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June 26, 2017

Water, water everywhere

Filed under: Asia 2017 — admin @ 7:41 am

June 25 – Dujiangyan Irrigation Project

Today was designated a late start day (10:30am). The kids, determined to make the most of the hotel, got up at 8am to use the work out room and go for a swim. The adults joined them at breakfast around 9:30 and at 10:30 we were in front of the KFC being whisked away to Southgate, the old part of Dujiangyan. 

Today’s adventure was walking around the 2,000 year old irrigation project. The ingenious design successfully tamed the Min River (Minjiang), the longest tributary of the Yangtze and turned a perineal flood zone into a well managed source of farming water. Of course, we started by feeding the giant carp. 

The delightful walking circuit took us to the edge of the irrigation, across a bouncy swinging bridge, up to the top of a temple, and back to town. Along the way, the kids had ice cream, watermelon juice, cucumbers, and sugar on a stick. Tom added two more Warriors photos to his collect with a pair of Kevin Durant fans. It was noted that no other basketball jerseys of any kind have been spotted thus far. 


Somehow along the way, Evie turned the 3 boys into a marching troop who obeyed her every command. By 3pm we were back at the cars and by 3:30 we were sitting at a restaurant for our second hot pot meal, this one 500m from the school everyone teaches at. 



At 4:30 Michael and his wife scooped up tom and sue and took them to his artist academy 30km from Dujiangyan. Taking free range parenting to the max, Evie and Tyler were given $20 and Sue’s phone and were driven back to the hotel. We should be back by 7, we said, but we were quite wrong. 

Not fully understanding what was in store, Michael stopped en route to pick up one of the artists and a few minutes later a car with 3 more artists joined us for the hour+ drive to the studio. 

Once there we were treated to a display of classic Chinese art. Each artist set to creating a unique work of art, all classically Chinese brush paintings, but each unique in style. The director/benefactor of the academy (Mr. Liu) came to meet us and gave us a tour of the facility and showed us his office. It turns out he runs an advertising business focused on building brands for small companies. 



After the tour, we returned to the studio to find that all of the works had been completed and after 15 minutes of group photos we were gifted each of the works! 


It is still a mystery to us why we were treated like royalty but around 7:30 we back in the car for the drive home. Unfortunately, because of the mudslide some 100km from Dujiangyan, the highway was closed and instead of a short drive home it took 90 minutes to get back. 

Thankfully, we were able to be in touch via cell phone with the ever responsible Evie and the kids did great on their own for nearly 5 hours. Tom joined the artists for a late dinner while Sue took the kids to KFC and out to Southgate for some late night shopping. 

Tom regaled the artists with photos of burning man and answered their questions about America (What holidays do you celebrate? Why are there so many guns? Does everyone have a lawyer? Do Americans live longer than Chinese?)


At 10:30 we were back in our rooms, tired but chuckling at the absurdity of our day. Tomorrow we will be picked up by our the Chengdu homestay family that Sue and Tyler stayed with during their school visit in April. 

Without question, having friends in china makes all the difference in the world!

Do-ing Dujiangyan 

Filed under: Asia 2017 — admin @ 7:05 am

June 24 – Dujiangyan, China

We don’t often splurge on a 5-star hotel when we are traveling, but in this case we knew that Tibet would be challenging and that we all would be craving some extra comforts, like soft beds and a swimming pool. Indeed the day before, the kids had jumped in the pool almost immediately upon arrival. After purchasing the mandatory swim caps, of course!

Another significant benefit of stay at the Balan International was the immense breakfast buffet complete with French fries, pastries, sushi, bacon, fruit, and most importantly – fresh ground espresso!! Oh, and did I mention rooms only cost $75! We may never leave!

Around 9am Sammy arrived at our hotel to take us to Qingcheng Mountain, famous as the birthplace of Taoism. The hike through the forest passed dozens of pagodas and small temples. The weather was mildly overcast, but it was muggy and warm. 

We were joined on the walk by Ann, the daughter of Judy one of the teachers we had hosted in February. She had also visited Bullis so her English was excellent. Also joining us we’re Hunter and Bob, school friends. 


