The Tibetan region is famous for its breathtaking scenery and rich culture. It is home to many surviving historical sites, not to mention Mt. Everest, and a vast landscape that’s perfect for hikers, cyclists, mountaineers, sightseers, and soul- searchers alike. But you have to book your trip fast, else you’ll spend a lot of time standing in line.
With the completion of the Quinghai-Lhasa train railway that connects Tibet to the mainland, a pilgrimage to Tibet is as easy as booking your travel with one of the many travel agencies that cater specifically to the area. A train ride from Beijing to Lhasa takes two days and ticket prices range from 389 yuan to 1262 yuan (around US$51-167). The state-of-the-art train, running along an awe-inspiring terrain, is fitted with oxygen regulators that adjust to the change in altitude.
Two travel documents are required:
- a Chinese visa obtained from the Chinese embassy in your area; and
- an Alien’s Travel Permit from the Tibet Tourism Bureau, which a travel agent can process. There are several areas that need special permits to visit but an agent can take care of this as well. Also, consider going on a trip with a buddy because the Chinese government has rules against traveling alone, for safety reasons.
Once there, there will be many things to explore. Tibet hosts many festivals throughout the year. Among these are: the Tibetan New Year in February, Shotor or Sour Milk Drinking Festival, Horseracing Festival, Lantern Festival and Tsangmoling Gyisang Festival, also known as World Buddha Worshipping Day.
The capital city Lhasa, the highest city in the world, boasts numerous Buddhist temples and ancient monuments like the Potala Palace, which was built during the 7th century. It has been the resi- dence of the Dalai Lamas since the 5th Dalai Lama until the present one, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama who was forced into exile.
Tibet also boasts an array of monasteries and spiritual dwellings. Ruins of the ancient Guge Kingdom, and Rongbo Monastery can also be found in Tibet. Mount Kailash, believed to be a sacred place, is off limits to climbers but a destination to pilgrims from different religions.
Beware of AMS!
You may want to be prepared for AMS, or Acute Mountain Sickness.
It is a reaction that may occur due to a change in altitude, especially in higher elevations where there are lower levels of oxygen in the air. It happens when the body acclimatizes slower that the change of environment.
Symptoms include headache, nausea, and restlessness. It should not be a problem as long as you ascend gradually and not overexert yourself.
It is also best to keep physically fit and get ample rest before the trip. Some people may have lower tolerance to high altitude changes than others.
print ed: 10/07