Shanghai World Expo 2010

Today we made an attempt to visit the Shanghai World Expo 2010, the problem was so did the rest of China!

I have never seen so many people in one place and although the buildings looked great and the general organisation was superb the actual experience was awful due to the large crowds.

Many of the popular pavillions had queuing times in excess of 5 hours and even some of the less popular ones had relatively long queue times for nothing special. After giving up all hope of visiting the Chinese and Japanese pavillion, we queued for 45 minutes to visit the Turkmenistanian(????) pavilion only to see a few rugs, some jewelry and a brief presentation on their communication infrastructure.

Maybe my expectations were too high but I am glad I didn't travel to Shanghai specifically to see the Expo, unlike the thousands of others that visited with me today!

Lingshan Buddah

This morning we visited the Lingshan Big Buddah as we were told that the 26th May was a good day for visiting and making wishes.

We asked a friend to drive us there and it has changed significantly since I last visited 10 years ago, however Buddah is still big, about 88M tall!

I could have been selfish when it came to lighting candles and incense to make a wish however instead I wished for my buddy Carl to have a full recovery from Trevor, his brain tumor (visit his blog for more details)

On the railroad back to Wuxi

Well the Tibet leg of our holiday is mo over and we are now 31 hours into the 48 hour journey back to Wuxi. I am grateful for my iPhone and netbook keeping us occupied during the non sleeping periods which is most of the time in my case!

Our diet had not changed much from the journey to Tibet…still instant noodles, fruit and snacks!

I am looking forward to reaching Wuxi so that I can start getting pampered, not only by the in-laws but at one of the local spas!

Snow stops play!

Today was a little bit of a disappointment as we travelled about 4 hours north of Lhasa to visit Namco Lake, the highest lake in the world only to be turned around by Police 50km from the lake due to a heavy snow storm! Apparently the road is trecherous under the best of conditions so it was probably a wise move.

We stopped for lunch and negotiated a deal with our driver to take us Yamdro yumtso Lake which is at an altitude of over 4000M and is over 638km^2 in size! The water was a glittering jade colour and the snow capped mountains in the distance were a small section of the Himilayas. Stunning.

As this was our last day in Tibet we took a bike rickshaw ride around Lhasa and stopped of near to the Jokhang Temple were there were thousands of people circuling the temple by take a couple of steps before lying down, arms stretched out preying and chanting mantras, it was a sight to be seen. Due to the large crowds there was a significant police and military presence which now seems to be the norm around Lhasa even at midnight!

To end the night we headed to the most famous bar/restaurant in Lhasa called the Makye Ame where 300 years ago the 6th Dalai Lama used to sneak out and meet a mystery women….

From Bomi to Lhasa

The last couple of days have pretty much been spent on the road heading back to Lhasa from Bomi with another stop off at Bayi City.

On the way we visited various tourist hotspots and also stopped wherever we wanted to take photos. One of the more notable sites was Basomtso Lake which is one of the largest alpine lakes in east Tibet. After crossing a floating bridge to a small island we took a brief look around a temple that is over 1000 years old. What amazes me about Tibet are these remote historic locations that contain such interesting treasures and have the folklore to go with them.

I tried to take a picture of the lake with my iPhone and like before it doesn't do it justice, believe me the water was turquoise and the trees green all around, beautiful!

On the way back to Lhasa this evening after bouncing over a big bump something broke on the rear suspension of our minibus. This dud nit really suprise me as for the last few days this poor vehicle has been over terrain more suited to a 4×4.

Fortunately this occured a couple of miles outside a small town so we turned around to find a mechanic who could fix it. We did succeed except that the mechanic could not fix it but instead applied a bodge that would hopefully get us back to Lhasa. We continued the journey back to Lhasa at about 20km/h! In the meantime the tour company arranged for another bus to pick us up and take us back to our hotel leaving our poor driver to drive slowly back to Lhasa to get the suspension fixed properly. I guess we will find out if he made it if he picks us up in the morning!

To end the day on a high Lily and I ventured out into Lhasa to find a bar, after a bit of guidance from a taxi driver we eventually found one and spent the rest of the evening playing liars dice and drinking beer…pretty much how we met in Wuxi over 10 years ago.

Tomorrow we will be heading north for the day, I will try and remember to take photos with my iPhone!

