There is something about Tibet. When I proposed my travel itinerary to friends, it’s usually Tibet which makes their eyes lit up. I am glad it did. It only means that there are finally friends who are willing to join me in my travels.
Tibet definitely deserves the attention. Once you stepped into Lhasa, you knew you have arrived at a mysterious destination with its own identity, which is quite unlike the feeling one gets when visiting other cities in China. You just want to spend time trying to understand this beautiful plateau landscape and its people.
The term Tibet does not actually refer to the province, it refers to the whole Tibetan region which also includes parts of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan. The province whose border is often drawn up in maps is the Tibet Autonomous Region or TAR for short. Therefore, TAR is the Chinese administration region while Tibet is the ethno-cultural region. But people might not understand if I refer to TAR, so generally I stick to Tibet.
The current travel restrictions require foreign tourists to travel on a guided tour in TAR. Tourists are also not allowed on the pilgrimage buses that plow the region so a private vehicle is usually included as part of the tour. I have engaged Sim’s Cozy in Chengdu to arrange the tour. Joy is the person who liaise with us. She is extremely knowledgeable and patient with our requests. The 7-day Tibetan tour they arranged cost around 10,000 RMB for the 4 of us (J, CC, CY and me). They are not the cheapest but it’s worth the money. The tour included and excluded the following:
Sim’s Cozy also helped to arrange the train tickets, air tickets and booking of the hotels we selected. For what I know, they did not impose charges for the additional services provided.
After the Tibetan tour was decided, I started filling up the gaps in my itinerary by first fixing the dates and entry/exit points. My first and last days of the trip were easy to decide because I wanted to make full use of my job gap. So this means I would start traveling the day after my last day at work and I would return home a day before I start my new job. This gives me around 22 days to play with. My friends’ schedules were also quite fixed as they can only get away from work for around 10 days and only after month end closing (the lives of accountants!).
This left me with a 4 day gap and a 7 day gap before and after the Tibetan tour respectively. It’s not a lot of time and I soon fixed my entry point to Chengdu (Sichuan) and exit point to Kunming (Yunnan). Cheap air tickets certainly helped in the quick decision. Now, I just have to reseach which places to visit. Besides the usual Lonely Planet’s guidebooks and Thorntree forum, Chinabackpacker is an excellent resource. Here’s a useful diagram of possible itineraries from Chengdu to Kunming taken from Chinabackpacker.
I originally considered many potential places to visit such as Songpan, Jiuzhaigou or Siguniang in Sichuan and Lugu Lake or Baishuitai in Yunnan. But I wanted to avoid long bus journeys so I finally ended up with a rather leisurely itinerary which can be divided into 3 main legs.
Leg 1 (Sichuan, mostly around Chengdu)
Singapore > Kuala Lumpur > Chengdu > Emeishan > Leshan > Chengdu
Leg 2 (Tibet with friends)
Chengdu (Qingchengshan) > Qinghai Rail > Lhasa > Shigatse > Everest Base Camp Viewpoint > Lhatse > Shigatse > Lhasa > Chengdu
Leg 3 (Yunnan)
Chengdu > Zhongdian aka Shangrila (or Deqen) > Tiger Leaping Gorge > Lijiang > Dali > Kunming (Shilin and Xishan) > Singapore
The Southwest China (Sichuan, Tibet & Yunnan) trip report is divided into the following pages:
- Introduction (You are here)
- Journey Day 1 (Singapore to Chengdu to Emeishan)
- Journey Day 2 (Emeishan)
- Journey Day 3 (Emeishan to Leshan)
- Journey Day 4 (Leshan to Chengdu)
- Journey Day 5 (Friends Arrival at Chengdu and Sichuan Opera)
- Journey Day 6 (Qingchengshan and 44hrs Train Ride to Lhasa)
- Journey Day 7 (Train Journey)
- Journey Day 8 (Train Journey and Arrival at Lhasa)
- Journey Day 9 (Around Lhasa – Potala, Jokhang, Barkhor)
- Journey Day 10 (Around Lhasa – Norbulingka and Sera)
- Journey Day 11 (Lhasa to Yamdrok Lake to Karola Glacier to Gyantse to Shigatse)
- Journey Day 12 (Shigatse to Everest View Point to Lhatse)
- Journey Day 13 (Lhatse to Shigatse)
- Journey Day 14 (Shigatse to Lhasa to Chengdu)
- Journey Day 15 (Chengdu Panda Tour and Friends Departure, Arrival at Zhongdian aka Shangrila)
- Journey Day 16 (Zhongdian aka Shangrila to Tiger Leaping Gorge)
- Journey Day 17 (Tiger Leaping Gorge to Lijiang)
- Journey Day 18 (Around Lijiang – Yulong Xueshan)
- Journey Day 19 (Lijiang to Dali)
- Journey Day 20 (Dali to Kunming)
- Journey Day 21 (Around Kunming – Shilin)
- Journey Day 22 (Around Kunming – Xishan, and Home!)
Because I just got a new camera (Sony Nex 3) which comes with some fanciful picture effects, please bear with me the numerous black&white and special effect photos you would see in this trip report. For friends who want to see photos of us, do refer to facebook.
Thanks for reading!
Disclaimer: This trip was taken in November 2011. The information is provided ‘as is’ with no warranties and confers no rights. If you are interested to know more, please add a comment and I will update the post with more details.