Tibet! Lhasa Days 1 & 2...With a Healthy 40 Hour Train Ride Thrown In for Good Measure...


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May 4th 2017
Published: June 8th 2017
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And away we go!

Now that we mostly had our legs beneath us in China, it was time to get on to the main event: Tibet! After a final day of touring Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City in Beijing we made our way in the evening to the train station, next stop Lhasa... We received our tickets and prepared to board the 8pm train, only to discover we were not all together for this portion of the trip...we were all in "hard sleepers", meaning 6 bunks in a "room" with no door, fortunately K and I were in the same berth along with Alex and Kevin, Maria and Jinba were in another car and unfortunately Erin was all by herself in yet another car...her first time to Asia, talk about cultural immersion! A real trooper and fortunately was able to hang with all of us during the day...

The Trans-Tibetan Railway is the highest in the world, and during the trip we would be reaching altitudes of 4000+ meters...I had really been looking forward to this part of the trip, something about rail travel always evokes the romance of travel for me...also had visions of more comfortable digs
Lhasa..Lhasa..Lhasa..

...as seen from Deprung Monastery...
but we were not lucky enough to score the "soft sleepers", which were apparently only four bunks, better mattresses and even a door...haha...I ended up on the top bunk as well, which was a bit of a climb but turned out to be more private and quiet which was cool...

First night passed without incident, and woke the following morning to beautiful scenery passing us by...we were advised to bring all the food we would need for the two days as the dining options were limited, and our car had a hot water supply that proved quite handy for the coffee packs and instant noodles we had purchased...it was a long day in tight quarters though, there was a small table with two fold-down chairs outside our berth but other than that it was a lot of chilling out and watching the world go by...some of the locals around us spoke a bit of English so got to chatting with them and having a laugh which was awesome...I had purchased a mug at the grocery store that appeared to have some communist propaganda on it, I thought it was cool and I asked one of the locals what the
Watching the World Go ByWatching the World Go ByWatching the World Go By

...on the Trans-Tibetan railway...love the sleep line, must have been taken in the morning...haha...(KC)
text actually said and it loosely translated to something like "the secret to a happy life is a happy wife"...well that got a major laugh in our car! Not exactly what I thought it said but at any rate the mug worked wonders and made it all the way home, now part of our camping kit...haha...

Had a wander through some of the other cars to get to the dining car on our second night and it was then that I realized our accommodations weren't nearly as rough as I thought...a good chunk of the cars simply had benches in them, and the most miserable looking folks sitting in them...40 hours in a seat! I couldn't believe it, there were people sleeping in the aisles, in between the cars etc., wherever they could find a place to lie down...it turns out that the six of us were the only Westerners on the whole train as well, so the looks of amazement we got as we passed by were quite something...

Second night came and went, and the following morning we were all looking forward to reaching our destination...and getting off the train...the smoking, squat toilets and lack of space were starting to get to all of us, and fortunately we arrived a good four hours before we expected...it was nothing but elbows as we disembarked as fast as we could...

Lhasa! Could not believe that after all these years we were finally here! After the initial excitement faded the realization of altitude kicked in...we were at about 3700 meters now, and I could start to feel it in my breathing and movements...we all took it slow under Jinba's advice, and after some paperwork at the station we hooked up with our local handler Dicky (sp?), who presented us each with a welcome Tibetan white scarf...

Made our way to the hotel; this was to be a down day in order to get a bit acclimated to the altitude so nothing planned for the afternoon...K and I dumped our gear and decided to go for a bit of a wander, the location of the hotel was fantastic so made our way over to the square in front of the Jokhang Temple...not a lot of energy but spied a patio overlooking the square so decided to pop in for a pint and something to eat...Yak Momos! Fell in
Lovely K and Morning Coffee...Lovely K and Morning Coffee...Lovely K and Morning Coffee...

...on the train, with the infamous mug in the foreground...haha...
love with momos when we were in Nepal, and discovered they were popular here, couldn't wait...and man they did not disappoint, ordered both steamed and fried and they were fantabulous! They are basically dumplings, and while the fried variety in Nepal are deep fried I believe, the ones in Tibet are just lightly fried in oil in a pan...I have to say I preferred them, and frankly these suckers are my favourite of all the cuisines I've eaten...then it was back for dinner at the hotel with the gang and an early night, we were all pretty tired from the train ride and altitude...

Day 2 was a monastery day, first off was the Deprung Monastery...not sure if it was because it was the first but this was my favourite of all the monasteries we visited...not many folks, the monastery itself was beautiful with its buildings perched on the side of a hill overlooking Lhasa...there were many monks around, and we had the privilege of witnessing a prayer session complete with the droning chanting symbolic of Tibet...it was really cool yet eerie being in the temple with all the monks chanting, something I won't forget...sadly what I do mostly
Monks Debating IIMonks Debating IIMonks Debating II

...about to let him have it!
forget is the vast amount of information that Jinba taught us over the course of the day and the whole trip; from the lives and accomplishments of the various Dalai Lamas, to the history of Tibet itself...he really knew his stuff, but man it was hard keeping names, dates and events straight...really added to the amazing Buddha sculptures, scripture books and architecture of the temples we visited though, would not have been the same without it...

