Most of the time on the train you sit by the window or on your bed and admire beautiful views outside. Landscape changes a few times: from huge meadows full of yaks and sheep, through crystal clear blue lakes to mountains covered with snow. You can see mountains during the whole journey – it is a constant part of the scenery.
The second night you notice that the landscape changes dramatically. Everything is covered with snow. The only thing you can see is white colour everywhere. It is colder as well. This is a sign you are very high and that you are closer to your dream destination – Lhasa.
There are eight stops on the way (Guangyuan, Baoji, Lanzhou, Xining, Delingha, Golmud, Nagchu, Lhasa). On every station you can go outside for a few minutes. At the beginning it is very warm and sunny. The higher you are the colder it gets. In Nagchu it is still sunny but you already feel cold air.
We arrived in Lhasa on time. There was huge line towards the exit. Another ticket and permit check.
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I started my trip in Chengdu (Sichuan province). All journey took 44 h – 2 nights and almost 2 days. In China before entering any railway station its employees check your tickets. They also checked my travel permit to TAR region. After luggage security check (like at the airport) you go to a waiting room. A few minutes before departure the gates open and you can go to the right platform.
Before you get on the train they check your documents – ticket and travel permit again. And inside the train one more time. Then ‘train service’ exchanges your ticket into a plastic card (similar to credit card) containing coach and seat number. Before the last station you get your ticket back. This procedure is common in every Chinese train in a sleeper class.
The next obligatory thing is filling in the health declaration form. On this document you attest your good health condition and the fact you can stay above 3000m above the sea level. Next to every bed and in aisles there is oxygen supply – small boxes with fresh air in case of breathing problems caused by high elevation.
You better charge your battery and camera before the trip. On the train there could be a problem with charging batteries. Although in my train there were many sockets, there was no power. There is hot water in the end of every coach. People use it for making tea and Chinese soups – necessary things during every trip.
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It is important to find the right travel agency which organizes your trip to Tibet. I strongly recommend you Tibetan Travel agency. Tibet Highland Tours is the perfect choice. Tthey stay in touch with you during all preparations and your stay in TAR region. They quick answer emails and give you all explanations. There is a family atmosphere and you are a part of it. They are a very good, decent people. For them the main priority is customer’s safety and his happiness. They understand your needs and expectations.
They have only Tibetan guides and drivers. All of them know TAR region as their own pocket. A guide will be your companion during big part of sightseeing. Tenzin from Tibet Highland Tours otravel permit for me and took care of all details. Thanks to my guide – Kalsang and the driver – Tashi, my trip in TAR region was unforgetable experience. They became my friends and Tibetan techers:)
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On TAR Region there are special places where you need to have additional permits. In Shigatse you need to have ‘alien travel permit’. ‘Military permit’ is necessary if you want to visit Mt. Kailash, Kashgar, Nyingtri or Chamdo. Apart from that in some places in TAR ‘foreign affairs permit’ is required . Your guide will get all of these permits in TAR during your trip.
It is is very important to plan all your trip very carefully. You can not change anything while you are already in Tibet. There are many check points on the way and it is impossible to go through them without valid permit. In addition, time of your trip is control by army. Soldiers tell you how much time you have to get to the next check point. If you get there quicker your driver will pay a fine.
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It is easier to get to TAR region (Tibet Autonomous Region) from China mainland than from Nepal or India. It is quite difficult to get travel permit and it is getting more and more difficult. The rules are changing all the time. Nowadays IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to travel on your own as a single traveller, backpacker. First of all you need to have travel agency which organizes your whole trip in TAR region. Obviously it is better to choose Tibetan travel agency, they know their country as their own pocket. Moreover we should support them if we can. Travel agency organizes your travel permit after getting a copy of your passport and Chinese visa. This permit is valid only for the time of your trip, which means if you go there for 12 days – permit will be issued for these 12 days. On this document there are written places you can visit, arrival and departure cities.
Since June 20, 2012 you can travel to TAR only in group of 5 people, the same nationality. And there are no exceptions.
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After crazy and complicated time in my life I decided to change everything and follow a new path. Travelling by Tibetan railway – the highest railway in the world – was like unfulfilled dream for me. I decided to make it true. Qinghai-Tibet railway is one of the wonders made by man.
Over 80% of the line is above 4000m high. Big part of it lies on permafrost. The highest point ‘touches’ 5072m (Tangu-la Pass). There is a plan to extend the railway form Lhasa to Shigatse by the year 2014. Building Tibetan railway in such extreme climate seemed impossible. Because of low oxygen level and very low temperature, workers could stay outside only a few hours a day. Many of them lost their health. That was one of the most demanding technical challenges. It was completed and opened in 2006.
Train departs from a few Chinese cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Lanzhou, Xining . However Xining is considered the starting point. Here landscape changes and here you start your wonderful journey in the most marvellous land hidden in the highest mountains in the world.
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Life is unpredictable, full of surprises and unexpected events. There are moments which change our lives forever. For me visiting Tibet was that kind of moment. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama said: „Go to Tibet and see many places, as much as you can; then tell the word”…And that is why I decided to tell my story…
I have never dreamed about going to Tibet –“ the roof of the world”. When I watched the movie “Seven years in Tibet” I was completely amazed. Amazed by the pure beauty of this land and incredible people who live there. But at the same time a trip to Tibet seemed impossible. I could compare it to a journey to the Moon. The incredible places situated 3000m above the sea level, inhabited by thousands of Buddhist monks were inaccessible for me. They remained only in the sphere of my dreams. However later on I learned –everything was possible. If you really wish for something – you will fulfil your dreams.
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