Dan & Kristen's Web
Home Photo Album World Trip Email Us!

Home
Santiago
Rapa Nui
Quito
Amazon Basin
Andes Trek
Sao Paulo
London
Nairobi
Tanzania-Safari
Mt. Kilimanjaro
Cape Town
Ngala Safari
Sun City
Johannesburg
Victoria Falls
Cairo
India
Nepal
Tibet
Thailand
Cambodia
Vietnam
Hong Kong
Japan
New Zealand
Australia
United States
Trip Preparation
Best and Worst
Trip In Review
The Numbers
Language
Website Status

Tibet - Mt. Everest

Total Pictures Taken: 103

Summary

Detail

Getting There

Contacts


Summary

We pulled together our trip to Tibet at the last minute in Nepal, and left two days later.  Our goal in Tibet was to see some of the area, but mainly to experience Everest base camp.  We had to pay for a full group tour even though it was just the two of us.  We were told to lower our expectations for accommodations and cuisine, but that was understated! Except for a couple cool points, such as experiencing a minor earthquake, and hooking up with a very cool group of overland tour leaders, our Tibet experience was miserable.  Poor American-China relations made entry difficult (see Getting There). And the roads were unbearably rough (we drove over 30 hours on them!), the 'nicest' hotels were horrible by our travel standards for this trip (no heat, no hot water, limited electricity, and some had no private bathrooms/toilets or running water).  And Everest Base Camp was a complete disappointment.  And we were so hung-over/sick the last day we wanted to die.  We were so ready to escape Tibet.

 

Facts

Currency: Chinese Yuan ($9:US$1)

Language: Tibetan, Chinese

Internet connection speed: None

English speaking TV channels (in hotel): None

Religion: Buddhist

Time difference:  GMT +8:00 (12 hours ahead of Atlanta) -- same as Beijing!

Cost of custom tour: 179,000 Nepalese Rupees!

Year China invaded Tibet: 1950

Driving lane: right side

Temperature: 25-70

Temperature in hotel rooms: Zhang Mu 50F, Shegar 35F, Tingri 38F, Nyalam 40F.

 

Detail

Since we had decided against doing the 11+ day trek in Nepal to Everest Base Camp after climbing Mt. Kilomanjaro, we were quite intrigued when we realized we could drive close to Everest Base Camp from Tibet.  Since a major Maoist (rebel communist party) strike was planned in Nepal at the end of the week we arrived in Nepal, we decided it was a good excuse to leave Nepal and go to Tibet to see Everest.  We could find only one travel agent in Nepal that could pull together a shortened, focused trip to Tibet in such an immediate timeframe.  We wanted to see Everest in as short a trip as possible, but because of acclimatization issues and travel distances we had to dedicate 5 days to the trip.  We found the travel agent on Sunday afternoon, and they secured Chinese visas on Monday, and we left on Tuesday.  We were a bit disturbed by the high cost of the  trip, especially when the agent admitted that all the accommodations were only about US$4 per night except for the Shegar hotel (for which we had to pay extra).  But they they had to drive a car all the way from Lhasa (500km away) to pick us up at the border, pay the driver and guide for 5 days, etc. etc.  So we decided to do it.  

Since we had sent back home all our cold weather gear after Kilimanjaro, we were woefully unprepared to travel to the Tibetan plateau, almost all of which is above 16,000 feet, and very cold.  Before leaving on the trip, the travel agent loaned us each a down jacket and sleeping bags, and we bought US$2 gloves in town, so we felt a little better.

This was our first taste of Chinese culture, and it was interesting to see it  through Tibetan land.  Our guide clearly had some negative feelings about the Chinese impact on Tibet over the last 50 years.  If you are interested in seeing another group's negative views on the impact, check out: Friends of Tibet (NZ) and page down to the 'Look at what has happened...' section.  We did see some of the very different Chinese nuances such as the extensive spitting, chewing loudly, and openly burping in mid-sentence.

The following describes the events on our days in Tibet. 