Before the hike, Tom spotted his first Curry jersey and quickly scampered over for a picture. Around 10am, we began the hike along with another few thousand Chinese day-trippers, some of whom opted for the royal treatment of being carried up the path. Up and up we went, until around 1:45 we finally arrived at the 8th story temple at the top. 


Along the way, it was interesting to see the many similarities between the Buddhist statues of Tibet and the Daoist statues of Sichuan. Around 2:30 we began the return journey which was facilitated by a gondola and a boat ride. 


Around 4pm we were back at the bottom and Tom saw his second Curry jersey. The father of a Cal student, he was going full Bay Area with his Giants cap, Cal shorts, and Curry undershirt. 


At 4:30 Sammy picked us up and drove us to the restaurant of a friend of Judy’s. There, will the boys ran off to play laser tag in the extensive garden, Sue and Tom learned how to play mahjong. Fun! And the automatic tile shuffler was a hit with the kids. 


Around 6:30, Judy, Michael, Lori, and Elsie joined us creating a reunion of all the teachers who had visited California in February. Of course, it was a huge feast with dish after dish arriving at our table, until the servers had piled the dishes 3 levels high!


Stuffed to the gills, we were driven home by Sammy to our cushy hotel. and we all fell fast asleep by 10pm, after a surprise bath by Tyler (aka Jack Frost). 

June 24, 2017

Goodbye Tibet

Filed under: Asia 2017 — admin @ 7:25 pm

June 23 – Goodbye Tibet, Hello China

Earlier in our trip, as the daily travel times became more apparent, we discovered it was possible to fly from Shigatse to Chengdu. There was one flight per day and it left at 9am. If we could get on it (none of the people we had asked had even heard the ft he flight mich less, known anyone who had done it) we would save the 7 hour drive to Lhasa and would arrive in Chengdu at 11:30am instead of 8pm. 

Tom had booked the flights in Gyangtse as a backup plan once he discovered that unlike in the US flights in Tibet are 90% refundable. So at 6:30am we loaded back into the van and headed to the airport. We arrived at 7:30 and easily checked into our flight and by 8am were ready to go to the gate (there is only one gate as there is only one flight per day). 

Before doing so, we went outside for a last group photo with our Tibetian family Nyima and our driver. As we said goodbye, we were all overcome with emotion and Nyima openly wept tears of joy and sadness. She and Evie had built a special bond as they often walked through the street holding hands. Sue had been reading a book to the kids about a Tibetian girl who after having her dog stolen crosses the mountains and journeys down to Calcutta to retrieve it. We finished the book just before arriving at the airport and gave it to Nyima along with some handwritten notes of thanks (and a tip of course!)


With our eyes misty but our hearts full, we went back inside to head through security. In line, we met the only other westerners in the airport and the conversation went like this. 

  • Us: “hi, where are you guys from?”
  • Them: “we live in Palo Alto.”
  • Us: “no way, us too! Where about?”
  • Them: “we moved from Paris about 6 months ago. We live on California ave above Joanie’s”
  • Us: “no way, my mom lives in Paris and that’s our local breakfast place! We live on the other side of Alma! Where are you coming from?”
  • Them: “we were at Everest 2 days ago and then drove back.”
  • Us: “no way! Us too! (After getting their names one sounded Swedish) “is that a Swedish last name?”
  • Them: “yes, my grandparents lived near Goteborg on the west coast of Sweden.”
  • Us: “no way! That’s where Tom’s mother is from!”

One works at SLAC and the other is a scientist turned startup founder. Needless to say, we spent the next hour sharing stories and being amazed at the coincidences. 

En route the views out the right side of the plane were spectacular as all of the Himalaya were bathed in clear blue skies and thankfully Sue was able to snap some amazing photos. On the ground in Chengdu, we said goodbye to our new friends (after collecting their contact info) and went immediately to, what else, Starbucks! Latte and frappachino in hand we decided to splurge and took a taxi the 70km to our 5-star hotel in Dujiangyan. It was double the estimated $30 but it was worth it. By 2pm we were in our rooms and by 3pm the kids were in the pool!


At 5pm, Sammy (one of the lovely teachers we had met when they came to visit Bullis) met us in the lobby and we walked to a nearby hot pot restaurant. She ordered for us and requested the least spicy option, so it was merely super spicy rather than unbearable. After dinner, she drove us to the old part of town dominated by the raging rivers of the famous irrigation system. Now converted to a shopping / dining section it was easy to see how this area would be extremely popular. 