Stopped for some lunch and then hit the second monastery of the day: Sera...smaller than Deprung but still cool, though the attraction here is the daily (?) debate the monks go through in the appropriately named "Debating Courtyard"...basically every day for an hour and a half or so the monks all gather in this courtyard and debate the meanings/interpretations of the scriptures...some are standing and some sitting, and the ones standing pose their questions while doing almost a baseball windup and slapping their hands at the person sitting down...then the seated monk rebuts the other's question or interpretation, absolutely awesome...it looks like it gets quite heated, and judging by the expressions on a couple of their faces a little cheeky too...

Great day, and a pleasant surprise that for dinner we would be going to a local's house to learn how to cook Tibetan cuisine...cool! Gathered up the gang and started on our way, only to have Jinba lead us through a large tapestry covered doorway into a tea house, completely unexpected yet awesome...the place was huge and packed, with conversation buzzing in every corner...managed to find a couple of benches and soon someone was pouring milk tea for each of us...the gear is you put down some very small denominations of money (cents really) on the table and your glass keeps getting filled while you carry on conversations with your mates, very civilized...the interactions with the locals were fun, with one woman's son using her mobile phone to snap selfies with Alex and myself, I guess they don't see Westerners in there very often...all in good fun, was starting to get an idea of the Tibetan vibe and was loving it...great folks; a bit reserved but curious and sweet, and always a smile for you...

Finished up our tea and then ducked into a back alley, finally reaching the second floor apartment where we were to hone our culinary skills...sadly
Momos!Momos!Momos!

...we made these, Yak Momos, and frankly they were the best I had ever had...if I do say so myself...
for the life of me I cannot remember the name of our gracious host, but she was a lot of fun (and VERY patient considering our crew) and really knew her stuff...it was baffling really, after introductions we were handed menus with what seemed to be at least a hundred dishes in them and asked to pick five to whip up...not sure how someone plans for this but the first thing out of my mouth was "Momos!", which was met with no opposition...the other dishes consisted of a soup, a stew I think and an absolutely amazing cucumber salad...

Once the menu was set we were all put to work...I was in charge of the dough for the momos so got the ingredients together and started kneading for what seemed like an hour...Lovely K was diligently writing down all the ingredients and instructions for the dough and filling (Yak meat!) so look forward to trying it at home, although the amount of work that goes into making these bad boys is astounding...

After many laughs and much chaos the dishes all came together, and what a feast we had...maybe a bit biased but the momos we made that night were the best I had ever had, and they did not last long once they hit the table...what a fantastic experience, always love seeing behind the curtain when it comes to local cuisine, a great memory for sure...

Great start to the Lhasa adventure, with more to come in the following days...

(Some photos copyright of Karen C., denoted by (KC)...used with kind permission)


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Passing Time...Passing Time...
Passing Time...

...on the Trans-Tibetan railway...(KC)
View from the train IVView from the train IV
View from the train IV

...love the Yaks...(KC)
K Chilling...K Chilling...
K Chilling...

...in her bunk on the train...comfy!
View from the train...View from the train...
View from the train...

...beautiful and rugged landscape...
Tight Quarters...Tight Quarters...
Tight Quarters...

...looking down the aisle in our car on the Trans-Tibetan railway...
Jinba and KevinJinba and Kevin
Jinba and Kevin

...playing a game popular in Tibet, can't remember the name though...(KC)
Burning of Juniper...Burning of Juniper...
Burning of Juniper...

...at the entrance to Deprung Monastery...
Prayer WheelsPrayer Wheels
Prayer Wheels

...at Deprung Monastery...
Deprung Monastery IIIDeprung Monastery III
Deprung Monastery III

...the gift shop at any rate...picked up a cool prayer wheel here...


2nd July 2017

Train trip...
We've never done anything longer than an overnight/14 hour trip, so I'm curious to know how I'd cope with this trip :) It was all sounding quite good until you mentioned the smoking... :( I've been eyeing off the Intrepid Travel version of this trip, but will look up the G Adventures one too. Momos! Yum! Can't understand why they aren't more popular around the world
4th July 2017

Tight quarters...
...I was really looking forward to the train trip, and it met expectations...really enjoyed it but was glad to get off and no reason to repeat it really...great experience though...yeah, the smoking, at 10pm on the second night the smoking was supposed to stop as they were pumping oxygen into the cars due to altitude, we could still smell it all night unfortunately...as for momos yes, I could live off them...haha...did learn how to make them and they are very time consuming, might explain why they aren't more popular elsewhere!

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