Day 1 -- Kathmandu to Tibet border/customs to Zhang Mu, Tibet

We left on Tuesday morning in a fairly new Land Cruiser.  However, it was rush hour in Kathmandu which made it a very slow trip (~3 hours) to the border.  The back seat of the Land Cruiser had minimal leg room, so it was quite uncomfortable.  Closer to the border the paved road gave way to a rock/dirt road and became quite bumpy for the last 30 km.  The driver and guide decided to stop in a tiny village along the way to eat lunch, but we did not eat, after looking at the condition of the food sitting out on the open counter.  

 

Please see the Getting There section for the details of our very difficult immigration effort!

 

We stayed in the Zhang Mu hotel that night, and were happy to have our own toilet, but were a bit surprised when the power and water stopped in the night (of course, no hot water any time).  There is no heat in the hotel so the temperature dropped to 50F in the room overnight.  But the hotel had heavy blankets so it was not so bad.  We had eaten at the hotel restaurant and were plenty satisfied with the very inexpensive noodles and rice. 

 

 

Day 2 -- Zhang Mu to Tingri to Shegar

Please see the Getting There section for the details of our second day of the very difficult immigration effort!

 

We awoke at 7:10AM to a rumbling of the hotel -- after several seconds we realized it was an earthquake!  Our guide believed it went on for about 5 minutes, but we only realized it for the last 20 seconds, probably because it felt a lot like the Palace on Wheels train ride in India.  We did have a hard time going back to sleep as we thought about the positioning of the hotel (and the rest of the buildings in town) on the edge of a mountain ridge and how easily they could collapse and topple down the hill.  Fortunately, there were no other tremors.  We figured it was a very minor earthquake since we did not see any damage in town, but it was our first!

 

We drove from Zhang Mu to the small town of Tingri for the next 5 hrs 15 minutes along very narrow rocky, rough mountain roads.  Our heads and bodies hurt from the constant rocking/bumping of the car.  A few times a minute we would hit a bump large enough to lift our bodies out of our seats.  We figured our heads hurt from the continuous bouncing of our brains in our skulls!  Except for the glimpses of awesome far off snow-covered ranges, the landscape was very barren and brown, with the occasional stream running down the mountain side.  We passed several small mud/rock villages with dirt farmers and small herds of yak and dzo (combination cow/yak).  We could see very little grass or other vegetation that could support the yak or other animals.  We assumed the farms would produce some sort of crop later in Summer (it was start of Summer) but currently there was just dirt and rock.

 

We ate at a small restaurant in Tingri with couches around all the walls.  The stove in the middle provided comfort in the now-chilly 16,000 foot atmosphere, and the dumplings and noodles were quite good.  Our guide wanted to stay in Tingri that night, but we had paid extra for the Shegar hotel (which had a private bathroom) so we decided to drive the extra 90 minutes of bumpy road to Shegar.

 

As we pulled into the Shegar hotel (the only one in the tiny town), it was eerily deserted.  We honked a couple times, and someone came out of a door around the corner, opened the hotel door, turned on the lights, and checked us in.  It looked like a huge hotel from the past, abandoned for years (think Jack Nicholson and 'The Shining').  Our room was already freezing as we entered, and the water (only cold) cut off shortly after we arrived.  That night it dropped to 38F in our room!  Kristen's very expensive breakfast the next morning was not very good, and we realized it had probably not been worth the extra money to stay in this place.  We could not see how it survived charging rates 20 times higher than anywhere else in that area.

 

Day 3 -- Shegar to Tingri to Rombuk to Everest  Base Camp to Tingri

On day 3, we drove back 90 minutes along the bumpy road to Tingri and then turned off for the road heading to Rombuk monastery and Everest Base Camp.  We are not sure our guide and driver had taken the barely visible road before because we changed direction several times and stopped to ask the few yak herders we passed for directions.  The landscape was extremely barren and we could not understand how the few herders survived in this environment.  As the road was barely marked most of the way, we crossed boulders, partially frozen rivers, and holes for the next 3 hours.

