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Anyone here been to Tibet?
Old 08-20-2007, 08:17 AM   #1
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Anyone here been to Tibet?

Wife and I and another couple are thinking about a trip to Tibet next year, after our trip to China this April.

Any tips? Am already looking at Lonely Planet book and it's ThornTree forum.
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Old 08-20-2007, 08:40 AM   #2
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No, but I feel like I've been to China after viewing your pictures. Great album.
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Old 08-20-2007, 10:58 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by travelover View Post
No, but I feel like I've been to China after viewing your pictures. Great album.
Thanks. My wife put those albums together after our trip, using Adobe LightRoom.
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Old 08-20-2007, 11:57 AM   #4
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Those are the best photos I've ever seen on this forum. I may move my trip to China a bit closer on my list of places to visit.

I vote for this thread to be moved to the new travel forum, whenever that comes online.

Two questions: How difficult was traveling and communicating in China and how was the food?
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Old 08-20-2007, 12:55 PM   #5
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Two questions: How difficult was traveling and communicating in China and how was the food?
Communicating: in the majority of places we went, we found someone who spoke enough English to help us (e.g., in a tourist info office). In a few places, we had to get creative with the phrase book. It is very hard for us Westerners to pronounce Mandarin vowels understandably -- pointing to phrases written out in Chinese characters worked much better. We had no luck in the Beijing train station, though, and gave up there.

Transportation: plane tickets for intra-China flights are easily reserved online. We mostly got around by bus -- we found it too hard to buy train tickets, which are often sold out 2-3 days ahead of time. Private long-haul buses were OK -- usually air-conditioned. No restrooms on board, but the bus stops every 2-3 hours at a rest station, usually with some food available there, too. In Beijing, the bus station situation is complicated -- there are many stations, each of which only services a few cities. We figured out what we wanted there with the help of a Chinese woman I happen to know there, who made a couple phone calls for us -- if you are at a hotel/hostel with some English speaking staff, they could do that for you. If you want to take a taxi, you'll probably need the location you are headed to written out in Chinese characters.

Plumbing: Ranges from crummy to crappy. Almost every hotel/hostel we stayed in ($20-30 range per night) had some plumbing and/or electrical issues. But if you know how to jiggle the float in the toilet, etc., then you'll get by. Hotels in this price range were OK -- no bugs, comfortable enough beds, Western-style toilets, showers.

Chinese people were generally helpful, but not overtly super-friendly. About like our guide book suggested. Example: When we wanted a bus to Suzhou from Yanzhou (near Qufu), there was no one in the bus station who spoke English. But the guy behind the counter pointed off to a place outside the building. We were confused, so he came from behind the counter and led us outside to the window where we could buy the tickets -- it was a different bus company, working from a different window. Worked out fine -- he was helpful but brusque.

We used the Rough Guide -- others use the Lonely Planet. One of these is essential for travel on your own.

{Edit: add food note}
Food ranged from weird to good. Breakfast is the hardest part -- we're used to certain things, and it's hard to break these habits. On our site there's a picture of me eating hot and spicy beef noodle stew for breakfast, and looking pretty dubious. Was only about $1, though, and actually was fairly good and filling -- but not my usual breakfast fare (oat bran with raisins).

Ordering food: the Chinese take the menu as the starting point for negotiating what they actually want to eat. So the waitress gives you the menu and stands there expecting you to start talking to her immediately. On the other hand, we wanted to pore over the menu slowly and figure out what we might try. Of course, if the menu was in Chinese, that made progress slow. In such a case, the simplest technique was to point at someone else's food and get some of that. They generally think this is hilarious good fun. Dumplings and tofu are the simplest things to order.

Unlike what we expected, we didn't get tea and rice very often. We were in northern China, and noodles are more the staple food there than rice. Of course, you can always order rice.
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Old 08-21-2007, 12:21 AM   #6
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Never been to Tibet. I did go as far west as Dunhuang, Golmud (in Qinghai Province), and Xining, etc. A lot of Tibetans also live in Qinghai, and there were a few Tibetan style monasteries, where I got to see a picture of the Dalai Lama (not a common scene in China). When I traveled (in 1997) special permits were required to go to Tibet. I don't know if that's still the case.

A close friend of mine went to Tibet in the late 90s. Here's what I gathered from what he told me. Of course many things may have changed, as you can probably tell by the speed of how things change in China.

1. The local food was pretty terrible. He couldn't really get used to the local yak oil-flavored food.
2. The people were warm, simple and smiled a lot. Natural scenery is heavenly.
3. Lhasa is largely transplant Han Chinese, but the outer areas give you a much better flavor of the real Tibet.
4. Be prepared to be at least a little harassed by the government. Nothing too severe, according to him.
5. He did see some human rights abuses by ethnic Chinese police against local Tibetans. Not sure how often that happens.
6. Pace yourself on your travel schedule to ease into the low-oxygen region.
7. He had an ear infection when he returned because he didn't feel comfortable going to the doctor in Tibet. Could only hear out of one ear. Antibiotics could come in handy...

Sorry I can't be more helpful. I hear it's well worth the hassle. Have fun!
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