Friday, December 25, 2015

Lost in China: Day 9

It wasn't the most comfortable night in Tibet, as the altitude that we rest last night was getting higher and air was thinner. However, the day has come. We are heading to Mount Everest Basecamp! Depart early at 5am from our basic hotel,

Breakfast in the canteen, accompanied by a cat.

Stars. Wasn't sure what is that stretch of trail. Is it satellite? Space Station? or UFO.


Due to the Nepal earthquake that struck during April, minor roads are damaged by it. For the restoration work to carry out smoothly, the government allowed cars to pass through in only 2 sessions per day. So to catch that timing, we have to be early.

The checkpoint is guarded by full armed soldiers, and no photo allowed.

This is the most deserted and isolated road in China, but they are very well maintained. A lot of corners and turns.

Several world tallest mountains in a view. Too bad Everest was covered by cloud.

Almost there!

A clearer view of Mount Everest! 

We visited Rongbuk Monastery, the highest monastery in the world. This monastery is unique, as it has both monks and nuns living in the same place. Unfortunately, due to pressure from China, most monastery has lesser and lesser monks.

The view of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain, from Rongbuk Monastery, the highest monastery in the world. Double most.

Sheep in the monastery.

A few more minutes of driving, we arrived at the gathering point, before base camp. Here, some merchants setup basic shelters for visitors to overnight, food, etc. We were overnight at one of the tent, said is made from Yak skin.

Outside view of the tent.

Inside view of the tent.

Tent keeper cooked for us. This is the egg soup, slightly more expensive that lower altitude. What you expect? It is 5200m above sea level.

When you are cold, fear not. We have yak shit. Tibetan burns dried yak shit in the tent to steam up the inside to keep warm. It does smell weird at first, but it is better than cold. It was consider summer in Tibet, but for us from tropical country, it is consider very cold. Can't imagine visiting this place in winter.

Everest Base Camp is about 1km away from this gathering point, and is accessible by special bus or walk. It is the starting point of Everest hikers. However, most hiker who challenging the tallest mountain in the world, are starting from Nepal, mainly due to easier permit application.

Monument of Everest Base Camp, check-in.

Catherine with Tibet praying flags

Stone stacking is the greatest pass time in this place. No internet, no TV. There are any kind of stone stacking from large stone, flat stone, etc.

Our version of stone stacking by the river. I think we spent 1 hour to get this high. What for? because we have all the time.

Bobby and stones.

You think I forgot about toilet photo? At this altitude and temperature, human feces are difficult to degrade. They do less smelly though.

Everest Mountain uncovered. It just pure magnificent. 

The closest contact with yak! They just non stop eating for hours.

Our mattress and thick blanket.

 The night was the longest night in my lifetime. None of us could sleep well, if we ever sleep at all. After sunset, it was so cold and dark, and by slightly moving in the blanket, we need to warm up the blanket again. Headache, short of breath. Our tour guide prepared a few portable oxygen tank for us, but it don't seems to help much.

Going out for a pee is quite challenging too. A torchlight from your phone, with some courage, going out into absolute darkness. It is too dangerous to go toilet, so a nearby spot is always the better choice. Anyway, not much people use toilet, we prefer to do it "in-the-wild".

Before the trip, I was imagining watching the Milky Ways under the sky at night, enjoying the stars. In real, I just want the hour to pass faster.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Lost in China: Day 8

The place we overnighted in Shigatse is called Gesar Hotel. This hotel is great, with standard facilities that you can find in most major hotel like sauna, meeting room etc, even the carpet in elevator will change everyday.

Usually, my style of travel, is to avoid hotel as much as possible, and as close to the locals as possible, but in Tibet, able to find a proper 'civilized' toilet is close to impossible, they are only available in hotel and diplomat places.

Guys are still 'ok' with it, but for girls, good luck for not having your menstrual visit suddenly.

In the room. The interior is in Tibetan/Chinese art style, and it comes with robe~

The morning breakfast buffet area

First destination of the day, was Tashilhunpo Monastery, founded by first Dalai Lama. Similar like most monasteries, it is located below the mountain. We were left to explore the monastery ourselves, as our guide was visiting nearby police station to prepare the permit for next day's Everest Base Camp.
Main entrance of Tashilhunpo Monastery

Walked by monk in red robe. This picture created an illusion of depth, do you feel it?

Large stupas in the monastery.

Prayers and visitors of the monastery queuing to climb up stairs into the praying hall.

The Thanka Wall

Overlooking Shigatse from higher ground of this monastery

Group photo with one of monastery's architecture

Without tour guide, and with adventurous spirits, we got lost in this huge maze. Spent quite some time to get out to main entrance.

China did a great work in connecting isolated places with this super long highway, connecting from Shanghai to Tibet, call 308. It is 5000km, almost as long as the Greatwall of China. To develop an area, first thing, transport infrastructure.

Monument of the highway

Still, there is no traffic jam here, with occasional waiting for sheep herd crossing the road.

*Look here*

*Look there* (Where can I find toilet?)

Tibetans in a group


A local restaurant near Sakya Monastery. Food is great, large portion, and price is relative more expensive, the further away from city.

Menu and pricing of the food

Tomato Egg Rice, never stingy with their eggs.

Can't remember this, but I remember is fish with rice. No one usually have fish at 5000m altitude...

After meal, time to release. This is one of the cleanest public toilet, with no door, and an auto flush mechanism through the drain from left to right, all slots at once. Be grateful.

Our next visit, is again, a monastery. But this is unique. It is call Sakya Monastery, with Mongolian architecture. The major colors are red and black, which never seen at other monasteries, and one of the least damaged monastery during the revolution, partly due to it's deserted location.

A monk is reading at the rooftop of the monastery

Panorama view of the main plaza

Resting at the rooftop

Surrounded by mountains.

Entrance to Sakya Monastery

Time to hit on 308 highway, to our destination of the day, New Tingri, the last town before Everest Base Camp.

Praying flag along the highway.

And, toilet break! I promise this is not the last toilet photo!

After days of travel, our first sign of the far tip of Everest Mountain! 

Stay tune, tomorrow will be the climax of this trip.

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