On the roof of the world

Trip Start Sep 01, 2006
Trip End Aug 31, 2007

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Flag of China  ,
Monday, October 30, 2006

Got up this morning at 7am for the flight to Tibet. I've got to say it was pretty cold. How cold was it? Well, a tap in the bathroom that was left dripping overnight had produced a stalactite!

We went to the Tibet Cafe where we were to be picked up by the tour agent from Khampa Caravans. Unfortunately he didn't show up and the Khampa office was closed. We tried to call them from the Tibet Cafe but they said they didn't have a phone! As our flight was due to leave in less than an hour we decided to get a cab to the airport and hope that we wouldn't be asked for our travel permits. Unfortunately that was the first thing they ask for. I managed to borrow a mobile phone and got in touch with somebody from Khampa. I explained that we were less than happy, that our flight leaves in half an hour and that they better get here quickly. Luckily they did and we managed to get on the plane.

As expected we were approached by a taxi driver before we had chance to get out of the airport. He offered us a taxi for thirty yuan each. Five more than the bus but for door to door service it seemed worth it. However he started to lead us out of the airport away from the taxi stands. Another taxi driver approached us and offered to take us for 40 yuan. We explained that we had an offer of thirty but he seemed to dismiss the first guy as a non-taxi driver (the entire conversation was conducted with hand signals as they could only speak Tibetan and we could only handle "How much", Lhasa and numbers). All this time the first guy was trying to lead us one way, the second was grabbing our bags and trying to take us the other and the bus driver was trying to get us on the bus. In the end we decided to go for the bus as the driver didn't seem as dodgy. Although I had to tear the taxi driver's hands off my bag first.

When the Chinese built the airport they put it a massive 95km outside of Lhasa. The bus ride took about an hour to get to the centre. As we approached the bus station we past the Potala Palace. I've got to say that after seeing lots of pictures of the palace I thought it would look a lot smaller and less impressive in real life. I was wrong. The thing is HUGE. It's probably going to take a day to go around the place.

We picked out the Yak Hotel from the guide book but it seems to have gone up market in recent years and were less than impressed with three backpackers showing up in their fancy lobby. After ten minutes they eventually got round to showing us a room but we were fed up with their attitude by then so we just left. We found another hotel down the street then began the task of working out how to get around Tibet. There are loads of agents offering 4x4 trips and lots of notice boards with travelers looking for other travelers to make up the number or a spare seat in a 4x4. However, everybody seems to be in a rush to get to Nepal. After the hassles getting here we want to take our time. Although Johan has to be back here by the 11th. We're trying to find something that leaves in a few days time, takes around seven to eight days and that will drop me off at the border. This is proving to be a little tricky.

After visiting half a dozen agents and noticed boards we decided to get some food. I decided to get right into the Tibetan culture and ordered a "Fried Rice with Yak Meat" and a "Tibetan Butter Tea". I also got an orange juice to take away the taste of the tea (it's not suppose to be nice). I've got to say that the tea isn't great, but it's not that bad either. But definitely not great.

The rest of the night was spent wandering around Lhasa looking at more notice boards and travel agents. This could be the theme for the next few days.
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