Around 9:30pm, we were back at our hotel after making arrangements for the following day. It felt wonderful to make our transition from Tibet by landing in a city where Sue and Tyler had been before and to be so well cared for by our friends. And we all commented how strange it felt that China now feels “comfortable” when a few years ago our visit felt so foreign. 

Travel is indeed an amazing teacher. 

Nearing the end

Filed under: Asia 2017 — admin @ 6:15 pm

June 22 – Lhtase to Shigatse
On the day before we had driven from EBC to Lhatse (about 6-7 hours) so today we had a relatively short drive to Shigatse meaning we didn’t have to go anywhere until 10am and we spent most of it asleep, exhausted from the long day before. We enjoyed a simple breakfast with the local kitten before heading off. Around 1:30pm we rolled into the now familiar city of Shigatse and went directly to our favorite restaurant The Third Eye. 

Edit

After a lovely meal, punctuated by Tyler’s first visit for #2 in a squat toilet, we were off to our hotel which we discovered full of red robed monks. Apparently there were around 50 of them in town for a conference, which somehow struck us a funny. After checking in, we crossed the street (think real-life ‘frogger’) to visit a local market. Somehow we ended up shoe shopping in the fake-Nike section (we liked the brand Abibas made to look like Adidas) and caused quite a stir. Within minutes, we were surrounded by a dozen watchers-on who literally gasped when Tyler took off his hat exposing his blond locks. When he spoke to them in Mandarin it blew their minds. They laughed out loud when they discovered that Tom was his father, not grandfather. 


With our $9.00 shoes in hand (Tyler negotiated from 75 to 60 cny) we set off to do the kora we had so enjoyed the last time we were in town. Once again it was delightful, this time interrupted by a flock of sheep crisscrossing the path. We ended the hike at the fort overlooking the city and then walked through the old town (vigilantly looking for aggressive dogs) and down to the ‘tourist’ market, which was mostly closing up as the sun was about to set. Evie wanted to get some prayer beads and found the perfect ones. Tyler negotiated two sets for about the same price as originally quoted for one set (75 yuan) and everyone was happy with the deal. 


As the sun set, we returned to our nearby hotel, dropped off our bag and set off to the Tibetian Family Restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet. There we had a lovely, hilarious and cheap meal of momos, yogurt, yak sizzler, potatoes, and crepes (which were more like tortillas). Tyler entertained the locals (the place had no tourists) by shouting Teche-delay out the second story window at passers-by. We also had an awesome discussion about what we had learned about Tibet and the kids impressed the adults with their insights and observations. Stuffed, we paid the $10 for dinner and strolled home in the dark of 9pm. 

It is amazing how comforting it was to be back in a city we had been in before. When we had arrived in Shigatse 4 days earlier it felt foreign but now it felt like a bizarre second home. The sadness of the final night of our trip was upon us and we all went to bed feeling nostalgic for Tibet. 

June 23, 2017

Everest Base Camp

Filed under: Asia 2017 — admin @ 1:44 am

June 21 – Shegar to Everest and back

Today is the big day! We awoke at 5am to be packed and in the lobby by 5:30 so we could make the hour long drive to Pang-la pass at sunrise. If the weather is clear, we will see Everest and 5 other 8,000m peaks as the sun slowly sets them aglow. We had all of our warm gear and our prayer flags all ready for the pass. Unfortunately, when we arrived, well before sunrise, there was a layer of fog from the valley below that obscured our views. 


Evie and Tyler stayed in the car keeping warm while Tom and Sue hiked slowly to the top of the hill to watch the sunrise at 17,000 ft. Even with our long underwear on it was cold without the sun and prayer flags were covered in frost. Standing alone far above the parking lot, Sue and Tom were watching the sun preparing to crest over the clouds in the distance when 4 green SUVs came barreling up the dirt road to exactly where we were standing. Out popped 12 Chinese tourists with there camera and tripods. When we noted that they could go even higher with their SUVs, they said thanks, this is good. A classic example of American vs. Chinese. Americans, always craving more space while the Chinese are extremely comfortable in a crowd. 