 

We were happy to get out of the car, for a bit of peace, as we reached the monastery.  At 16, 400 feet, Rombuk is the highest monastery in the world.  The guest house and restaurant where we intended to stay that night were both unexpectedly closed (apparently, they had not opened for 'season' yet.)  Our guide was worried because we had nowhere to stay and no way to get food up there, so we would have to drive back to Tingri/Shegar that night.  Since it was approaching 3PM he was worried that we had not eaten (Kristen since light breakfast, and Dan since yesterday 4PM dinner) and it would take 3-4 hours to get back to Tingri/Shegar.  So he suggested we stay in a village between Rombuk and Tingri.  We were scared about that idea.  

 

He wanted to drive us to Everest Base Camp, since we had not eaten and since we were short on time.  We told him no way -- we wanted to walk the 7km distance, since that was the point of the trip!  He argued a bit (only trying to help us), and then agreed to meet us at Base Camp in 2 hours so we could drive back -- a nice compromise.

 

Shortly after we started to walk, many Land Cruisers passed us on their way to Base Camp.  It was not a very impressive walk along the barren road to Base Camp -- very different than what we expected.  We did get good views of Mt. Everest, but it felt almost cheap walking along a road.  At 17,000 feet, hungry, thirsty, with very cold wind blowing in our faces, we started to regret the decision to walk the 'trivial' distance.

 

After we made it over half way to base camp, Tempa showed up in the Land Cruiser with some dried spicy noodles he had procured from somewhere at the monastery.  We were quite happy with the morsel of food, and willingly jumped in for a ride the rest of the way to Base Camp.  As soon as he said 'we are here, this is Base Camp', we looked around and felt a sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs -- we went through all this expense and effort for 'this'!  It was nothing more than a rocky area with a small sign, and small one story building (not sure of its purpose), and one tent arrangement of about 15 climbers.  The view of Everest was partially blocked by a dirt/rock hill, and it was still quite a distance from the steep inclines of Everest.  We realized that we had built up something different in our minds and this was not it.  We later checked and believe there is an Everest Base Camp on the Nepal side that might have better met our expectations (not that we would bother at this point!)  At that point we wished we had driven the whole 7 km to Base Camp instead of walking any of it!  Fortunately, since we had had the noodles, Tempa felt better about going all the way back to Tingri or Shegar, rather than staying in a primitive village.  

 

The once again very rough ride back to Tingri was awful.  Even worse, the Land Cruiser started losing power as we drove up hills, and eventually stalled.  Tempa and the driver got out and banged around under the hood, removed/looked at spark plugs, and eventually got us started again.  We made it back to Tingri, but no one was comfortable with making it all the way to Shegar, especially since it was almost 8PM and would be dark soon.  The Land Cruiser could not top 10km/h at that point, so we were a bit concerned about making it anywhere.

 

In Tingri, we stayed at the Snow Leopard Lodge, the nicest lodging in town.  The room was pretty clean, but the shared toilets (i.e., holes in the ground) were at one end of the courtyard, there was no running water, and it got down to 35F in our rooms that night.  The sleeping bags and two heavy comforters made it bearable, but the late night headlamp-assisted run to the outside bathroom/pit was painful!

