Peter left Vancouver early this morning and will meet me in Beijing tomorrow evening. I flew from Dallas to Chicago and board an American Airlines 777 to Beijing this afternoon.
The thirteen hour trip from Chicago to Beijing was uneventful and I slept for a couple of hours early on in the flight to help with the time difference. I arrived about 7:00 pm Beijing time and after clearing customs, meeting my guide, and a traffic-congested, 30 minute cab ride to the Beijing Peninsula Hotel, i met Peter in the libby. He are some dinner then we retired early to our room.
On Saturday morning we met Brian Ma, my guide from 2 years ago in Beijing, and he took us up to the Great Wall of China and then Timminen Square and the Forbidden City. The scenery along the way was terriffic and I had forgotten just how modern and clean Beijing was. We also were blessed with limited smog and Brian helped me to get a sim card for my travel iPhone 5s. We met our group in the evening and then hit the sack early as we leave at 6:00 am in the morning.
On Sunday we awoke very early and started a very long journey to the airport, flying 2 1/2 hours to Chengdu, a one hour lay-over and security check, then flying 2 hours to Lhasa and a 45 minute drive to our hotel. The mountain scenery was breathtaking but we were so tired and impacted by the 12,000 feet elevation that we went to bed at 8:30 pm after our group meeting and dinner.
On Monday we slept in till 7:00 am, had breakfast and then took a short bus ride into Lhasa where we visited two monasteries including the largest in Tibet and one that housed 10,000 people at one time. Tibet’s tourist industry is flourishing and it has become a very modern city of 300,000 people. The weather was sunny and pleasant and we enjoyed lunch in the shopping district.
On Tuesday we slept very well and visited two monasteries, a nunnery, and local shopping in what was a very strenuous day including over 12,000 steps. The weather was beautiful and our guides prepared a very tasty sit-down, local-food picnic in the mountains for us. The restrooms, however, evolved into what we were warned that they were…. A hole in the ground with no running water. We arrived back at our luxury hotel very appreciative of the amenities.
On Wednesday we drove a couple of hours to a Monastery up in the mountains at 14,000 feet and were privileged to witness a reincarnation ceremony where those killed accidentally were prayed over that they may no longer we “stuck” in spiritual form and would go to where they were supposed to go. The view was spectacular and afterwards we enjoyed another picnic lunch under the tent. Also under tent were two restroom tents that the guides built just for us, complete with toilet paper, a rare treat in Tibet. At sunset, we drove to the large palace in Lhasa and received training in nightime photography by Ira Block, our Trip Manager.
On Thursday we drove to Lake Yamdrok at about 13,000 feet above sea level and Peter and I got to ride a yak overlooking the beautiful valley below. The Yeti Hotel in Gyangze was pretty low-end and I managed to have a round of food-poisoning from an earlier meal somewhere.
After a morning sleep on Friday to recover, the group picked me up at the hotel where I was feeling much better.
We then drove to Shigatse and visited the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery the seat of the Panchen Lama. We also walked through the town which is about 12,800 feet above sea level.
On Saturday, we continued to tour Shigatse which is one of the larger towns of Tibet.
On Sunday, Nov 9, we drove through the Lapka La Pass at over 17,000 feet altitude and caught our first glimpse of Mount Everest in the distance.
On Monday we drove to Mount Everest Base Camp on what could hardly be described as roads as the route was more like crossing rocky fields in our four-wheelers. I would not recommend this trip for anyone who dislikes treacherous driving conditions including stream crossings. The trip became very worthwhile once the majestic Mount Everest peak came into view and the experience was just spectacular.
On Tuesday, we departed the Snow Leopard Hotel (or at least they claimed it was) that was lacking in heat, running water, and basic cleanliness and set out for Zhangmu, Tibet at about 9,000 feet. The drive was full of many incredible views and it was wonderful to see trees once again. There were numerous checkpoints along the route and it was apparent that China controlled its population with a Big Brother hand.
On Wednesday we drove to Nepal and the City of Kathmandu and braved an emergency road built around a recent mountain slide. Once again, the scenery and views were outstanding as we dropped into valleys around 3,000 feet in altitude.
After touring Kathmandu on Thursday, we met for a final dinner together and Ira, our photo instructor, presented a photo presentation of our trip consisting of some of our photos.
On Friday, many of our group went to the airport for a one-hour flight around Mount Everest. That was certainly one highlite of our trip. We then returned to our hotel, said our goodbyes, and then went our separate ways on our return home. I flew to Bangkok, stayed overnight, and then on Saturday, flew to Hong Kong and then home to Dallas.