Heading further east

Today was a long day. We left Bayi City around 8am and headed further east on the G318.

After a couple of hours our journey got interesting as the paved road stopped and the muddy, pot hole ridden road continued into the distance. It wasn't too long before I felt we were reliving the Top Gear special in Vietnam as we had several heart stopping passes with a sheer drop to our right and had to clear the road of large rocks after a recent landslide!

After winding our way through stunning valleys, we eventually reached our goal…Midui Glacier. The iPhone photo does not do it justice, it was simply awesome to see something so large and natural in real life rather than just on the TV.

After the Midui Glacier we headed of to Rowa lake. The scenery here was more of what you would expect in Switzerland rather than Tibet, simply gorgeous!

We had originally planned to stay near to Rowa but due to the military presence and sensitive nature of the area (close to Indian border) there are no hotels that can accommodate foreigners so instead we gad to double back on ourselves and stay at the only hotel that would take me in Bomi.

We arrived in Bomi very late and after checking in we headed out to find some food. It was then pretty clear that Bomi looks after the military personel very well because there were more brothels than restaurants open!

I am not sure what adventures we have planned for tomorrow but by the sounds of the rain outside we may have some new landslides to contend with as we head back to Bayi City!

I love this place!

On the road from Lhasa to Bayi

Today we left Lhasa and headed east on the G318 national route. This eastern part of Tibet has only been opened to foreigners for a few years now and because it holds sites of natural beauty rather than sites of historical value it does not attract that many foreign tourists…except me!

En-route there were several Police checkpoints, which I discovered were actually journey time analysis checkpoints. Instead of installing ANPR cameras and measuring average speed automatically they employ numerous teams of Police to do the checks manually!

For the whole journey we were surrounded by stunning mountain peaks and got to see how real Tibetans get on with their lives, raising livestock and general farming. It seems such a slower and more peaceful life than the chaotic and stressful one I lead!

At one point we stopped to take photos at over 5000 meters above sea level, certainly the highest I have ever been outside of an aeroplane. It literally takes your breath away!

I have noticed that Tibetans appear to be very house proud, the buildings are beautifully decorated inside and out, though they do seem to let their livestock roam the streets, we often had to give way to yaks, pigs and sheep!

Before we got to Bayi City we stopped off and saw Kadingla Falls, a 200m waterfall tucked away in some beautful terrain which had yet to be ruined by tourists.

Tomorrow we will be venturing out some more, we have had to slightly modify the tour as we found out that foreigners are not allowed to stay in the hotel we had originally planned so we have to double back on ourselves.

Let's hope the weather continues to be kind to us!

A day in Lhasa

After getting up and having a poor excuse for breakfast we headed out to the streets of Lhasa. For me it is hard to distinguish Lhasa from any other city in China, there are the same stores, streets which have shops of one type etc. However there is one noticeable difference and that is the presence of both armed military and Police. There are numerous patrols around the streets, markets etc as well as small teams posted sporadically around the city with riot shields and batons!

Putting this negative stuff a side, what is simply spectacular is the Potala Palace (the hone of the Dalai Lama) and the Jokhang Temple where you can see pilgrims who have travelled thousands of miles to see this holy place. I must say, everybody should put atleast these two sites on their list of things to see and do before they die. The history and treasures that they both hold are simply mind blowing.

Tonight is our last night in Lhasa until the end of the week for tomorrow we will venture into eastern Tibet to see some unspoiled natural beauty spots.

Noodle Dinner

After scoffing huge dumpling things for breakfast and lunch, I tucked into my duck noodles for dinner.

I think I was misled by the photo on the lid but nonetheless they tasted good.

I have now been on the train for over 24 hours so half way to Tibet. Tomorrow will be interesting to see how my finely tuned body copes with the altitude.

If you don't hear from me tomorrow it means I didn't make it and the Tibetans have given me a sky burial. It could also mean the battery on my iPhone is flat!

Papers please!

A short time ago the Police came round and checked everybodies ID and I my case checked through the various permits I had to obtain to visit Tibet.

The Police were very polite, asked where I was from and even welcomed me to China. Take note USA immigration / TSA or whatever you are called!

Some of the scenary we have passed through is simply spectacular, taking the train was the right decision!