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Lhasa - blog

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Lhasa (拉萨) is the capital of the Tibet autonomous region in China. It is located at 3650 meters (12 000 feet) above sea level on the northern slopes of the Himalayas. Contents1 Understand 2 Talk 3 Get in 3.1 By plane 3.2 By bus 3.3 By train 4 Get around 5 See 6 Do 7 Eat 8 Drink 9 Sleep 9.1 Budget 9.2 Mid range 9.3 Splurge 10 Stay safe 11 Get out 12 Respect if (window.showTocToggle) { var tocShowText = "show"; var tocHideText = "hide"; showTocToggle(); }


Lhasa is the heart of Tibet, a one of a kind city, a must see. It sits in a valley, adjacent the Lhasa River. There are plenty of resources for tourists, such as good hotels, hostels, restaurants, travel agents, and traveler cafes for exchanging the latest info, advice and rumours. As the backpacker scene is so evident, you might be confused to think you are in Kathmandu.

The Eastern end of Lhasa is more prominently traditional Tibetan, focusing on the area around the Jokhang and the Barkhor. Traditionally dressed Tibetans engaged on a kora (a clockwise journey around a Buddhist shrine), often spinning prayer wheels are a common sight in that area. The Western end of Lhasa is more Chinese in character (i.e. Chinese from the east of the country). It is busy and modern, and many ways a surprise to many tourists. It is there one finds most of the infrastructure, such as banks and contact with officialdom. [edit]Talk[edit]Get in

It is possible to visit Lhasa on 3-5 day tours from Kathmandu, Nepal, but there have been reports of tours that do not allow enough time for visitors to adjust to the dramatic altitude change resulting in some travelers sufferring altitude sickness being left off along the way (without any refund, of course).

Chinese Standard Time (Beijing) is used in Tibet, which is 8 hours ahead (+) of GMT and 2 hours 15 minutes ahead of Nepal. However, it is not uncommon for Western climbing groups to keep on Nepali time since this better coincides with the expected times of sunrise and sunset.

Non-Chinese nationals are required to obtain a special permit to visit Tibet. [edit]By plane

There are also flights in from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Chongqing, Chengdu, Xi'an, Xining, Qamdo, Kunming, Shangri-La, Kathmandu, and etc.

The Lhasa Gonggar Airport (贡嘎机场) is about 100 km from Lhasa. It takes 2 hours to the center of Lhasa. [edit]By busBuses run from Golmud in neighbouring Qinghai province, but are almost as pricey as the flight from Chengdu due to the permit issue. [edit]By train

The Qinghai-Tibet (Qingzang) railway connects Lhasa and Golmud, with services continuing onto Beijing and Chengdu.

Partial train schedule as of July 2006: Train From To TimeSpan Distance Price hard seat hard sleeper (upper) hard sleeper (middle) hard sleeper (lower) soft sleeper (upper) soft sleeper (lower) T27 Beijing west railway station 21:30 every day Lhasa railway station 20:58 every day 47h28m 4064 km 389 813 1262 T28 Lhasa railway station 08:00 every day Beijing west railway station 08:00 every day 48h00m 4064 km 389 813 1262 T22/T23 Chengdu railway station 18:18 every two days Lhasa railway station 18:28 every two days 48h10m 3360 km 331 712 1104 T24/T21 Lhasa railway station 18:18 every two days Chengdu railway station 18:28 every two days 48h10m 3360 km 331 712 1104

It is very difficult to get a train ticket at this time. Rail travellers may want to wait several months when more trains to Lhasa ready. [edit]Get around

