Grand Overland Voyage (2005-2009)

Nyalam – Faithful

August 27, 2005 A Sichuan guesthouse in Nyalam, gratis Yup, there is something missing from my bags. For sure, the books are still complete. I lost a Tibetan cloth for my mom and my favorite Indonesian batik trousers. Actually it was just clothes, I can buy a new one easily. But I foolishly answered them when they asked whether there was something missing. The family became very anxious, and they searched whole over the house, without no result. The atmosphere was very unpleasant. My driver tried to explain to me, it was not him who steal, nor his family (I believed). I said to him, it was just clothes, no worry at all. But for them, it seems that faith is the most important thing. There were many people coming to this house, so I dont blame the family at all. But it was really makes me feel bad when everyone tried to convince me that they didnt steal (It was only clothes!!!). My driver even, suddenly, cried in front of me. Saying that they never steal anything from others. I felt really really bad. Just two clothes missing and the family atmosphere turns to be a very strange feeling. [...]

August 27, 2005 // 2 Comments

Shegar – The Beautiful Girl with Khatak

August 26, 2005 Donchuk’s House 15 Yuan What a lucky day! After hiding behind the clouds, the beautiful Everest at last showing up. The slight clouds around it looks like a khatak (Tibetan scarf) on a princess’ neck. The sky was dark blue, emphasizing the coldness of the hugest mountain on earth. And being able to see her beauty was really knocking my heart. Some people spent even some nights here without seeing anything. But this beautiful scene went off very fast. Just after two hours, another big dark cloud came and covered the whole area. Today I tasted tsampa, the Tibetan powder mixed with the butter tea. A real traditional Tibetan dish. I put much sugar to suit my Indonesian taste. The way back to Shegar took around 6 hours. The moto has to climb a hill, reach the top (Chou-La), then climb down. The road is zig-zagging, and there are about 108 turnings in total. Feeling tired of zig-zaging, I chose to climb with my legs. Just about four points, there was a jeep of Chinese tourists passed by. And they were excited to see a poor dirty climber with big bags, they said “BRAVO!!” to me and [...]

August 26, 2005 // 2 Comments

Everest Base Camp – Getting Closer to the Top of the World

August 25, 2005 Everest Base Camp 20 Yuan/bed in a Tibetan camp (actually can be bargained to 5 yuan, but foolishly I didnt) Have heard about Everest? I have heard many stories about getting there. Very expensive, and as foreigner you have to apply for special permit. I did, 150 yuan, just a few minutes in Shigatse. But the high price of the transport going there did really scary me. Most people charter land cruisers from Lhasa (more than 1000 yuan/person). Let me list you what you have to pay if you go by a Land cruiser: – entry ticket 25 yuan/1 day trip, 65 yuan for 2-10 day trip – entry ticket for the vehicle 405 yuan – eco bus from Pasong to Rongphu monastery 80 yuan round trip. but if you return on the next day you still have to pay another 80 yuan – horse chart from Rongphu to base camp 60 yuan/2 person. if you are alone you still have to pay 60 yuan. and if you return the next day, the same story, you have to pay another 60 yuan. So, I decided to go to Old Tingri instead, as I am not so keen [...]

August 25, 2005 // 3 Comments

Shegar – Awkward

August 24, 2005 Family Hotel 30 yuan/bed As many people requested, now on I will put the information of the accomodation that I use during my trip. The day started very early when I arrived in Shigatse bus station to take the public bus to Shegar (New Tingri), the gateway to the Everest base camp. I just knew that I am really lucky, I look Chinese and I speak Chinese, and I purchased the public bus ticket easily. Apparently the bus station in Shigatse doesnt sell ticket to foreigners, and the drivers usually refuse foreigners to get in (but still u can do some tricks). I met a Canadian heading to Nepal but couldnt get into the bus. And after 6 hours of journey, the bus took two Israelis who hitchhiked some kms away from Lhatse. These two Israelis have tried hard to get their way to Nepal, but all buses and trucks refused to take them, until our bus came. The road deteriorates after Lhatse. And once our bus “sinked” into the mud, and they needed around 1 hour to rescue it. A very unpleasant situation happened today. In Shegar, when we (the two Israelis and I) had dinner, [...]