Kristen standing on Friendship Bridge which divides Nepal and Tibet (China). ti-kodari-zhangmu-friendship-bridge-kristen-view-600.jpg (86567 bytes)
ti-zhang-mu-street-view-2-600.jpg (109725 bytes) Street view in Zhang Mu, the Tibet border town.  Friendship highway, which winds through the town, seems to be the only road in this side of Tibet.
A view of the many trucks blocking the road in Zhang Mu.  Notice the trash on the side of the hill. ti-zhang-mu-street-view-to-trucks-600.jpg (97388 bytes)
The sunset view from our Zhang Mu hotel room. Although it was 50F at night in our room warm by Tibetan standards, we had intermittent electricity and only cold water, the view was nice as the hotel (and the whole town) sat on a ridge.  Pretty scary during the earthquake (see text).  ti-zhang-mu-hotel-view-from-window-sunset-600.jpg (36386 bytes)
ti-la-lung-la-view-range-shisha-pangma-pano-2200.jpg (129645 bytes) On the way to Shegar on day 2, a panoramic view of the mountain range from La Lung La pass at 17,000 feet.  It includes Shisha Pangma mountain (8000+m).
Dan standing by the Buddhist offerings at La Lung La pass.  The pass is the first stopping point above 17,000 feet on Friendship Highway.  ti-la-lung-la-pass-dan-600.jpg (83869 bytes)
ti-la-lung-la-pass-truck-kristen-600.jpg (67651 bytes) Kristen and the Land Cruiser in which we drove.
Another view along the road to Shegar on day 2. ti-road-to-shegar-view-01-600.jpg (75938 bytes)
ti-shegar-hotel-bed-cold-kristen-600.jpg (61455 bytes) Kristen trying to stay warm and pass time in the Shegar hotel.  The hotel was way too expensive, especially given that it was 38F in the room, it had part time electricity and intermittent water (cold only).
The Shegar hotel, the only hotel in remote Shegar, was completely empty, except for us. ti-shegar-hotel-outside-pano-2200.jpg (151072 bytes)
ti-road-to-rombuk-view-1-600.jpg (76673 bytes) Scene of a yak on  our drive to Rombuk Monastery and Everest base camp on day 3.
A panoramic view on the way to Rombuk Monastery and Everest Base Camp.  The landscape was barren and desolate, like most we saw in Tibet. ti-road-to-rombuk-view-pano-1-2200.jpg (169870 bytes)
ti-rombuk-view-everest-1-600.jpg (63742 bytes) View of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, from Rombuk Monastery.
Dan on our 7 km 'walk' to Everest Base Camp from Rombuk Monastery.  We were passed by many cars driving to Base Camp! ti-road-to-everest-base-camp-dan-600.jpg (97811 bytes)
ti-everest-base-camp-pano-2-2200.jpg (361567 bytes) Panoramic view of Everest Base Camp.  Not very impressive, and very disappointing to us. 
Dan standing at the Everest Base Camp sign.  Note that the sign does not say 'Everest', but instead, Qomolangma, the Tibetan name for Everest. ti-everest-base-camp-sign-dan-1-600.jpg (79976 bytes)
Kristen standing at the Everest Base Camp sign. ti-everest-base-camp-sign-kristen-600.jpg (81961 bytes)
ti-road-from-rombuk-bridge-2-600.jpg (97624 bytes) A bridge over a frozen river on the way back from Rombuk Monastery.  We had expected to stay at the monastery guesthouse, but it was closed -- we were quite happy with that since it likely would have been even more spartan than other places we stayed!
A panoramic view of the town of Tingri, where we stayed on day 3, after visiting Base Camp.  The town is only about 500 yards long. ti-tingri-town-pano-600.jpg (148143 bytes)
ti-tingri-snow-leopard-lodge-toilet-600.jpg (54570 bytes) We stayed at the Snow Leopard Lodge in Tingri.  It was quite cold in the room (38F) and we had to walk a long distance from our room to this wonderful bathroom.  This is considered the best place in Tingri.
We ate in Ando Restaurant for each meal.  At least it was warm! ti-tingri-restaurant-kristen-pano-1200.jpg (130461 bytes)
ti-road-from-tingri-truck-breakdown-dan-600.jpg (62370 bytes) The Land Cruiser blew a piston 20 minutes outside Tingri (aka 'middle of nowhere') on day 4.  We were stranded.
With no phones anywhere (not even in Tingri, we believe), we were fortunate that this bus of very kind British overland travelers let us join them. ti-road-to-nyalam-bus-kristen-600.jpg (114919 bytes)
ti-road-to-nyalam-pbr-bottles-600.jpg (99059 bytes) On the way to Nyalam on day 4, we made a pit stop at this building near a Chinese army base.  Note that all these bottles are Pabst Blue Ribbon beer bottles! Why would you import PBR?
Dan and Kristen with a nice mountain range background, on the way to Nyalam.  One benefit of joining a group tour -- someone can take pictures of the two of us! ti-road-to-nyalam-view-kristen-dan-high-600.jpg (59163 bytes)
ti-road-to-nyalam-monastery-bus-wheel-1-600.jpg (80890 bytes) Wouldn't you know it, the tour bus got a flat tire.  Fortunately, these seasoned travelers were well prepared.
We and the Brits huddle around a kerosene heater in the Nyalam hotel restaurant as the snow storm rages outside.  It was the only semi-warm place in Nyalam. ti-nyalam-hotel-group-out-all-600.jpg (85556 bytes)
ti-nyalam-street-view-600.jpg (78860 bytes) Street view of Nyalam.
Kristen in our tiny, freezing cold room in the Nyalam hotel.  The curtains moved as the wind blew through the windows during the snow storm. ti-nyalam-hotel-room-kristen-1-600.jpg (72089 bytes)
ti-nyalam-hotel-toilet-600.jpg (57273 bytes) The often visited men's bathroom in the Nyalam hotel.  We will never forget the smell and we will not miss Tibet!
    

