if you want a nice young guy who speaks english to take you around tibet, you can get in touch with nga wang. he was my guide during my solo tour around lhasa/gyangze/xigaze/nam-tso last august, 2006. he's very helpful and will take good photographs of you! (in case you're also traveling alone).
he can also arrange your transportation and driver. we took an isuzu rodeo 4x4.
just tell him you were referred by miko, his friend from the philippines.
I was amazed by how easy it is to buy a train ticket at Lhasa station. It only look about a total of 5 minutes for me to go into the station on a Friday afternoon and purchase a ticket to Golmud.
When I got to the ticket counter there was only one person in front of me. Where were the long lines? What about the bureaucracy?
I was told that buying a ticket to Beijing or Chengdu required advance reservations. Yet since I only wanted a cheap hard seat to Golmud, the tickets were in abundance for my Sunday departure.
It is possible to buy tickets to Dangxiong or Naqu if you want to see a couple more destinations in Tibet. Dangxiong is the station near Nam-tso Lake and Naqu is famous for its horse racing festival. These tickets are very cheap but you'll need to stay overnight in order to proceed to Golmud or return to Lhasa. In the near future I believe day trip packages to Nam-tso Lake will become available.
Lhasa's airport is not in Lhasa. It's actually located in the small town of Gongga, about an hour away by bus. There is only one international flight, so if you are not going to Nepal then you must fly to another domestic destination and change planes.
If you need to use the restroom, there is only one western style toilet in the airport and it's located next to "International Departures" on the far right as you enter the airport.
There is plenty of transportation to Lhasa from the airport, but if you fly into Gongga and wish to go elsewhere in Tibet then options are very limited. There is a road that goes to Gyangze (highway 307) but it is constantly under repair. For 10 yuan you can get dropped off by the Lhasa shuttle at the nearby intersection that goes west to Shigatse (spelled as "Xigaze" in VT database) and then hitch a ride on a mini-bus for 40 or 50 yuan. (See additional photo)
I flew with Air China into Lhasa from Chengdu, a city in the western province of Sichuan. For most people, you'll need to get an illusive permit*, which can be arranged at the local guesthouses in Chengdu. I said illusive coz I never saw the permit. The flight was early in the morning, and the guesthouse had arranged transportation, which was included in the price of the ticket and permit. There is no other way to get to the airport this early, except for taxi.
The two hours flight was very smooth, and passed by numerous barren mountains, with the occational villages and green farms along the rivers.
You can't get discounts for this trip, which is about 1600RMB one way. [July 2005 price]
*May 2007 Update: I read that there is in fact a real permit. When I was there in 2005, none of the travelers that I met had one.
Public buses are good way to get around within Lhasa and to nearby monasteries. It is 2RMB within the city, and more to further away. The buses are actually mini-buses and are quite frequent. There are various routes, it is better to ask at your guesthouse which one and where to take beforehand.
You probably won't walk across it but the Lhasa Bridge is used frequently by vehicles arriving in Lhasa from the train station. Further west there is a new bridge currently under construction in 2006 that will provide a shortcut to town from the train station. The old bridge will still be used by vehicles travelling east to Sichuan.
The area surrounding the Lhasa Bridge is an ideal place to observe the Bathing Festival, which is usually celebrated some time in September. Use the west gate of Tibet University to access the bridge area, as the road from town leading up to the bridge does not have a suitable sidewalk for pedestrian traffic.
This little tractor will take you uphill to the Drepung Monastery. From the road where the regular bus from Lhasa stops.
Ofcourse you can walk uphill, but it is a tough climb and once inside the monastery gate, you can climb also. The 1 Yuan they charge to take you (up or down hill) is worth it.
It's one of the those photos that you take a million of at the time and then when you sort through them afterwards you realise that they all look the same! The scenery was beautiful however as we passed by the Lhasa River. At first we passed through the Yalung Zangbo Valley from the airport whose Indian name is Dhamaputara, and then through the newly constructed 3km long tunnel called Galashan which the guide was very proud of. The tunnel has actually cut the journey from around 93km to 60km, so that was the part that I was pleased to hear about! At the other end we went through the Lhasa Valley, passing the Lhasa River where I took this photo.
If you fly into Lhasa, which most visitors in Tibet do, be sure you take it easy the first days. Due to the altitude of Lhasa (3595 meters), a lack of oxygen, can make you ill. Symptoms of this altitude-sickness range from light dizziness, headaches to the more serious like vomiting and unconsciousness. Mostly these symptoms will go away after a few days, if they don't go to a lower altitude....
