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Rongphu monastery is the world's highest monastery. It belongs to the Nyingma Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Sitting at the foot of Mt Qomolangma's northern slope it offers a great view of the mountain. There are simple rooms for tourists, climbers and explorers.
As it is located in Mt Everest National Park, you cannot get there without paying the entrance fee. The ride from Tigri to Rongphu takes about 3 hours.
Updated Nov 3, 2007
The majorty of tourists only do the trip from Lhasa to Kathmandu and that's a big mistake! To me the remote highland desert of West Tibet was at least as interesting, and getting a chance to do the Kora around Kailash certainly didn't hurt the experience.
Geographically, West Tibet is a highland desert, framed by three mountain ranges. Of these, the Himalaya in between Nepal and Tibet is the biggest and the most famous, however, the Trans-Himalayan Range, running parallel to the Himalaya, isn't bad either. Kailash belongs to this range.
Apart from the snow in the mountains, the region doesn't get very much precipitation, and, as the average altitude of the valleys is way above 4000 meters, chances of succesful agriculture is close to zero.
For that reason, the people of West Tibet is still living their lives as nomads, tending their goats and yak. Every now and then, they pass by a village, sell a few animals which they trade for barley, tea and clothes - and then they carry on. Just like their parents did it before them.
The main drawback is transportation (see that chapter). The Chinese have made it illegal to travel by anything but government approved LandCruisers; for your saftey, of course, however, the biggest threat to my saftey was the constant playing hide-and-seek with the Chinese police.
Very stupid system, so be prepared to spend a lot of time just waiting for an option to get on. Still, it's an absolutely magnificent place, and everyone with a lot of energy and a poor will to obey the silly bureaucracy should give it a try. After all, you won't be sentenced life-time in jail!
Updated Aug 27, 2006
If you want to hike the Ganden Kora, start by walking away from the monestary then up the grassy hill to the right. It is a good idea to spend 3 to 5 days in Lhasa before you attempt this if you are not use to the altitude.
At the highest point of the upper Kora are several small peaks with incense alters and many prayer flags draped from one peak to the other. The hill side is completely littered with prayer flags and scarfs/pieces of prayer paper. An amazing gust of wind drew up all the prayer notes while I was on the summit and swirled them around in the same place for nearly ten minutes. It was like a tornado standing still. I will never forget it and I was lucky enough to capture it on video.
Written Jul 27, 2006
I know much of Tibet is covered in high altitude desert, but I still didn’t expect to see such huge sand dunes! These were along the road back from Samye, and the picture doesn’t really do it justice. The greenery in the front of the picture is not grass, they are waist high bushes!
Written Oct 16, 2005
About thirty minutes south from Rongbuk Monastery, the road opens into a wide gravel plain. Everest lies a bit over seven miles away, straight ahead, dead center. Base Camp itself is a completely unprepossessing place: a wide shallow stream on the right side of the road, a handful of large square tents on the left and, beyond them, a large herd of grazing yak. The yak are almost all saddled and tended to by several dozen Tibetans. Only a few other vehicles are there and a handful of other tourists; no expeditions gearing up for an assault.
Ahead of us is what appears to be an abandoned windowless concrete building on the back of which is a crudely painted announcement: “After Everest B[ase] C[amp] all the tourist are not permitted to go up. If any want then contract B C staff. If any tourist group without contract B C then we punish (fine) 200 U S dollar.” Another wall sports a bright red “STOP” followed by a few lines in Chinese. Halfway up the glacial ridge on our left is a long squat stone building housing Chinese authorities. Outside it is a tall flagpole with the bright red Chinese flag.
More welcoming is a blue sign with hand-painted lettering: "Wel-come to Everest Lodge and Restuarant." There is a brief line in Chinese above. Underneath, in smaller lettering, is the caution, “Base Camp Altitude (5200M).” There is even a homey touch—a big old saucepan hanging from the signpost.
The best vantage point for the object of all this travel, by the way, is a small hill no more than a hundred feet high. It offers a slightly more elevated and completely unobstructed view of Everest.
Updated Jul 15, 2005
About 20 miles east of Lhasa lies the small and remote monastery of Drak Yerpa. I went there on a pilgrimage with a young monk I'd met in the Barkhor, and we traveled by walking and hitchhiking. Still, it was a great distance away, but one well worth it. Besides my companion, no one I encountered spoke english, and it was nice to be outside of Lhasa and away from modern conveniences for a bit.
Written Jan 27, 2005
In summer the colors of the mountainland are great. Many flowers blooming make the great picture. And if you are lucky, because summer is also the rainy season, you have a blue sky behind a snow capped mountain in the background.
Written Sep 14, 2004
When we travelled to the European alps, as a child, we were always looking for edelweiss, the rare flower. It is endangered and absolutely not done to pick it.
Coming to Tibet we were very surprised to see the once so illusive flower in such large quantities. Everywhere we looked we saw Edelweiss.....
Written Sep 12, 2004
Unfortunately we were just 5 minutes away when the tractor broke down.
The driver couldn't fix it, and he suggested us to stay overnight in his house with his lovely family, and leaving next day.
Of course we didn't refuse. The unexpected invitation was a unique chance to stay with a Tibetan family, a great bonus that can only happen to those going unorganised....
Updated Jun 9, 2004
Nam Tso is a beautiful and holy lake on 4718m altitude and is one of those few amazing locations in Tibet that can be reached from Lhasa without a special permit.
It's surrounded by a 7000m+ snowcapped mountainrange and is the area is amazingly tranquil. Nam Tso is regularly visited by both pilgrims and tourists.
The journey is already worth the trip!
Updated Jun 9, 2004
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