27 Dec

TOURING TIBET – THE TOP OF THE WORLD

Potala Palace

My tour of Tibet started in Lhasa which has an elevation of  12,140  feet and it was all up from there.  Arriving by train proved to be a good idea as those who flew in suffered far more with altitude sickness than those of us who came by train.  I was so surprised there was no snow – I expected lots of snow, but it is a very dry climate – so no snow.   Travel in Tibet is closely monitored.  I needed a visa and three copies of my permit.  They were checked endlessly, and they would always check all three copies – they were COPIES – all identical.  I had wanted to arrive a couple of days early to acclimatise but I would have had to hire a guide for those days.  All eleven people on our tour were very experienced travellers so it was a perfect group.  Day one started with a visit to Potala Palace, former home of the Dalai Lama and 1000 monks.  Our bus parked in the back and there was a huge crowd exercising.  It was just like our line dancing – and all ages were taking part.  We were all encouraged to join in, but we saved our energy to climb the + 600 steps to the top.  Here we saw the first Koras – religious circling.  Faithfull walk circles around sacred sites reciting their prayer beads, or spinning their prayer wheels.

Pilgrim Prostrating

At our next stop, Jokhang Temple, we saw pilgrims doing prostrations, very interesting.  Our guide told us his Mother had done over 1300 prostrations in one day.  This involves standing and putting your hands over your head, then kneeling down, then laying flat and extending your arms over your head, getting up and doing it all again.  The next day we visited Sera Monastery to watch the famous debates.  Half of the monks are seated on the ground, and the other half challenge them with questions, accompanied by loud, straight arm, hand clapping.  Before the Revolution in 1959 there were over 6000 monks  there.  It is also famous for its sand mandala (sand art).  We also visited Drepung Monastery.  Next stop – Mount Everest!!

 

Mandala – Sand Art

 

 

 

Salvează

15 Dec

FAST TRAINS, SLOW TRAINS AND THE WORLD’S HIGHEST TRAIN

Wild camels

Wild camels

Rainbow Mountains

Rainbow Mountains

First I must apologize for not getting this sent sooner.  I have had a glitch in my website and the poor internet in China meant problems getting it fixed.  I hope it is going to work now.

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Mongolian Express

Miles of Nothing

Miles of Nothing

Changing the Wheels

Changing the Wheels

Fast Train

Fast Train

I LOVE riding on trains, and overnight trains in Asia can not be beat.  My first ride was on the famous Mongolian Express.  I left Ulan Bator at 7 pm with a warning from my driver to watch for pickpockets at the station.  I had a soft sleeper so two sets of bunks in my cabin.  Each car has hot water available for tea or noodles, a western toilet at one end, and a squat one at the other.  I woke to miles of nothing – flat and barren land.  Occasionally we would see some wild camels but not much else.  Arriving at the border Mongolian Customs and Immigration officers came on board and processed our exit from Mongolia.  We moved ahead and entry procedure with Chinese officials.  Then it got interesting.  The two countries use different gauge railways so our train had to have the undercarriage changed on each car – a lengthy procedure.  I was thinking it would be much faster to simply change trains??? I had to change stations  at  Lanzhou  and everyone wanted to take me to the airport.  Finally got someone who understood where I wanted to go, and drove me over an hour for $15.  That train took me to Zhange so I finally got to see the famous Rainbow Mountains.  Leaving Zhange I took a fast train to Xining to catch the highest train in the world into Lhasa, Tibet.   Each car had several oxygen outlets, and the train is pressurized like an airplane.   Once again we crossed vast barren areas.  I was so surprised there was no snow – I was expecting Tibet to have snow.  I felt so important arriving in Lhasa to have someone standing with a sign with my name on it – first time! You can not travel independently in Tibet, not even from the station to your hotel,  so I was required to have my tour pick me up.

They were wajtjng for ME

They were waiting for ME

08 Dec

MONGOLIA IS COOLER THAN COOL – IT’S COLD!!!

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Ulaan Baator’s claim to fame is “The Coldest Capital City in the World”.   When I read that I thought whoever had written it had never been to WInnipeg.   Unfortunately,  they were right!  My flight to Mongolia was delayed due to poor weather.  I arrived to minus 8-degree weather but learned an unseasonal cold spell would begin the next day – and it did.  For the next five days  the temperature was about minus 25 degrees.  The cold was not the worst – the wind and icy streets and sidewalks were more than I could handle.   I walked to the State Department Store the first day.  It was only a block away, but took me half an hour – it was so icy.  I saw two people have bad falls, and I so did not want to start this trip with a fall.  If I was going to be stuck inside I could not have found a better hostel.  Zaya hostel has to be one of the best I have ever stayed at.  It is big, spotlessly clean, includes a good breakfast,  and has great beds.  For $10 a night it is a great bargain.  Most of the guests here are doing the Moscow – Beijing train trip. This is such an interesting country.  I was amazed to find a 98 % literacy rate in a country with a 40% nomadic population. I finally was able to get out of the city on a tour to see the famous statue of Ghengis Khan (Chennggis Khan)  It is a pretty desolate country.  Nomads live in “gers” – round felt portable housing. Clothing is made of cashmere and yak wool.   Domestic horses and cattle are short, stocky, and hairy!.p1000348

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The sun finally came out, and it warmed up so I was able to get out and walk around to see the sights I came to see.  Chennggis Khan Square is huge,  surrounded by beautiful buildings.  A Monastery I visited was colorful and interesting.  15181516_10157775463440384_1278889589124645729_nimg_2066
img_2073The country may be cold but the people are warm and friendly so it really is a cool place to visit for sure!