Chuckling, we walked a littler higher up to “get our space” to watch the sunrise and hope the fog cleared. The fog didn’t ever clear, so we returned to the van and the kids got out and we put up our flags and continued on our way. 


The road down was an impossible series of switch backs until we reached the valley below and after 2 hours we were at the absurd tent village 5km from the actual Everest Base Camp (EBC). The sun hadn’t reached the village so it was still cold and we went into one of the classic nomad-style tent for some tea, warmth and rest (the kids were exhausted with good reason!). With the fog behind us, Everest was clearly visible with little wisps of clouds in front. Then, around 9am our guide exclaimed, “the weather will be good. We should go now.” And we scampered through the tent village to where the bus was taking visitors the 5 bumpy kilometers to the official EBC. 

P
Nyima was right and the wisps had disappeared and there, towering in front of us was the great mountain herself. Still another 20km from the actual “base” she provided the illusion that climbing would not be difficult. However, the optical illusion obscured the fact that the mountain was still 12,000 feet above our 17,000 ft perch. 


We spent nearly 2 hours marveling at her beauty, taking pictures, and being in pictures. For even at EBC we were the only westerners. Joining in the photo-fest were, low and behold, the SUV people! Turns out they were on some ad shoot for a car buying service in China and the next thing we knew, Tom was talking on camera about the merits of driving a SUV!!


Satiated with our view, we went back to the bus stop and eventually caught the bus for our 20 minute bump-fest back to the tent village. We planned to have lunch at our tent, but the owner had left so we drive back to the Rompo Monastery (the highest in the world) and had some fried rice, noodle soup, French fries, and sweet tea. We also tried the salty yak butter tea, which, well, wasn’t our cup of tea. 


We had planned to stay the night at the monastery, but we had such good luck wth our view that decided to do some of the long drive back to Shigatse. So around 2pm we set off back the direction we had come earlier that morning. Tyler entertained us by sticking his head out the window and shouting Teche-delay (hello) at all the cars, nomads, and villagers we passed. Around 4:30 we had passed Shegar, the town we had started at nearly 12 hours before. Tom had found a hot springs “resort” 11km past Shegar and we stopped to enjoy a dip in their geyser filled pool. 

The resort had long since passed its prime, but undeterred Tom and the kids braved the 100+ degree heat of the pool. It was raining steadily now and the sound of the rain on the semi-clear roof was enchanting. The resort had rooms, but like most of the place they were a bit dingy. The hotel from the night before was full and rather than head back we decided to push on to the small town of Lhatse, another 3 hours ahead. We had a dinner of instant noodles and around 6:30 we set off for our final destination. 


We bumped and bounced for another 2.5 hours until we arrived at the adorable Lhatse Family Guesthouse. After some reading, relaxation and the all important wifi, everyone was asleep by 10pm. 


What a long, glorious, epic day. 

June 22, 2017

Sakya to Shegar and the mystical conch shell

Filed under: Asia 2017 — admin @ 8:30 am

June 20 

By now, you know the drill. Breakfast at 8:30, heading to a monastery by 9am. 

As usual, we were the only western visitors amongst a throng of local worshipers. The Sakya Monastery was a short walk from our hotel and somehow immediately upon arrival Tyler got engaged with a pair of Tibetian monks. It was surreal to watch a Tibetian and an American chatting in Mandarin. A small crowd gathered to watch the encounter and the most interesting question was when the head monk asked who was the new US president. Not our opinion of the president, but who won! Global news is hard to come by in Tibet. 

Meanwhile, Sue and Evie were watching a small group of monks doing their morning chants in the huge assembly hall. Tom and Tyler rejoined them and we continued our visit to the monastery. Incredibly each monastery seems more impressive than the last. In one room we counted approximately 2,000 scripture books, stacked floor to ceiling in a room 20m high and 80m long. The scriptures are protected by walls 3m thick! I’d show you a picture, but taking one would have cost $45!

Later, we heard the sound of a conch shell being blown and learned that it was a gift from Indian Buddhist sages to the head of the Sakya sect, who gave it to Kublia Khan from Mongolia, who somehow ended up giving it back. This all transpired over the course of a few centuries. Oh, and the shell is 4,000 years old and is the remains of Buddha Sakyamuni from when he reincarnated as a shell fish. Having the shell blown for you provides good fortune for you and your parents so needless to say we joined the line of worshippers, made our offerings, and had the conch blown above our bowed heads. 