August 24, 2005 // 1 Comment

Gyantse – “The Town with Least Chinese Influence”

August 23, 2005 There are many cars going from Shigatse to Gyantse. Cost 20 yuan for a 2 hour trip. Gyantse is written in a famous guide book as a Tibetan town with the least chinese influence. But my guidebook was published in 2000. But today you will be able to see a bunch of Sichuanese restaurants and chinese department stores scattered on the main roads. Fortunately, there is the old town session of the city, where you will see almost no Chinese shops. Only Tibetan. This road will lead you to the Pelkor Chode monastery. The official ticket fee is 40 yuan, but after negotiation with the ticket selling “monks” I made it down to 20 yuan. The monks told me that the average monthly income of the monks here is just around 300 yuan, but monks who sell ticket earn much more. Everyday there is prayers session in the assembly hall. I took a picture, and then a young monk came and fined me 20 yuan photography charge. I didnt know about this, and I paid without negotiation (although I have heard previously even this can be bargained). Apparently this is also another method for the monastery to [...]

August 23, 2005 // 7 Comments

Shigatse – Tashilhunpo Monastery

August 22, 2005 There are some buses daily from Lhasa to Shigatse, I took the earliest bus (8 pm, 50 Y) from the bus station not far from Banakshol Hotel (where I stay in Lhasa). Travelling while having diarrhea is really painful and difficult. I dont want to explain how this 5.5 hour trip be one of my most painful trips. The city of Shigatse itself is uninspiring, just look like a normal Chinese town. But the monastery is quite nice, despite of unbargainable entrance ticket of 55 yuan (I have negotiated for more than 1 hour, but of no use…, the monks are very persistant of charging everybody the full fare). I am not a fans of monasteries actually. This monastery is one of 3 important temples for the Yellow Sect. It’s really grand. For me the main reason to enter the monastery is that they have prayers at 6 pm (no photos allowed, but the religious atmosphere will knock each room of your heart). The highlight of today is, to be in the monks’ dormitory. It was really fascinating to talk with the monks in their most private room. The monks here earn 1200-1400 yuan/mo per person (from [...]

August 22, 2005 // 1 Comment

Lhasa – Sera Monastery

August 21, 2005 As my condition was getting well in the afternoon, and so was the weather, I decided to go to Sera Monastery. I have heard that there is a discussion class every afternoon. Sera Monastery is about 5 km from city centre, but the entrance ticket of 50 yuan held my steps. Two days ago I came to this monastery and circulated it already. Today, as I was still thinking to pay or not to pay the entrance fee, I did circulate it once more. Suddenly I met three Chinese travellers, of which one of them I met yesterday inquiring about traveling to Western Tibet. They told me that they didnt want either to pay the 50 yuan ticket and wanted to climb and jump the wall to enter. We found a rather low wall. I was anxious to do this, but they one by one successfully crossed the wall of 2 m height. When it comes to my turn, I didnt have any other choice either as they had passed my bags to the other side of the wall. And I practised all of my ability of climbing, jumping, crawling, etc…, and I successfully landed to the [...]

August 21, 2005 // 3 Comments

Lhasa – Rainy Day (Again)

August 21, 2005 It’s raining hard again in Lhasa. It’s my 4th day here and there are only two types of days: cloudy or rainy. I have heard that Jokhang Temple is opening for visitors without ticket early in the morning, at 8 am, as the pilgrims are allowed to enter. But today is exception. It seems that there is a VIP woman visiting the temple at 8, and the door is shut for anybody else, including the Tibetan pilgrims. I give up the idea of visiting Jokhang Temple, and I am not so willing of paying 70 yuan of entrance fee. As a Buddhist, I feel it’s really strange that a worshipping place requests an expensive enforced ticket fee to visitors. Bored in Lhasa…. Due to my illness I have to take a rest one more day here, wasting money of doing nothing… Cant take photo either as it’s raining the whole day. Anyhow, tomorrow I have to leave this city. Frankly speaking, 4 days in Lhasa I visited none of its tourism attraction. But I am happy here as I met some very nice monks with very deep [...]

