We made it to Lhasa! After an early morning start we made the short trip to the Kathmandu airport for our 10:30 flight on Air China to the capital of Tibet. I guess it is a commentary on modern times and Jamie's organizational skills since our travels went quite smooth. The 2 hour flight on an Airbus 320 was punctuational and comfortable. It was somewhat cloudy over Nepal so we had limited views of the Himalayas but one 8000m Hill was poking through the clouds. I was excited to see Lhasa since it has so much history. To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect. Was it the old city of legends or was it a modern Chinese city full of commerce and wealth?
The flight path followed the Yellow River, the largest river in Tibet, revealing a large Monastery along the banks. The landscape was very mountainous without many trees or green areas. Soon we landed at a very modern airport and went through a series of straightforward entry procedures. Our Tibetan guide met us and soon all 13 of us were in a modern van for the hour and half trip to Lhasa. The airport is 30 miles from the city proper since it is quite mountainous around Lhasa. Our guide explained with great pride about the new tunnel that saved over an hour in travel time.
The roads were all paved and commerce was in full force as we passed several multi story government buildings, an oil refinery and other sites for manufacturing as well as housing for the workers. Quite surprising when you consider just how remote we were. Take a look at a map and you will see that Lhasa is located in the middle of, well, nowhere! Occasionally we saw the small farm with prayer flags waving in the breeze or a local in traditional garb walking the roads. The traffic was well controlled, much different from the organized chaos of Kathmandu. We entered the city and one of the first sights was a Buick and Volkswagen dealership but late model Toyota Land Cruisers seemed to be the vehicle of choice.
Arriving at the hotel, I was pleased and surprised to see two old friends. Ang Tshering who is a Sherpa who organizes and leads local logistics mostly for Adventure Consultants and was here to lead a Cho Oyu climb. I was with him on Ama Dablam and Everest so it was great to see his gold filled smile once again. I also saw Ryan Waters, leading an RMI Cho Oyu trip, whom I was in Pakistan last year. Once again it goes to show what a small world it is.
The hotel is quite modern. Aptly named The Himalaya Hotel, it seems to be the place for mountain expeditions and western tourists. The rooms are modern, clean and comfortable ( this is starting to sound like a Fodor's report!) In fact there is an Internet connection with 100 mbs speed! We will be here for three nights and play tourist while acclimatizing (yes, we are on a climbing expedition!) since Lhasa is at 11,000 feet.
So, Lhasa appears to be a modern Chinese city with all the trappings. But a quick walk about reveals another side. More on that in the next dispatch.
Please remember Memories are Everything.