We continued our tour by circumnavigating the monastery, spinning the prayer wheels, and popping into chapels with chanting monks. Around 11am we were back in the van to drive to our next destination 4 hours drive away called Shekar. Along the way, we crossed the Gyatso-la pass at our peak Tibetian elevation of 5,248m (17,300 ft). We had planned to put up some prayer flags and Tyler negotiated some flags from 50rmb to 30, but it was too cold so we continued on. Around 4pm after passing 3 checkpoints, we arrived at our modernist hotel in Shegar. 


We checked in and after a short break we got back into the van for a 30 minute drive to the old town of Shegar. Along the way we passed dozens of empty high rise buildings built in the past 5 years transforming beautiful farm lands into a concrete subdivision. More on China’s transformation of Tibet later. We parked at entrance of the monastery high up on the hill. We explored the nearly vacant monastery for a while before scampering up above the monastery to explore the ruins of a great fort. Tyler went back to the van while Sue and Evie hiked high above monastery. Tom continued even higher attempting to reach the craggy peak. He stopped about a 100m below the peak and gazed off into the distance. There, much to his surprise, he saw a sharp peak far in the distance. It was Everest. 


Filled with joy, he scampered back down to the van. Sue had walked down to the village we met her at the bridge crossing the river. While she was befriending kids riding ripsticks, Tyler and Tom were buying prayer flags for 20 CNY each ($3). Back in the van, we were at the hotel around 6:30. The kids opted for oatmeal in their rooms while Tom and Sue had the 50 yuan ($7.50) buffet which was clearly designed for the Chinese tour groups. 


By 9pm, we were in our beds attempting to get a good nights sleep for the next day we will be waking at 5am to catch sunrise at Pang-la (5,050m) where you can see Everest and a handful of 8,000m peaks on a clear day. After sunrise we will continue 3 hours to our final “destination” – Everest Base Camp. 

June 20, 2017

The rhythm of Tibetian travel

Filed under: Asia 2017 — admin @ 6:06 am

June 19 – Shigatse to Sayka

We have settled into the Tibetian travel pattern – wake around 8am, head down for a Chinese focused buffet breakfast, pack up out stuff, and meet Nyima around 9am to load the van and head to a monastery. Today we ere visiting Tashilhumpo monastery, the monastery we had circumnavigated the day before. 

A monastery in Tibet was more than just a play for monks to pray. A monastery could also be considered like a small university divided into multiple colleges. Further, visiting a monastery involves visiting many different temples, chapels, courtyards and assembly halls. Tashilhumpo survived relatively unscathed by the cultural revolution and the 10th Penchen Lama is credited with saving it and many other relics in Tibet.

While the entire grounds were spectacular, the highlight might have been the 26m gilded statue of the Future Buddha. The immense statue is the largest gilded statue in the world and it was built in 1914 and took 900 artisans 4 years to complete. Or maybe the highlight was strolling through chapels while seated monks chanted scriptures. Or maybe the highlight was rubbing shoulders with colorful pilgrims as they make their offerings of yak butter to keep the flames alive. We would show photos of some of the insides if the photo permit was $50!

 

  

Around 10:30am we were back at the van and Tom wanted to get some Tibetian singing bowls, which were for sale at the market around the corner. He brought his negotiator (Tyler) as locals are more likely to speak Chinese than English. 15 minutes later they were back at the van with 2 bowls, 6 colorful tassels, and a small bronze statue of Buddha Sakyamuni. Tyler’s mandarin skills saves us about 40% of asking price and well within the target range our guide suggested. 

Continuing our travel pattern it was time to drive for 4 hours, this time to the small town of Sakya 150km southwest of Shigatse. Along the way, we gazed at the farmers plowing the fields using the traditional method of riding a plow behind two yaks. The rest of the trip was uneventful and we passed the time singing along to Hamilton. 


Around 4pm we arrived at the “off the beaten path” town of Sakya. Around the 11th century, Sayka was a regional powerhouse and built an impressive fortress like monastery. Of course, we were going to visit that the next morning when the chapels will be open (most are closed around 12:30 each day). After settling into our 2-star hotel, we set off for our now afternoon pattern, hiking a kora around the smaller northern monastery. 