August 21, 2005 // 2 Comments

Lhasa – Diarrhea :(

August 20, 2005 All plans are cancelled today, as I got diarrhea. Cant go to Namtso (The Heaven Lake) as all buses depart in the morning, and my stomach didnt want to cooperate with me at all. My visa is limited so I probably wont have any chance to see Namtso in this trip. Disappointed, of course, as Namtso is always in my dream. Maybe God wants something else that we dont expect. Anyway, the weather was nice in early morning, but cloudy again in the midday. All my days in Lhasa are cloudy….. where is the blue sky of Lhasa??? But I have to keep moving, hopefully can catch the bus the day after tomorrow to Shigatse. During the day, it was very sunny. During my 3 days here, it’s the first time to see the sunny Lhasa, but it lasted only for few hours. It’s raining again now. When walking around the main road, I was stopped by two monks. “Thasidele,” they started the conversation. Then they asked for money for donation for their monastery, any amount is OK, they said. I gave them 2 yuan. Then they gave me amulet, asked me to write my name in [...]

August 20, 2005 // 1 Comment

Lhasa, Awakeness

August 19, 2005 I have to admit, these two days I got be very selfish and weak… if I may blame, that is the 90 hour devilish bus journey and those commersialization and heavy sinofication in Lhasa. Talking about commersialization, as a Buddhist I felt very terrible myself when seeing how the monasteries here competing to earn as much money as possible by charging very expensive tickets. I remember when a monk insisted to charge us a ticket of 10 yuan just when we wanted to climb a hill to see sunset! Today there are some “enlightments” that brought back my spirit. The “kora” travelling around the Sera Monastery was exciting. The ticket to enter the monastery is an expensive 50 yuan, but doing round trip outside the wall is free of charge. The gem of today is the young novice monks outside the Potala Palace. I have never been entering Potala due to its expensive ticket (100 yuan) and I cant afford it. OK, forget about the tickets now. These monks coming from Qinghai Province by walking to Lhasa to do pilgrimage. They were all friendly and curious, especially when I share the life of novice monks of Laos [...]

August 19, 2005 // 2 Comments

Lhasa – Arrival

August 19, 2005 Pheww!!! At last, I arrived in Lhasa after 90 hour bus journey from Ngari. The people there said that the journey should last for around 48 hours, but dozens of hours of flattened tires, broken engines, etc etc, God lets us, at last, to arrive in Lhasa. Indonesian national holiday, August 17, 2005. It;s the 60th anniversary of our republic. While most other indonesians celebrate the day with lots of extravaganza, festivals, competitions, carnivals, etc etc, I was trapped in this shitty bus. How I celebrated the day was just singing to myself the national anthem Indonesia Raya, the marchs, the traditional songs from Sabang until Merauke. And I sang the whole day….. how lonely Somehow I regretted my decision to take this bus. But two days without any car to hitch in Baka made me think twice also. Usually I prefer to hitchhike or take public transport, but the 90 hour journey from Ngari to Lhasa has made me very very weak at this moment, and I have no spirit at all these days. I am thinking to rent a jeep to take me directly to Nepal border, but am I really that weak? [...]

