Published: January 13th 2008January 12th 2008
We saw a lot of evidence of the engineering necessary to get traffic and trains into Tibet.
Friday 11th January
Not only was it still dark when we left the hostel at 0700 it was also raining very lightly. Luckily the bus was there within 5 minutes just as Judy had said it would be and we were at the railway station within 10 minutes.
The atmosphere at the station was mind-boggling. In the dim light all you could see were thousands of people in the square, either waiting for arrivals or on their way out. We firstly went to one of the shops where we had bought dumplings on the way in, getting 16 delicious ones for breakfast. Food is certainly good and cheap here.
The train was running late so we spent the next 45 minutes in a crowded waiting room. It was interesting to see that even though everyone had an allocated seat the locals rush towards the door wanting to be first through. There were several false alarms people then making their way back to their seats. We whiled away some of the time talking to an English girl and her Canadian friend who were going to teach English in one of the towns along the way. We are getting very
We saw only few villages along the way.
proficient at barging our way through using size & a little force when needed - when in Rome............
The train had come in from Beijing and when we came to our cabin there were 3 others in it, none of the linen had been changed. A few gestures and remonstrations and we had ownership of the top bunks we had booked (these being more secure with shelving for our bags). Rags then had one of the attendants somewhat reluctantly change the linen. From our observations later in the trip this was not the norm, new passengers used the linen already on the beds!
Soft seater class is ok except there is nowhere to sit except on the beds. Not very comfortable if the person on the lower bunk doesn't want you to sit there. We did manage to get a seat in the dining car and nursed several coffees to keep our seat. The staff seem to use half the car for their own use, as they while away the time playing with mobiles, watching videos and smoking, passengers fit in around them.
Customer service is almost non-existent, the crew just lazing around whilst the toilets and
We saw many frozen rivers.
dining areas could do with a good clean. Similarly, there is no consideration given to the mixing of sexes in cabins, we again having a couple of men with us. Judy handled it better than Rags expected. One chap we had in the room had a new toy, a mobile phone, which he used continuously. In fact, after a good night's sleep we were woken up at 0600 with him on the phone. Although not a common word of each other's language was spoken, Rags made it quite clear that this was not on and we had another hour of peace.
Saturday 12th January
From all of this you could infer that the journey was not enjoyed. Not at all. We both slept quite well, we enjoyed the meals and if you had a strong stomach even the loos were passable. This train trip is a “must do” for train lovers, just don't expect it to be a luxurious experience.
We awoke with headaches, a symptom of altitude sickness, but these appeared to ease over breakfast. The evening before the information showed we had been at 2223 metres above sea level so we suppose we had climbed
even higher but there was no information today. The scenery by breakfast time was totally different to what we had been passing through with the landscape bare of vegetation and covered in ice. We could see blue sky for one of the first times since being in China. The outside temperature was showing as -14 degrees. We could hear oxygen being pumped into the cabins and after rehydrating ourselves with orange juice and tea our morning headaches became less. We hope to be acclimatised to the altitude soon after we arrive in Lhasa.
The day became boring after that, the scenery was monotonous, almost like our NW except it was -14 degrees outside and they have yaks instead of sheep and cattle. The temperature rose during the day to about 2 degrees so I don't think it will be as cold as we first thought. Both of us started to get headaches again from the altitude. Luckily the train was running early and we got in just after 1900. We were there after about 35 hours on the train! By then Rags had a splitting headache and had been on an oxygen mask for the past hour. Hopefully he'll
These are hothouses and we saw many of them. At night they rolled grass mats over them for insulation.
get used to it soon. Lhasa's elevation of 3700m makes it one of the world's highest cities.
Lhasa station is very modern, probably one of the best we've seen since leaving Europe. There were the usual touts there trying to sell their accommodation but as we had already booked a room over the Net they were ignored. There was a large queue of taxis outside and we grabbed the nearest. When told the fare was going to be 80 yuan we both protested and started to get out. The asked how much we were prepared to pay and we agreed on 20 yuan. Prior knowledge is very powerful!
The taxi stopped in a dark street and an even darker alley had a sign for the ThangKa Hotel. Rags raced down the alley to check it out leaving a petrified Judy in the taxi by herself. In hindsight not a good idea on his part but it worked out ok with the taxi following into a courtyard which had a modern entrance to the hotel.
After checking in, with some trepidation we were taken to our room by an obliging bellboy. We both sighed with relief, we had
We guess these rock patterns that we saw on both days are meant to stop erosion.
one of the nicest rooms since the Hilton in Austria, large, clean, well appointed with a western toilet and separate shower recess. Home for the next 4 nights. Some luxury, Mum! Through the Net we got this at 1/3 the rack rate as it is off-season.
There are more photos below