Once again, we were mini celebrities with locals waving and in some cases asking to be in photos with us. 20 minutes into our hike it began to thunder and rain lightly, but we were unfazed. It rained for 20 minutes and then stopped. Given how dry it is in Tibet (it is a high desert after all!) all of our clothes were dry by the time we finished our hike.






Back at the hotel around 7pm we decided to have a family night of dinner and Uno. Nyima joined us for dinner and cards and was a ringer winning her first time around! At 9pm, Tom went out to explore the town as Sue helped the kids get into bed. By 10pm (our new bedtime) everyone was asleep. 

After 5 days, we gave got our Tibetian travel pattern down cold!

June 19, 2017

Father’s Day in Tibet

Filed under: Asia 2017 — admin @ 7:45 am

June 18

Almost exactly a year ago, we were in Zion watching the Warriors lose game 7 in what our family has called “the worst Father’s Day ever!” This year, Sue and the kids surprised Tom with Father’s Day cards and gifts (he had forgotten it was Father’s Day) that so surprised Tom that he openly wept tears of joy. The cards were adorable and the gifts perfect – an 8 pack of Reese peanut butter cups, Lays ‘finger licking braised pork’ chips, and a coffee mug from Lhasa. Best Father’s Day ever!

  

After breakfast it was time to head to Shigatse, about 3 hours drive northwest. Everyone had slept well, except for Tyler who got another nighttime bloody nose caused by the dry air, but by morning felt well. The only stop on the way was made at a barley milling farm. The mill was powered by a rushing river under the house and within minutes the kids were pretending to be mill workers and shortly after that were covered with barley dust.

By 1pm we had arrived in the sprawling city of Shigatse and checked into our glamorous 4-star hotel. We had a lovely lunch where once again we were the main attraction as the other restaurant guests gawked at our arrival. In response we gawked at the red-robed monks slurping their soup while texting their friends. The chicken butter masala and the Mali kofta was truly excellent. 


After lunch, we returned to our hotel to head out to the old town a few hundred meters away. We peruse the open air market before heading into the narrow alleys in the shadow of the massive dzong (fort). Many of the houses had ferocious sounding dogs tied up on their roofs or in the back yards. As Tom was taking a picture, Evie rounded a corned to find one of these guard dogs untethered and not at all happy to see her. She shouted “go, back! Run!”and Tyler turned and ran behind Evie with the beast in close pursuit. As they ran past, Sue who began shouting at the dog who then attacked her. A swift kick or two stopped the dog, but not before Sue had been bitten on the knee. Thankfully, while there were noticeable teeth marks the had not punctured the skin. 

Everyone was shaken by the experience and we high tailed it back to our hotel for some first aid and teddy bear snuggle time. At 5pm Nyima returned and we went on a lovely kora around the Tashilunpo monastery. The 90 minute circuit was a delightful combination of pilgrims, prayer wheels, and prayer flags. Back at the main “pedestrian street” Tyler and Tom decided to have a massage at the Braille Without Borders blind massage center. The experience was different than a US massage as rather than getting a separate room, Tyler and Tom were massaged right next to each other while the two masseuses chatted non-stop. Still for $20/hr it was a pretty good massage. 

  

The boys joined the girls for dinner at a nearby restaurant and by 9pm we were back in our hotel and by 10pm everyone was snoozing. 

PS this video captures a bit of what it is like to hike a kora

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June 18, 2017

Go go Gyangtse 

Filed under: Asia 2017 — admin @ 6:31 am

June 17

Gyangtse was once consider Tibet’s third city (behind Lhasa and Shigatse) as it was a major trading center between Lhasa, Nepal, and India. Today tourists are mostly bypassing this small town en route to Everest. All the better for us, as the temples, monastery, and the back alleys were almost entirely empty of foreign and Chinese visitors. 