The Jokhang area is easily navigable on foot. Cycle rickshaws are everywhere, though prepare to bargain. Taxis are a standard Y10 for anywhere in Lhasa city. [edit]SeeThe Jokhang Temple Monastery - The oldest part of Jokhang dates from the 7th century AD. It was one of the two temples built by King Songtsen ( Srongtsan) Gampo to house the statues of Buddha that his two foreign wives brought to Tibet from China and Nepal. The innermost shrine of the Jokhang contains the oldest and most precious object in Tibet, the original statue of Shakyamuni (the historical Buddha), which Princess Wen Cheng brought from Changan over 1300 years ago. The temple is located in the center of the old section of Lhasa The Potala Palace - A stronghold probably existed on Red Hill as early as the 7th century AD when King Songtsen Gampo built a fortress on it for his two foreign wives. The palace was rebuilt by the Fifth Dalai Lama in three years, while the Thirteenth Dalai Lama extended and repaired it into what it is now. It became winter palace in 1755 when the Seventh Dalai Lama made the Norbulinka into a summer residence. With over 1 000 rooms, the Potala contained the living quarters of the Dalai Lamas while they lived, and their sumptuous golden tombs when they died. As the religious and political centre of old Tibet and the winter residence of Dalai Lamas, the palace witnessed the life of the Dalai Lamas and the important political and religious activities in the past centuries. Potala Palace also houses great amounts of rare cultural relics including the gold hand-written Buddhist scriptures, valuable gifts from the Chinese emperors and a lot of priceless antiques.

The Potala was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994, the Jokhang Temple Monastery in 2000 and the Norbulingka Summer Palace in 2001. The Norbulingka Summer Palace, located about 1km south of the Potala Palace - The Seventh Dalai Lama constructed the first summer palace in 1755 and each successive ruler added his own buildings. Norbulingka is now undergoing complete restoration. Presently, the complex contains a small zoo, botanical gardens, and a mansion. There is a small entrance fee. The Barkhor Street market a circular street around the Jokhang Temple in the center of the old section of Lhasa, it is the oldest street in a very traditional style in Tibet, where you can enjoy bargaining with the local Tibetan vendors for the handicrafts which are rare to be seen elsewhere in the world. Barkhor Street is one of the most important religious paths along which pilgrims walk around Jokhang Temple while turning prayer wheels in their hands through centuries. Buddhist pilgrims walk or progress by body-lengths along the street clockwise every day into deep night. Drepung Monastery was founded in 1416 by a disciple of Tsong Khapa, was the biggest and richest monastery in Tibet and its lamas helped to train each new young Dalai Lama. Drepung was also home to the Nechung, the state oracle. At its height, Drepung had over 10 000 monks, and governed 700 subsidiary monasteries and owned vast estates. Drepung belongs to the Gelupa sect. Sera Monastery was founded in 1419 by one of Tsong Khapas (the founder of the Gelupa sect) eight disciples. It became famous for its tantric teachings, while Drepung drew fame from its governing role. Sera was smaller than Drepung, with 7,000 monks, but was very rich and comparable in power. The monks of Sera were considered clever and dangerous. [edit]Dodo the koras with other pilgrims drink tea and eat thugpa in the many teahouses near the Jokhang shop in the Barkhor square people watch [edit]Eat

A lot of nice and comfortable restaurants can be found in Lhasa old district. Most of them are located near the Jokhang Temple along Beijing Zhong Lu (or called Beijing Road Middle) and its tributary road Zang Yiyuan Lu (or called Tibetan Hospital Road). Some of them serve western food, Nepali and Indian food. Examples are Snowland Restaurant, Lhasa Kitchen, Naga French Restaurant, Tashi Restaurant. Each meal can be as cheap as USD$3 per person (price at 2005 October). On the southeast corner of Barkhor Street, there is a well-known Tibetant restaurant among backpackers -- Makye Ame - means beautiful woman. Sitting at this second-floor restaurant gives you an amazing view, especially at sunset, of the part of the Barkhor Street which is full of pilgrams moving in clockwise direction. The location of Makye Ame is unbeatable, but the food is nothing to write home about. The smaller Tibetan restaurants, especially the teahouses are much cheaper and serve more tasty food.

