High Altitude

Trip Start Feb 24, 2006
Trip End Dec 31, 2007

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Flag of China  ,
Sunday, July 1, 2007

We flew into Lhasa, the "Holy Place", with great views of Himalayan Mountains outside the plane.  After arriving, I couldn't help escape the feeling of being somewhere in New Mexico as the hills seem similar and the native garb and designs are eerily similar to Southwest and Native American designs.  We had a 1 hour bus ride into Lhasa, passing beautiful landscapes of green fields, rounded mountains and flowing rivers.  The sky is a brilliant blue with huge fluffy clouds, like something you'd associate with the big skies of Montana, only they seem closer (as I guess they actually are).  Lhasa sits at 12000 feet, more then twice the altitude of the mile high city of Denver.  The one way of assuredly knowing you're in Lhasa is to sight Potala Palace, the omnipresent red and white hillside palace both mysterious and beautiful...more on it later.  Being that we flew into Lhasa, we are supposed to suffer altitude sickness fairly quickly, but after an hour or so we were still fine.  Our "tour" put us in a hostel dorm room for the first night, but we set off to find better accommodation.  After finding a place for the next evening, we headed back to our dorm room to rest and that's when Mr. altitude sickness set in...giving us both massive headaches, effects like dehydration and majorly upset stomachs.  We read about some Chinese medicine soldiers use to help with this sort of thing and decide that now would be a good time to get it.  I had Enon write it down for me and I asked her to repeat it when...Hong Ching Tie-blaaaugh - she lost it!  I took this as a good cue to get out of there and go get the medicine!  The meds worked pretty well and soon we felt good enough to go eat dinner, which is when I remembered that today was my birthday!  So we had a good birthday dinner, some cheesecake and called it a night.
The altitude sickness stayed with us a few days and while we adjusted to it we took it easy and strolled around Potala, taking cycle rickshaws in between places.  One night we stayed at Kirey Hotel, but being so near to the street and markets it was just too loud for me to sleep.  Luckily, while walking through the Barkhor area the next day,  we ran across the Daxia guesthouse (www.daxiahotel.com) in a quiet area of Barkhor.  The Daxia was quiet and had a very nice Tibetan-styled covered courtyard...we would end up staying here the rest of our time in Lhasa.  That day we also decided to visit Norbulingka, the summer residence of the Dalai Lama (well, before he was exiled by the Chinese government).  It was first built in 1755 and each Dalai Lama added his own structure to it.  Anyways, the grounds weren't very well maintained and the entrance fee was too high, but we still enjoyed looking around the gardens and residences and learning about its history.
After Norbulingka we stopped by the Tibet Museum housing various relics in a four storey traditional structure.  The museum was pretty good with some interesting displays on Tibetan culture.  We ended the day with dinner and plans to get Potala tickets the next day and then go see Drepung Monastery.
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