Do it now and don’t wait. Tibet has changed a lot in the last 10 years. Very soon, Lhasa will become a modernized city similar to any other in China. The mysterious, majestic atmosphere which we have in our mind may not be felt any more.
My Memories of Tibet 10 Years Ago
Travelling overland between Kathmandu via Lhasa to Lanzhou has been my dream for forty years. 40 years ago I travelled as far as Kyirong and could not enter Tibet. The border was only opened to locals. 10 years ago, shortly after the Railway reached Lhasa, I rode the Tibet train to Lhasa from Lanzhou.
Rugged mountain I’ve seen in Tibet
The scenery along the way was breathtaking: rugged mountains, high altitude passes, barren landscape, scarce vegetation, occasional goat and yak, and hardly a human soul. Workers were trying to install power line at altitude of 5000 meters. Forget about cell phone signals. There were none. The place was hostile to living souls.
Lhasa, then, was remote and really backward. Roads were basic. People were poor and most were wearing old, torn traditional Tibetan clothes. Some were smelly and dirty. Beggars were everywhere. With the arrival of the railway and trains loaded with tourist, I knew Tibet would modernize.
Experience the Epic Lhasa to Kathmandu Overland Tour in 2019
Fast forward 10 years to last week, I took a 7 day overland tour with Tibet Vista from Lhasa to Kathmandu, to complete the missing link to my 40 year old dream. It was a stunning success.
Feel Lucky to Pin My Hopes on Tibet Vista
From my first email contact with Chloe to my final arrival to Kathmandu, Tibet Vista and its staffs had been exceptionally reliable, friendly and efficient.
They were upfront with accurate information. Ongoing communication was quick and easy. Payment methods were flexible with multiple options. When I booked, I was concern that my trip could be cancelled at the last minute when not enough people were booked into a specific date. I checked their web site to make sure enough people had committed on that date before planning my airline tickets months in advance. The magic number was 3. I was the fourth. I felt secure to commit my deposit.
Superb excited to back in Lhasa after years’ wait
The transportation from airport to hotel on arrival was beyond my expectation. The itinerary stated that transfers were only at specific times, 3 times a day. The drive could be long. I remember how the road was like 10 years ago, a winding undivided one lane country road. Without travel congestion, the trip took at least one hour from Lhasa to the airport.
Patient Driver Saved My Day
Upon landing at Lhasa, I had just missed the schedule time by 30 minutes. I had resigned to wait 3 hours for the next shuttle. To my surprise, my contact person at the airport was waiting for me outside the gate. His English was great. I was at ease. He took me to the van, modern and clean. When the second passenger arrived a few minutes later, off we went from the airport to the hotel. Please excuse me on my surprise. Was the driver that flexible to drive 1 hour just to take us to the hotel and come back to the airport? I dared not ask.
The answer came quickly. Lo and behold, we were on a two lane divided highway. We zipped passed check points on the highway and made the trip in 30 minutes. The progress in the last 10 years began to sink in.
Travel in the Holy Lhasa City
The 3 star hotel promised in the itinerary was as good as any other cities in the world. I need not elaborate. Staffs were friendly and courteous. Timetable was well adhered to and without delay.
Travel with a bunch of global tourists and Kunchok, my guide
Our guide, Kunchok, met us the next morning as scheduled. He spoke good English. He was well mannered, knowledgeable and helpful. Throughout the tour, he was able to provide us with good details of the various temples and monasteries. I wish he could talk more about Tibetan history and culture. However, I appreciate the avoidance of such. - Pick your favorite Tibetan guide for your Tibet journey.
Lhasa has modernized tremendously. No longer were the run down old buildings visible. All the buildings around the main streets were modern. Neon signs were everywhere. The streets were well lit. Cars and people actual obeyed the traffic lights. Some smaller vehicles were still travelling on the opposite side of the road. So fellow travellers, please keep your eye open for safety sake. Not everyone is as disciplined as in developed nations yet. - Check the classic Lhasa tours.
All the major tourist attractions remained structurally the same as ten years ago. Nobody would expect that to occur anyways. Except around the temple and monasteries, one could hardly find anyone in traditional Tibetan attires anymore. Most people dressed casually like any modern cities in the world.
I did not encountered a single beggars anywhere in Tibet in this trip. Outside Lhasa, some locals had tried to peddle souvenirs to us. They did not follow us and persevere annoyingly. They went away when we said no. They did not crowded around our van peddling incessantly. That alone was an amazing transformation from 10 years ago. It is more peaceful for enjoyment than many tourist attractions in the world.
Our driver drove safely and was law abiding. He did not speed. A voice announcement regularly reminded him of road safety. In fact, I was told that his speed was monitored constantly by signals to a central station. Seat belts were available but not enforced on passengers. That will change.
Yes, we had to go through many check points outside Lhasa. The officers were friendly, well-mannered and efficient. As the only Hong Kong Chinese with 7 foreign nationals, I had the honor of having my luggage checked at every check point. The other travelers were all exempted. I did not know what the officers were looking for. They even helped me zipped up my luggage and put it back on the ground after the search. I don’t expect such courteous treatment anywhere else in the world.
Scenery and Encounters from Lhasa to EBC
The scenery on route were astounding. We passed by turquoise lakes, rugged snow-capped mountains, fast flowing rivers, high altitude passes over 5000 meters, glaciers, farm lands, pastures with goats and yaks, villages and friendly locals and shops. Along the road, all the building appeared new and built within a few years. Gone were the old, run down houses in my memory. This is a testimony to the rapid modernization and advancement in living standard in Tibet.
Pass the turquoise Manla Reservoir
Pass the Karola Glacier
The shops were well stocks. One could get all daily essentials in any of them. Some of the public toilets were smelly and could use much more improvement. Nevertheless, most did not have anyone asking for money at the entrance, except one. That was seven day and multiple toilet stops. Can one find that in any other developing country?
First Time to Everest Base Camp
The accommodation at the guest house near the Himalayan base camp was quite basic. Every bed had an electrical heating pad and two blankets. The night was chilly and warm clothes were recommended by Tibet Vista. Adhere to their recommendation would do no wrong. - Check the complete guide to EBC tour.
Get up earlier for the sunrise over the Mt. Everest
Everest was majestic. The views on both sunset and sunrise were magnificent. Set your alarms. Nobody is there to offer wake up calls. Pray for good weather.
Journey Continuing to Kathmandu
Exit at Kyirong, the border crossing, was simple and quick for most foreign nationals. The facility was modern for a small border crossing point. Our guide handed us over to another guide after the above custom check. We were never alone and felt in secure.
The entry into Nepal was more tedious. We were accompanied by guides all through the process and our transport to Kathmandu were ready and waiting for us.
To all future travelers to Tibet
Tibet Vista organized an amazing tour for us from Lhasa to Kathmandu. The tour was most memorable and enjoyable. It was a job well done.
Lastly, if touring Tibet is in your mind, I suggest you do it soon. Tibet is modernizing exceedingly fast.