA – http://travelsofkp.blogspot.com – english
– Simone, Italy – http://www.radiopopolare.it/ trasmissioni/tre-uomini-in-barca/mappa/diari07/asia/ simone-il-ragazzo-giusto-in-nepal – italian
– Doug, USA – http://dougsbigadventure.blogspot.com – english
– Candace, USA – http://candaceinnepal.blogspot.com – english


translated by Maik

(1) Now I have heard, that there is, beside the expensive, pre-organized tours, the possibility to get a Visa in Calcutta/India. But then still there are problems of the restrictive border area in India or the Bangladesh-Visa.

pictures to this article: Kathmandu/Nepal – Lhasa/Tibet/China : Fotos

25. Oktober 2007 - Tom & Maik | english texts | Kommentare :: comments :: comentarios | Inhalt drucken

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