Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Tibet / Xīzàng

From a legal standpoint, Tibet has to this day not lost its statehood. It is an independent state under illegal occupation.
- Michael van Walt, lawyer and visiting professor at Institute for Advanced Study

Tibet has maintained a unique culture, written and spoken language, religion and political system for centuries.

In 1912, the 13th Dalai Lama - Tibet's political and spiritual leader - issued a proclamation reaffirming Tibet’s independence: "We are a small, religious, and independent nation." The country had its own national flag, currency, stamps, passports and army; signed international treaties, and maintained diplomatic relations with neighboring countries.

In 1950, the newly established Communist regime in China invaded Tibet, which was rich in natural resources and had a strategically important border with India. Tibet today is under China’s occupation.

The Chinese government justifies its occupation by claiming that Tibet has been part of China for around 800 years. Its claim is not supported by the facts.

--- Taken from FreeTibet.org

Tibet, the land of snows. The name conjurers up both the mysterious and the forbidden. The Himalayas, Dalai Lama, Monks and Monetarists, Yaks, Prayer Flags, Lhasa, Mount Everest, Potala Palace and of course Chinese Invasion and takeover.

The National Holiday of China is October 1 to 5 so with a little creative schedule shifting I managed an to string together a few extra days. I will head into the mysterious autonomous region of Tibet from October 1 to 9. Tibet was an independent travelers dream however there were violent protests in March of 2008  and that changed everything. Today, foreigners can not travel the region on their own and they must be a part of an organize tour. So an organized tour it is.

I decided on an 8 day tour with Explore Tibet mainly because of the timing. It gave me a day at the end to take the 32 hour train from Tibet back to Xian in what should be interesting to say the least. Hopefully the views will be as advertised. I have a flight with Sichuan Airlines from Xian to Lhasa on the morning of the 1st and with a short stopover in Xiahe (Tibet) I will will land in Lhasa at noon.

Llasa is at 3650 meters above sea level altitude is an issue for all travelers. My personal experience has me right on the edge of where I start to feel lack of oxygen, around 3200 meters. I started taking Hong Jiag Tian which is a non prescription alternative to Diamox. Ultimately I will need a few days to adjust to the altitude and this tour is designed with that in mind. The first 3 days are slow activities in and around Lhasa.

Day 1 - Arrival
Day 2 - Lhasa 3600m: Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple and Bakkhor Street
Day 3 - Lhasa 3600m: Drepung Monastery and Sera Monastery
Day 4 - Lhasa 3600m to Gyantse 3900m to Shingatse 3900m: Yamdrok Lake, Mt. Nyechen Glacier, Pelkhor Monastery
Day 5 - Shingatse 3900m to Everest Base Camp 5200m: Rongbuk Monastery and Everest Base Camp
Day 6 - Rongbuk 5000m, to Shegar/Shingatse : Rongbuk Monastery and the Himalayas
Day 7 - Shingatse to Lhasa: Tashi Monastery, Incense Factory, Brahmaputra River
Day 8 - Train back to Xian

I do need a special travel permit which is being mailed to me. Without it I can not get on the plane. There is plenty of free time at each location. On these types of tours you are given a buddy to share a room with. I declined. I paid the extra $75 to have my own room each night.

Finally, Tibet is a politically sensitive area. There are things you DO NOT say or do, even in jest. Yelling Free Tibet! will get your ass put in jail pretty quickly. Talking politics is bad enough but you absolutely do not talk religion and take the words Dali Lama out of your vocabulary. He is considered a terrorist and enemy of the state. As with anywhere that is politically sensitive use your head and just don't be an asshole.

Tibet and Mount Everest. A place of mystery and history, mountains and monks, high altitude and low political tolerance. Sounds like a perfect place to me.

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