Speaking of western visitors, we have been amazed at how few of them we have encountered. The rarity of westerns is confirmed with every restaurant we enter as heads turn on a swivel to stare at us. For example, today locals asked to have photos taken of Tyler at breakfast and both kids at lunch. When we walk the back alleys of the old town we are greeted with a chorus of ‘Hello!!” from the local kids. When we say hello back, they giggle and shriek with delight. And we love it, because we are visiting their culture and asking to take photos of their unique costumes and it feels nice that they too are interested in those “different” people. 

We met our lovely guide Nyima at 9:30 to go visit one of the largest stupas in Tibet and its neighboring monastery. This monastery was unique in that it represented all 4 sects of Tibetian Buddhism (don’t ask me to list them) as well as for its liberal photo policy. For $5 you can take all the pics you want, so we did. 

After an hour inside the monastery, we went next door to explore the chorten of 10,000 statues. I didn’t count them all (Tyler counted a 1,000 in one room), but I don’t think it is an exaggeration. After that, we hiked up a short hill to another monastery which in addition to being gorgeous it offered commanding views across the city and the impressive dzong (fortress) dominating the skyline. 

We made the short drive back to our hotel and then to lunch at the cozy Tashi restaurant. After lunch was “free time” which we spent in a combination of screen time, showers, and more back alley strolling for the over 40 set. At around 6pm, we dragged the kids out to explore the old city which they hadn’t seen yet. Tom hiked to the top of the fortress and later everyone reconnected at the hotel restaurant. Overall, we have been favorably impressed with the food in Tibet. Tonight Tyler had delicious spaghetti and Tom had a yummy yak burger. 

With the sun going down at almost 9pm we have been staying up later than usual and tonight everyone was asleep around 10pm. 

 

 
 

 

 
 

June 17, 2017

Leaving Lhasa – The long road to Gyangtse 

Filed under: Asia 2017 — admin @ 9:50 pm

June 16

We knew that today would be a challenging travel day as we need to travel 280 km to Gyangtse and along the way we would reach a high point of 4,700m (14,100). Even still, we underestimated the impact on our bodies. 

We awoke feeling good having finally adjusted to the time zone. We left the hotel around 8:45 and snaked our way through the endless Chinese development of outer Lhasa. After a few hours of windy roads, we had reached the Kamba-la pass at 4,700m with its breathtaking view of one of Tibets holy lakes, Yamdrok Lake. We took a lovely stroll to the top of a hill covered in prayer flags. 

Back in the van we drove down to the lake and ended up paying $3.00 for a picture on a yak. Totally worth it! Earlier we had spent $3.00 to have our pictures taken with the famous Tibetian mastiff dogs which helped the kids with their missing sneaker. Back in the van for another hour of bumpy roads until we arrived at the off the beaten path Samding monastery. When we arrived tyler wasn’t feeling well enough to walk the 100m to the monastery, which wasn’t a good sign. Tom piggybacked him in so he would miss the monks who were practicing for an upcoming ceremonial dance performance. While there he became the object of great interest for 3 young monks. 

Later, the monks came out to see us off and someone had the idea to show them Tyler’s fidget spinner. That got tyler up and he spent the last of his energy showing them how it works. Showing great generosity, he gave them his red spinner which they very much appreciated. 

We know it was the last of his energy, because when we got back into the van we made it around 2 turns before he shouted “stop!” and thankfully stuck his head out the window before vomiting with great force. He felt better afterwards, but still wasn’t up to snuff. 

There was still 3 hours of driving left and after a short noodle soup lunch we were back on the road. About 90 minutes later we arrived at a massive roadside glacier (Karo La) at 5,020m elevation. Almost immediately upon stopping, Tyler stepped out of the van to throw up. However, that didn’t stop the most aggressive sales person we’ve seen to date. While Tyler was barfing in a ditch, he continued to show his “excellent” chunk of amber. 

Like glaciers around the world, this one is retreating rapidly. 5 years ago, the glacier went down to the road. Now the glacier is roughly half its size. 

Back on the road, we drove for another 90 minutes arriving around 7pm in the very quaint town of Gyangtse. Tyler went for a “three-peat” and barfed at the hotel. Evie was also feeling the effects of the altitude and the drive so Sue and the kids stayed home while Tom wandered the streets finding the main chorten (also called a stupa) and the adorable old town. 

Everyone was feeling the effects of the long day and the elevation. We are all thankful to have 2 nights in Gyangtse.

 

 

 

 

 

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