Saturday, June 2, 2012

Truly an Adventure

Access to parts of the Region of Kham might be restricted but Amdo remained open to foreigners. Did I still want to go? Yes, no, yes, no, YES. No matter what, it had to be more interesting photo experience than staying home in Atlanta.

Around February, calm was restored in Lhasa & most of Eastern Tibet. At this time, Lumbum, my guide & I tweaked my itinerary. Instead of spending 3 weeks in Eastern Tibet we decided to spend 2 weeks there then take the train to Lhasa (3 day ride, OMG), a few days in Lhasa and then overland south, past Everest Base Camp to Kathmandu. What a great suggestion- a little of everything.

I loved the new plans: cancelled my flights from China to Nepal as well as my Visa request for Nepal since I could easily get one in Lhasa or at the border crossing.

All is well until last week when here were are 2 more self immolations in Lhasa. Permitting changed into Lhasa- now I need 4 people of the same nationality to get into Lhasa. Maybe I can find some along the way???

Between, there was/is the train ticket sub-plot. Part of itinerary is to take the train from Beijing to Xining in Western China where I am supposed to meet Lumbum.

Oh gee, I cannot buy my ticket on-line .... Next move; find a hotel with an English speaking concierge service who can help me. A spin on Trip advisor and a few Skype calls to Beijing. Voila, enter stage left, "Frank", (not his real name but his taken name from hotel management school in China) who speaks English. Frank works for the Holiday Inn, Beijing. So now I am now staying at a Holiday Inn China so that I can have Frank act on my behalf. Who would have thought, a Holiday Inn!

Many e-mails, copies of my passport and credit card between Frank and myself. No, you cannot secure the ticket until there is a physical passport in hand. Is this really going to work or am I going to spend my 1.5 days while in Beijing in a very long queue at the train station trying to get a ticket ??? Girls' got to have a sense of humor ;-).

I think that Frank has come through for me. I have a reservation in a soft sleeper from Beijing to Xining as requested and the concierge will even pick it up for me at the station once I hand my passport over to them. Many $20 tips will be flying if this really happens.

The itinerary; I now rely on day-to-day updates from my guide's wife, Namdon who is in their Lhasa office requesting permits on my behalf & an Argentinean woman that I met along the way via e-mail who is on the ground in Xining.

I'm going for it! Here's what I know. On Monday June 4, I leave Atlanta & fly to Beijing. 2 night in Beijing, a 24 hrs train ride to Xining followed by 2 weeks in AMDO & Kham Region of Tibet, a 3 day train ride West to Lhasa, 3 days in Lhasa & then overland South to Kathmandu. If the Lhasa Permit does not materialize, then 3 weeks in Amdo /Kham, I must re-purchase an airline ticket from China to Nepal & secure a Nepalese Visa. This is going to be a true day-to-day adventure. A sense of humor is a must. Stay posted.