Ticket to ride?

Trip Start Sep 05, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Where I stayed
Trichang Labrang Hotel, Lhasa, Tibet

Flag of China  , Tibet,
Wednesday, January 12, 2011

After a cosy night snuggled with electric blankets, we bounced down to breakfast to meet Rich and Mirinae and head off to the train station. We all needed to buy tickets out of Tibet, but had been told that this would be tricky as most seats are booked up by locals leaving the area for warmer parts of China. Mikey and I had already paid our useless travel agents 'Tashi Delek Treks' in Kathmandu, 170 dollars each for tickets as they insisted it was essential that we have them in order to get our visas. LIES!!! We were more disgusted to find out on arrival in Lhasa that despite taking our money they had actually not been able to get tickets and they we were potentially stuck here for a long time. Not only that, we discovered that they had charged us roughly twice as much per ticket in commission - crooks. 

Anyway, Norbu (guide) promised they would refund us so we set off with the words for ‘train station’  ‘Chengdu’ and the different kinds of seats available written in Chinese by a helpful member of our tour. The piece of paper soon became indispensible and worked like a magic charm, getting people to guide us away from a bank we had mistaken for the station, and into the correct building. We then used our innocent confused westerner faces to skip the enormous baggage check queue and get talking with the ticket lady. Rich and Mirenae were successful, buying tickets to Xining, only 24hrs away, but the next tickets to Chengdu were for the 20th – no good as our visas would run out before we reached the Vietnamese border. We did at least find out how much tickets should cost without commission, so that we would know what percentage a travel agent was taking this time.

We spent the next 2 hours wandering around trying to find the Lonely Planet recommended travel agents. Lhasa is fascinating, especially in the Old town, around the Jokarn Temple. Crowds were thick and markets sold everything under the sun. The only frustrating thing was that there were police and army everywhere so we couldn’t take any photos in case they confiscated the camera. After a lot of false starts as many agents had closed for the winter, we eventually found an lady who said she could get us the tickets for 30 additional commission each.  With this option available we relaxed and spent the rest of the time verifying that she was telling the truth and nobody else could get tickets.

They couldn’t and we returned to her office at 3 and she got on the phone to her guy and we had the tickets in our hands at 6. Soft sleepers  were the only seats available and cost 1107 yuan each (110 pounds) but should at least be amazingly comfortable, a good thing as we are on the train for 46 hours! After that we found a HEATED second floor coffee shop and relaxed with lattes – I used the opportunity to take some secret street photos until I realised there was a police unit just below and dived to the floor in terror. I stealthily changed my jacket when we left in case they had seen, but had got away with it.

After wandering around for a couple of hours we found another gorgeous restaurant overlooking the Potala Palace. San Jose Coffee Shop looked completely out of our league when we first got up there, but actually prices weren’t too bad and we had a scrumptious meal, relaxing on a sofa in our own private booth. The best bit was they had a remote control button to press when you wanted service. It played a really loud song and called the waitress over or ordered the bill for you. The staff patiently waited for us to stop giggling every time we did it – obviously used to crazy English people who don’t have such things in their country. Teriaki chicken, a pink lady cocktail and Lhasa beer made a delicious dinner and I only wish poor Mikey poo pants could have managed more than half a sandwich.
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Jojo on

Hopefully by now you will be safely ensconced in your 'Soft Sleepers' - mind you I don't suppose it will be 46 hours of sleep you will be getting! I hope you have managd to stock up on lots of food for the journey - looking forward to hearing all about it.

All is well back here in 'Never Never Land' (thats what my father used to call Bosham because he thought no one ever grew up here!) - Tricia came round for coffe,toast and marmalade and crossword yesterday morning so we managed to catch up on what's been going on but failed to finish aforementioned crossword. Loved the card from you guys!! I can't wait to see Olaf all sressed up in his Nepalease costue - not doubt you will get pictures.

LOL Jojo & Christopher

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