Heading back and a bit of Shopping
Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
257Trip End Jan 31, 2012
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Started driving back at around 7am since the couple I was with were thinking about visiting another monastery. In the end they decided against it which was a good thing since the guide had called her manager and been informed that it wasnt possible to get a permit.
Lungs feeling better this morning. Thankfully. Seems I can now force that last bit of breath out without having to hear a weasing sound.
Ended up taking the more direct route back which was about 100Km shorter (didnt pass through Gyantse) so that we would have more time in Lhasa. This route started out by following a dirt track that ran through a few small villages as well as near the railway tracks that are being laid between Lhasa and Shigatse
Some shortcut. Later on found out that the reason we had to take the dirt track was because the road out of Shigatse was closed due to road works. As a result, the dirt road detour was required.
Found that the road we were following to Lhasa was pretty much following the route of the river. Had some nice views of the river and surrounding mountains and made our first stop by the river to take some photos. Found that I was walking on small pieces of shale and am guessing the the sandunes I saw while driving along the track and all the sand sitting up on the mountainsides is a result of this shale getting ground to dust.
Spent the next few hours following the road to Lhasa. as with the trip out of Lhasa it was necesasary to stop at a number of police checkpoints and have our travel time checked. At the first checkpoint you receive a piece of paper with a time on it. You then cant reach the next checkpoint until a certain amount of time has passed.
We had to stop before the second checkpoint and wait 18 minutes before we could proceed to it
Heading to the second checkpoint we would of arrived 10 minutes early and so had to wait. Seems that these checkpoints are the chinese way of speed control. Personally though I dont see it stopping people from speeding though it does remove the incentive since even if you speed you wont reach your destination sooner since you need to stop somewhere before reaching the next checkpoint or pay a fine. At 200 Yuan ($30) per minute that you arrive early you could get quite a hefty fine.
Continued following the road but this time made the checkpoint at around the appointed time. Basically slept and watched the view of the river as we headed into Lhasa. Once again saw another convoy of army truck but this time the number was limited to about 52.
When in lhasa checked into the hotel and killed a bit of time before heading out into the shops to buy a few things
Interesting how the asking price for something varies so much. Take for example the yak bone prayer wheel I bought. First price was Y150. Next was Y120 and I ended up getting it for Y60. At yet a third place decided to ask the price just to see what he would try to sell it for and he wanted a whopping Y240. Had similar experiences with other things I wanted to buy. At the very least found that getting away from the central strip improved prices. also someone who spoke good english was likely to ask a higher starting price.
In the end only bought a couple of small ones as souviners since may bag is overloaded at the moment anyway. One of yak bone and one of sheet metal. In terms usability I would have to say that the spinning prayer wheels I got had close to zero usability. The reason being tha they are to small. Because of the small circumference you need to spin them quickly to keep them going. To be more usable you would want a bigger wheel that doesn't need to spin so fast.
While wandering the streets observed two interesting things
Second thing I noticed while walking around was the number of soldiers. Lots and lots of squads of five patrolling the streets as well as some police officiers. Note that this is in addition to all the soldiers station in the booths located around the city streets.
To me Lhasa seems to me to be very much a city under military control. Not something you would expect to find if everyone was happy with the chinese presence. Also given all the checkpoints and controls in the country side (tibetians also need permit to enter/leave everest region) the military definately limit social liberties.
I guess while the chinese bring development, goods and services, they also impose on the tibetian way of life. Find it hard to say tibet is part of China given that the language and culture is so different. Sort of like saying parts of Europe are part of Italy just because the romans ruled it for a time.
After doing some shopping headed back to the hotel for a bit before going out to dinner and coming back to try and get my Tibetian blog written up.
Ended up having a late night since I still hadnt got around to getting my refund from JAL for the ticket I needed to buy in order to enter Japan
Made the call around 12:30pm and was lucky to get a guy who could help. Basically said all I needed to do was fax the passport page with the exit stamp but was willing to let me email a scan instead. Now all all needed to get the refund was somewhere to do the scan. Given my passport gets copied in all chinese hostels can only hope that one of them uses a scanner.
In the end enjoyed my time in China even it it completely blew my budget for China. Guess I was lucky to even have the option since access to Tibet will be closed on the 24th June. Believe it has something to do with the 60th Anniversay of the Liberation of Tibet.