 

Day 4 -- Tingri to Nyalam

After stopping at the same Tingri restaurant for breakfast, we started what we thought would be our trip to Zhang Mu, for a warmer night with private bathroom on our last night in Tibet.  However, the Land Cruiser could only sustain a speed of 5-10km/h so we became immediately concerned after leaving Tingri.  Since there were no mechanics or any real assistance (no phones, we believe) in Tingri we had to try.  Within 20 minutes of driving the Land Cruiser halted, and the driver declared its death after another check under the hood.  He was very upset because he said (translated by Tempa) that he had told the agency in Lhasa that provided the Land Cruiser that there were engine problems, but 'those Chinese mechanics' just waved him on and said to take it anyway!

 

So we stuck our thumbs out and looked for a ride (not really, Tempa just stood in the  middle of the road).  After about 5 minutes a tour bus approached, but it was completely full.  After another 10 minutes, another partially full bus stopped, and after some light discussion, they let us join them.  The driver stayed with the Land Cruiser -- we are not sure what he did out there in the middle of nowhere.

 

We were so fortunate to have this particular bus approach when it did.  There were only 7 people traveling together on a bus that would hold 30, so there was plenty of room for us and our bags.  The group all worked together at a overland travel agency in Britain so they were very experienced travelers, very laid back, and were quite fun.  They generously offered us sodas, snacks, etc.  We realized that the bus took the bumpy/rocky road much better than the lighter Land Cruiser, so the roads were not quite as miserable. 

 

They were going to stay they night in Nyalam, and then head to Zhang Mu the next day, so that was now our plan, as well.  We took pictures of their whole group for them on some of the scenic stops, and started enjoying having some English speaking people around again for conversation.

 

Charlie, the most outspoken one of the group, decided that they had to do a buff picture just because 'they could'.  Of course, Dan was not one to shirk that kind of challenge, so at La Lung La pass (17,000 feet, with great panoramic views of snow-covered mountains) they did the deed.  Fortunately, they had liter sized Lhasa Beer bottles for coverage, so the pictures were not truly pornographic.

 

They were quite pleased that we had the digital camera, and we all enjoyed watching a slide show of those pictures on the laptop over beer in Nyalam.

 

That night, we joined them for warmth and drinks in the Nyalam hotel restaurant -- they had secured a kerosene heater and we gathered around it in the restaurant.  With a snow storm outside, and our room approaching 40F, it was the only warm option!  We took the heater to one of their triple rooms after we closed down the restaurant to move on to some port wine they had with them.  After way too many Lhasa Beers and port wine, lots of very entertaining stories, rather incriminating pictures, and smoke-covered clothes (most of them chain-smoked while drinking:-), we escaped to our frozen room for a cold long spinning night.  The many trips to the only toilet (actually, just a ceramic hole) down the hall  were quite cold and painful.