August 19, 2005 // 1 Comment

Kailash Pilgrimage

August, 9-13, 2005, What a bad luck, a PSB officer was sitting in front of me in the bus heading to Kailash, the holy mountain of the Buddhists and Hindus. This PSB officer, unexpectedly, speaks very good english, made me unable communicate with other two Koreans travelling with me. She is friendly, but very determined to fine us of entering Tibet ilegally. I managed to escape as I pretended to be a Chinese Cantonese (I look Chinese, I speak Chinese, and everyone believes I am Chinese). Everything here is divided into Chinese price and foreign price. For example, the bus ticket for chinese is 230 yuan, and for foreigners 300 yuan. And of course I got the Chinese price, hehe.. The unlucky two Koreans at last also managed to escape from her in the Kailash. So the next day we did the Kailash pilgrimage, or “Kora” in Tibetan language. Kora is to walk around the holy mountain on a track of 54 km. I did it in two days, separated by other people in our group. One of my legs is twisted, swept by the holy river (and alas, one of my cameras was in my pocket and it is [...]

August 13, 2005 // 1 Comment

Ngari (Western Tibet)

August 8, 2005, At last, I arrived in Tibet. The journey from Khargilik is actually illegal for foreigners. I first attempted to hitchhike a truck to take me from Khargilik to Ngari (250 Y) but the truck driver was not so sure whether he can take foreigners. At last I took the sleeper bus by paying chinese price (350 Y), while other foreigners paid 600 Y. The bus owner knows exactly that this is illegal to take foreigners in his bus, so he secured us (5 foreigners in total) in two private cars crossing the first checkpoint. Apparently in the first checkpoint, the Chinese police only checks the buses and trucks as they didnt stop the small private cars. So we passed the first checkpoint without any problem. The second checkpoint is checking the border permits of chinese citizens, so foreign passports just can pass without problems. The journey to Ngari is not an easy journey, in fact, it is the most difficult among the other entrances to Tibet. But here the checks against foreigners are quite minimum. The bus went thru high passes of the highland, the highest elevation of this trip is 6700m. I got quite severe high [...]

August 8, 2005 // 1 Comment

Khargilik – Getting closer to Tibet

August 3, 2005, Khargilik, another Uyghur town directly heading the taklamakan desert, is the gateway to go to Tibet. There are several buses from Khotan to Khargilik, accross the plain desert area for about 5 hours (31 Yuan for cheapest ticket). I woke up quite late today, and without having any breakfast, I got the 10 o’clock bus. Alas, the bus had problem in the middle of the way, and the trip was delayed for about 2 hours. But for me it was a nice opportunity to make friends with other uyghur passengers. (despite the grawling stomach asking for noodle….) What I think about uyghurs does always change, and I bet I am changing. Two years ago, the first time I came to Uyghuristan, I felt that the Uyghurs were rude and macho, and I was horrified on how they play “dum-dum” on the train, where the hit, slap, and kick each other. The next year I came to Uyghuristan again, I felt that the Uyghurs are lovable, as I was involved in playing dum-dum by myself, and I found that the slap and kicking were indeed sign of love and friendship (don’t mention how painful it was). This year, [...]

August 3, 2005 // 0 Comments

Khotan, Xinjiang Uyghur

August 2, 2005, ..At last, at last, after 44 hour journey by hard seat train from Beijing to Urumqi, continued by the 22 hour cross desert journey from Urumqi to Khotan, I arrived to this “the pure town of the Uyghurs“. For an unknown reason, the train ticket from Beijing to Urumqi this year is very difficult to buy. I was lucky I didnt have to wait for days to obtain it, I just bought 5 days in advance, but even though, there were only 2 hard seat tickets left. The train was extremely crowded, and many people even didnt get any seat along the way from Beijing to Urumqi! The cross desert journey was not as spectacular as what I thought, as we crossed the desert in the middle of night but the Uyghur passengers are always nice and friendly. And of course, the long awaited Uyghur noodle (laghman) is always the highlight of long journey in the Uyghur land. Khotan at a glance looks like Kashgar but with more Uyghur people in proportion. As this is my second hour here (the first hour was sleeping in my hotel room and repairing my broken backpack) I cant say more [...]

August 2, 2005 // 0 Comments

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