For Chinese restaurants, though usually poorly-decorated, meals are much cheaper. A plate of beef noodles can be as cheap as USD$0.7! Most of the Chinese restaruants, however, serve Sichuan's spicy cuisine. In recently years, a lot of Chinese, most of them from Sichuan and Shannxi provinces, moved to Lhasa for business.

Apart from eating at restaurants, you can buy food or snacks in the main supermarkets, all around Beijing Zhong Lu. Hong Yan Le Bai Long Si Fang inside Lhasa Department Mall

Yak meat. Most restaurants sell Yak meat and it is a must try in Tibet. Yaks are actually cattles or cows that are adapted to the highlands. Dried yak meat is available at all supermarkets, as is another Tibetan staple, tsampa. [edit]Drink

Tibetan butter tea (pcha) is a must try, though it may not be a pleasant experience for all! It is a salty mixture of black tea and Tibetan butter. Traditionally it is churned by hand with a thick rod in a long upright wooden container. However, when electricity came to the city in recent years, modernized Tibetans turn to use electric mixers to make their butter tea! The tibetan butter is not rancid as commonly described, but has a cheesy taste and smell to it, close to blue cheese or Roquefort. Think of it as a cheese broth rather, that you will appreciate particularly after a long hike in cold weather.

An alternative to Tibetan butter tea is sweet tea which is more familiar to western palates. Sweet tea drinking was introduced in the XXth century by merchants returning from India, first among well-off Tibetans, since sugar was a luxury on the Plateau, then when sugar became more available among the general pubblic. As compared to India, Tibetan do not use spices (clove, cinnamon, cardamon)

(Sweet (milk) tea drinking habit in Tibet probably doesn't come from contact with British but with Indians and Nepali themselves, a very common drink of these nations. Tea is brewed in a boiling mixture of mik and water with sugar. The British fashion is of not boiling the leaves, and to add sugar and a cloud of milk after pouring tea in a cup, and according to individual tastes)

'Chang'- Don't miss it. Tibetan beer made of barley has a lighter flavor than a western-type, bottled beer, since they do not use bitter hop. Often home-brewed and with as many taste and strength variants as industrial beers. Beware of chang: the yeast is still alive in it, and will carry on fermenting and producing alcohol in the warm temperatures of your stomach! Usually no germ risk since yeast prevents bacteria proliferation. [edit]Sleep[edit]BudgetBanak Shol Dong Cuo International YHA Kirey Yak Hotel [edit]Mid range[edit]Splurge[edit]Stay safe

Lhasa is 3650 meters (about 12 000 feet) above sea level, so there is considerable risk of altitude sickness, especially if you fly in from a much lower altitude so your body does not have time to acclimatise. This is a serious concern; altitude sickness can easily ruin a holiday and can even be fatal.

If you must fly to Lhasa, it would be wise to fly via an intermediate destination such as Kunming at 2700 meters (9000 feet) and spend several days at that intermediate destination completely acclimatizing there before flying to Lhasa. [edit]Get out

Frequent buses connect Lhasa to Golmud in adjacent Qinghai province, as well as daily buses to Xining (capital of Qinghai province). Foreigners are not allowed to take buses along the Tibet-Sichuan highway to Chengdu.

It is easy and trouble-free to fly out of Lhasa, with many daily flights to Chengdu, as well as some direct flights to Beijing and Guangzhou. Samye Monastery was constructed in 779AD under the patronage of King Trisong Detsen and overseen by Santarakshita and Padmasambhava, two prominent Buddhist teachers from India. It was the first Buddhist Monastery established in Tibet and as such remains one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the region. Samye is located in Dranang, 150 kms south-east of Lhasa. [edit]RespectDo not wear a hat inside the Jokhang, Potala or other sacred sites. Circumambulate stupas and other sacred objects in a clock-wise direction. Do not climb onto statues, mani stones or other sacred objects.

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