 

 

Day 5 -- Nyalam to Zhang Mu to Kathmandu, Nepal

Even though we woke up twice in the night to take aspirin, we were quite hung-over after the late night of drinking.  The ride to Zhang Mu did not take too long, and we waited in the lobby of the Zhang Mu hotel for an hour before starting the emigration process/border crossing process.  Customs was actually fairly quick, and we jumped in a truck for the 8km road to the Nepal border.  Of course, the road was once again blocked, so we had to traverse down the step mountainside shortcut, and walk the rest of the 2km to the border.  Fortunately, there was a guy that offered to carry our heavy bag all the way for 10 (about US$1), so it was not so bad.  Ashray was waiting for us at the bottom to get us through Nepal customs.

 

Our Land Cruiser ride from the Nepal border to Kathmandu was miserable -- no leg room, we were hung over, lots of honking, very slow and long.  We were so happy to get back to the Crowne Plaza!  We checked in and and immediately showered and changed clothes for the first time in 5 days!  We made ourselves stay up (with difficulty) until 10PM so we could finally sleep through the night.

 

Getting There

On our first Sunday in Kathmandu we walked into a travel agent suggested by our tour guide in Nepal and decided, on the spot, to design a custom trip through Tibet and to Mt Everest.  Ashray, the agent, could not do the trip any shorter than 5 days/4 nights, but he said we could leave on Tuesday morning.  On Tuesday morning, driver and guide picked us up at the hotel and we started the 110km journey to the Nepal-Tibet border, with our final destination for that day being Zhang Mu, Tibet on the border.

The journey through the mountains in the Land Cruiser was along hairpin turns around which our driver honked continuously.  When we passed the many buses packed-full of people inside and on top, we always came dangerously close to the sheer drop off on the side of the road.  Although most of the drive was fortunately on paved road, the last 8km was on extremely bumpy dirt/rock.  It was slow and quite painful on the internal organs (but nothing like what was to come in Tibet)!

As we got closer to the border, we passed through two Nepalese police checkpoints.  The second was in a small border town where there were many westerners hanging around waiting to get through emigration.  We transferred our bags to the trunk of a very old tiny car, which would actually cross the border and take us to our next car in Zhang Mu, Tibet (up the hill, about 8 km).  Ashray, was there to help us get through emigration/immigration.  After about 15 minutes Ashray waved us on, as the rest of the westerners still waited.

After walking through Nepalese emigration and over Friendship Bridge, Ashray showed our passports and 'group visa letter' to the Chinese guards securing entrance to Tibet.  The guards looked closely at us and our pictures as Ashray pointed to our names among five names on a formal stamped sheet of paper, and they let us pass.  He explained to us later that China does not let individuals (a couple is considered an individual) into Tibet  -- the smallest group size is five people.  So his company made up 3 other names and passport #'s, added them to the list to make five, and paid for passes for all five people!

There was a big sign in English explaining the history of Friendship Bridge just past the guards.  Dan stepped up close to the sign to take a picture, and the guards came running after him yelling!  Oops, another illegal picture missed.

Once the very old tiny car made it across the bridge, we started driving up a very steep, extremely rocky/bumpy road towards where we would meet our Tibetan guide/driver. Unfortunately, the road was blocked by a long line of trucks, apparently abandoned for now, blocking the road.  We have no idea why, but that meant that the car couldn't pass, so we had to walk.   One local guy carried our big bag, while we carried the computer bag and backpack.  Rather than walking on the road, we took a short cut that went straight up the mountainside, eliminating the switchbacks.  We were very hot and sweaty when we reached the meeting point.  There were several Land Cruisers lined up, but Ashray said they were waiting for the group of 30 tourists that we saw milling about at the immigration checkpoint.  Because our guide and driver hadn't yet arrived from Lhasa (and would not be arriving until that evening), Ashray told us that we would have to wait for the large tour group to make it up the hill, then catch a ride with them to Zhang Mu.  We groaned inwardly because there was no sign of the tour group and it was hot and dusty sitting in the sun.  After about half an hour, Ashray waved to us and told us to climb into the cab of a big truck that was going to Zhang Mu.  We climbed into the cab, where there was a woman already sitting on the back part of the bench-like seat.  A man traveling with the woman also climbed in.