You can take some light painkillers for the headache, but it is wise to rest a lot. Further more it is said you have to drink a lot.
Best to avoid this problems is to climb very slowly and stay some time at lower altitudes before you go to 4000 meters.
Most visitors however do fly into Lhasa...... which is OK if you take it easy the first days.
This was a 3.5 hour journey, so plenty of photos to take! Again, each one looked just like the other 20 or so, but I did manage to get some good ones of prayer flags dotted along the way! What did amaze me was that there were really dry mountains, mountains with foliage and mountains with sand...all different kinds. Our guide said that there were only two kinds of trees which grow in Lhasa, those being the Birch which is used for wooden carvings and the Willow which is used for the rooves of the Tibetan's houses.
...but where it was is another matter!!! I really cant remember what the purpose of this Buddha here in the mountain side is, but I do remember the guide saying that the land used to be owned by the government and it was therefore free to get in and take photos, but recently it has been bought by a wealthy businessman and there is now a fee of 10yuan to walk inside, hence my photo from the side of the road. Nice billboard! At least the advertisers were clever enough to realise that people would be taking photos of it even if they didnt want to be! All the white 'rubbish' strewn on the mountain side are haddas put there by pilgrims and travellers. I should have probably put mine there as it kept getting caught on my bag zip, but then I would have had to pay 10yuan just to put it there..a vicious cycle!
Since I was there in 1986 there have sprung up lots more hotels and I stayed in the Lhasa Hotel just as it had been built. The lifts didn't yet work and they were still laying carpets. Due to the restrictions then tourists were only allowed to stay in certain hotels or guesthouses. We walked everywhere or drove around in the Toyota Land Cruiser we rented which was pretty expensive but we split it 4 ways for our trip to the Nepalese border. I was in Lhasa 4 times and there exist 3 groups of seperate people.The Tibetans, The Han Chinese and tourists.
Roads are generally poor in Tibet. The only roads suitable for VTT are the following=
Kodari Dingri Shigatse Lhasa Nakchu
Lhasa Kongpo-Gyamda Bayi
Lhasa Tsetang Ombulakang.
Schedule only 50 to 100km depending you have to climb or not. For other roads 35km a day will be a maximum. Excepts those 4 main roads there are short good portions of roads around some large cities, military camps or hydroelectric plants and between Chamdo and Chamdo airport. Others roads are bumpy and only an average of 200km per day can be expected with a first class TOYOTA 4500 on those roads. Many are under repairs or cut such as the Chonggye road. A side track nearby will replace the usual road. It don't matter: any 4 wheels carriage track worth those roads.
When looking the materials and technics used - no progress can be scheduled in the near future. Chinese wasted 40 years to learn that roads should be drained and it will take certainly more than that to discover that local soils must not be used as a bottom of road.
We had been so so lucky during the whole week holiday and hadn't encountered any rain when we had been visiting places. We had had some rain one night but we were already back in the hotel by that point. So on our penultimate day on the road from Shigatse to Lhasa we managed to see mountains with clouds hanging over them and I really thought it was a spectacular sight.
Taxi's are very affordable in my opinion. The cost is 10 rmb and will get you just about anywhere in Lhasa. You do not have to tip your driver. They are not expecting anything. The ones I've used seem to be very knowledgeable on the area. They do not speak much English but they are familiar with tourist destinations. Where you may run into a problem is if you want to go to a specific restaurant. Just ask your hotel staff to write it out in Chinese.
May 1,2005 - The much anticipated direct bus service between Kathmandu and Lhasa was flagged off Sunday, as a deluxe bus of Sajha Yatayat left for Lhasa on its maiden journey with 40 passengers onboard.
Minister for Labor and Transport Management Ram Narayan Singh and the Chinese ambassador Sun Heping inaugurated the service. "Beginning of the bus services is a landmark event that will further strengthen the relationship between the two countries," said Singh
Speaking at the inauguration function, he said that the service would, most importantly strengthen the people-to-people ties. "The bus service will be a strong means to promote trade, economy and tourism of both nations," Singh said
Ambassador Sun also noted that the new service would further strengthen the friendly ties between the two countries and play a crucial role in the promotion of tourism within the two countries. The journey from Kathmandu to the Capital city of Tibetan Autonomous Region of China, which covers 970 kilometers, will take about 30 hours over two days. Sajha has fixed the fare at US$70 per person for one-way travel.
There are two main ways to get to Lhasa, either by plane or by train. Of course a flight will be more expensive. While the train is cheaper, it does take considerable time to and from...