The 8 kilometer-ride up the mountain was unbelievably steep, bumpy and dusty with an untold number of switchbacks.  We had a space in the cab about 30x18 inches for both us!  Dan was jammed against the door and the window, hanging on to the front handle with both hands, while Kristen was sandwiched between Dan on one side and the emergency brake, stick shift and the driver's open, half-full liter of beer on the other.  In addition the woman behind us was bracing her knees against Dan's back, and her toes were poking into Kristen's butt.  Speaking of butts, as if things couldn't get more uncomfortable, half way up the mountain, the driver lit a cigarette.  The smoke was billowing throughout the cab, choking us along with the dust.  At this point Kristen just started giggling at the absurdity of it all.  And for the first and (hopefully) last time, we supported littering and couldn't wait until the driver finished the cigarette and threw the butt out the window!

We finally arrived in Zhang Mu and waited for 45 minutes while Ashray argued with one customs official after another.  Apparently there was a problem because our guide from Lhasa (who wouldn't arrive for several more hours!) had the Tibet Tourist Bureau Permit, without which we were not allowed to enter the country.  Ashray finally convinced the officials to let us enter Zhang Mu for the evening, with the promise that our guide from Lhasa would arrive with the required permit.  The officials agreed, but insisted that they keep our passports, and that Ashray also stay in Zhang Mu (he had planned to return to Kathmandu as soon as he got us settled) as a guarantee that we would stay put, until the other guide arrived.

Ashray asked quietly whether we had 'the' Dalai Lama book with us (we assumed that would have been a bad thing given he is in exile from Tibet).  The customs officer requested that we open our big bag, as a few officers watched. He went through each compartment, and took out a couple guidebooks, rifled through them, looked at us as if he was saying 'you are lucky this is real'.  From that point we had to carry all our stuff to the Zang Mu Hotel, but fortunately it was only abut 100 feet away from the customs office.

Tempa, our Tibetan guide, arrived that night with the correct papers, and we restarted the immigration effort the next morning.  We spent 1 hour 40 minutes standing outside the customs gates, while Tempa walked in and out of the gate talking/arguing with inside and outside Chinese customs guards.  They sent him back to an area out of sight.  He came back with a hand-written letter (in Chinese) that we later learned was a sworn statement by him and the agency that we were trustworthy Americans and that they would personally guarantee that we would not cause harm to their country, and that we would leave the country under their guidance.  Apparently, the first couple letters were not sufficient because he went through that process multiple times, until they made him fingerprint-sign the letter and accepted it.  He still had to go back and forth several more times, with intermittent arguing, before finally telling us to follow him through the gate back into Tibet.

Later, Ashray explained to us that over the past 1 weeks it had been much more difficult to get Americans into Tibet/China.  Given that we were in the midst of the spy plane/crew hostage situation, and the Taiwan weapons issue, we understood.  Ashray was very clear to point out that when (if) we were confronted by the Chinese army or police in Tibet, we should remain silent and let Tempa handle it.  Fortunately, this was never an issue for us.

Contacts

Name Contact Info Comment
Hotel Zhang Mu Zhang Mu From what we saw, this was one of the best in Zhang Mu.  There was a much larger looking one at the top of the town, but we did not get the name.  Lower your expectations.
Qomolangma Shegar Guesthouse Shegar Only option for private bathroom 50 miles around Tingri.  Definitely not worth the price -- a rip off.
Everest Snow Leopard Hotel Tingri Considered nicest place in Tingri.  Ok if you get in 'back-packing' budget mode.
Nyalam Nga-Dhon Guesthouse Nyalam As last hotel we visited, probably ok.  Ok if you get in 'back-packing' budget mode.

 

Comments/Questions about this page?  Please email us!

Tibet