Arrival in Lhasa, brief history of Tibet


There are moments on trips that are difficult to explain with words. We usually say that they are able to stop time, usually associated with big dreams that seem unattainable, and manage to isolate everything around you to achieve full harmony in that magical moment. He Potala Palace is that dream, the great icon of a whole culture and way of life, the imposing stamp of the residence of the Dalái Lama in Tibet and that emerges illuminated by falling the night on the red hill of Hongshan since the seventeenth century, waiting for years upon our arrival in Lhasa, its capital (or we in it). What we have in front of two imperceptible silhouettes we feel will always be impossible to explain but it exceeded the expectations with which two little boys fantasized since their childhood before the most important monument of a trip that has just begun ...

The previous 21 hours in the Cloud train or Transtibetan, between the smell of noodles, overpasses over 5,000 meters, Martian landscapes of snowy mountains, frozen lakes and arid meadows full of tens of hundreds of yaks, were already overcome ... finally!

Lhasa, the end of the cloud train and start of an adventure

Yes, that a lot of oxygen supply and everything you want but the 20 hours 59 minutes that separate Xining from Lhasa have overcome a drop of more than 2,000 meters and that, whether you want it or not, it shows although in my case it has had nothing to do with height, haha. At midnight and for no apparent reason I had to pay a visit to the "amortized" Transtibetan bathroom (mental note: Don't forget to put toilet paper in your handbag! Good thing!)

However, the final stretch from the Tanggula Mountain Pass at 5,072 m and later from Nagqu at 4,513 m has been down a valley to Lhasa and that is always appreciated.

I have slept until 8.30, I have to say very well in the soft bed. Sele has come to look for me and, after taking the supplies we bought yesterday at the station, we have headed back to the wagon-restaurant for breakfast (60 CNY)

It was around 10 when we see on the mobile map that we are already in the Tibet Autonomous Region, moment that we have taken advantage of to cross several wagons of the Cloud train or Transtibetan We detailed you yesterday and realize that we are the only tourists on this train beyond the Chinese themselves, some of whom find us exotic and ask us for multiple photos with us.

We cross rivers such as the Tuo Tuo River, the origin of the Yangtse River, and nature shows that I couldn't even imagine as much as I had read it, including those arid meadows of thousands of yaks that are so important at this height of the Tibetan plateau. We see frozen lakes, the yellow steppe of the thaw, nomads looking for their way, and even a kind of tibetan antelope adapted to these scenarios where in winter temperatures can fall to -40 ° C easily. They are extraordinary beings. Will we ever be able to see the snow leopard in life?

We have seen that some people around us have begun to feel headache and nausea during the morning. I am not upset and Sele either ... long live acclimatization! It has worked!

ALTITUDE 3,656 m. It's 16.20 when, after eating (95 CNY), our long journey ends with the last flocks and adobe houses and giving way to a majestic modernity, that of thehuge Lhasa station, the largest on the Tibetan plateau with 10 tracks and 24 million euros in cost

We are in the capital of Tibet and as close to the utopian Shambhala or Shangri-La that we will never be and that already in itself is exciting


We detailed the start day of this adventure the options to reach Tibet that currently exist, all of them foreign to tourism on their own and whose entry permit necessarily has a specialized agency that processes it after the approval of a tour with them (which can be designed to measure). Although you can read everything in more detail in that article, they were basically:

- The option for China allows access in internal flight (from Beijing, Shanghai, Xinning, Lanzhou, Chongging, Chengdu, Xi'an or Kumming), train (from all of the above except Kumming) and vehicle / bus (from Xinning, Lanzhou and Kashgar -It was not possible for foreigners since 2008 from Sichuan and Yunnan but it seems that they are re-granting permits-)
- The option for Nepal allows access Land route from Kathmandhu by Gyirong Pass but if you are thinking that it will be cheaper to forget it because it forces you to hire a route that includes the Everest Base Camp - Lhasa in round trip (943 km in 3-5 days), which makes the alternative more expensive. It can also be done in a flight Kathmandu-Lhasa.

Yet I remember when I was little and my parents took me to Teide for the first time. We climbed to its summit at about 3,718 m, the highest peak in Spain, but a small breath in my heart made the last stretch endless. Today I sleep "virtually" at that peak 30 years later. Well, not yet, we have to pass the train station procedures that begin at the moment we deliver the passport to leave and take us to a side booth with offices where they look at us rigorously Entrance Permit and Chinese passport visa. Everything is in order! Can we come in! (It has not been more than 15 minutes and they have not opened our suitcase for anything - I travel with a drone registered the whole trip and they have not told me anything-)

What will fate hold for us today? How many new surprises do you have for us? None of them will be today. The route is designed to use this day to acclimatize without visits and we believe it will be a great idea. Here awaits usYongphel, who will be our Tibetan expert guide throughout the trip and Badri, a Nepalese guide who will also guide you in Spanish. We will also have a chauffeur and a VAN for every day. Best team ofYoulan Tours impossible, right?

IMPORTANT NOTE YOU MUST READ: If you have reached this article of travel diary to Tibet and you get this box is that already We are within the Autonomous Region of Tibet and you must know 3 data:

1 This story is part of a complete guide to our trip to Tibet and has many more items that will help you prepare yours. Mind you, Tibet is more than Lhasa although many packages are limited to it.
2 It is NOT possible to travel to Tibet for free. Beyond the Chinese visa itself, it is necessary to obtain a Tibet Entry Permit that you will be required to catch any flight / train that goes inside and more times during your trip. This procedure ONLY AND EXCLUSIVELY can be obtained by hiring a tour with a specialized agency. We have traveled with Youlan Tours which also allows you to design a Tailor-made trip with different unique experiences to traditional routes throughout China and works with Spanish guides.
3 It doesn't even have to say you must have travel insurance but BE CAREFUL, BE CAREFUL, you need an appropriate one that allows you to perform activities up to 5,200 meters and not everyone has that coverage (or almost none). Ours, as always, is that of IATI Insurance although this time we need the BACKPACK mode to have all the coverage at those altitudes

We stayed at the Kyichu Hotel, a renowned hotel in full restoration that already appeared in the first editions of theLonely Planet of Tibet and whose added value is to be in the same street of the Potala Palace that we have a 10 minute walk ... and that we have already seen in the transfer although only a few seconds!

Here we will stay, with breakfast included in the patio restaurant, during our entire stay in Lhasa (both now and around Everest)

Brief history of Tibet to understand where we are

After leaving things, we headed to Tibetan old town which is located in the back streets of the hotel because we have prepared a surprise in the form of a welcome dinner

While waiting for dinner, between a sip and a sip of water (more than 3 liters per day) and following all the advice received to adapt to the height as soon as possible, I open my notebook I try to understand a little better in the place we are. Current Tibet covers an area of ​​1.2 million square meters and has a population of 2.3 million. In spite of this, it remains one of the most remote places on the planet and, at present, one of the most hermetic to access as travelers.


If you want to know more about Tibetan culture, its traditions or its people, and you cannot access Tibet, you have the options of:

Amdo region It is currently located in the Chinese province of Qinghai, with smaller parts in Gansu and Sichuan.Tagong in Sichuan, Xiahe in Gansu or Buddhist monasteries such as Kumbum near Xining, Qutan Si and Labrang Tashi Khyil south of Lanzhou, may be your best options
- The Kham region It is currently located in the Chinese provinces of Sichuan with 16 villages, Yunnan with 3 other villages and Qinghai with 6 other villages.Zhongdian (Shangrila), Xiangcheng or Kangding alternatives can be good
- Neighboring states of Bhutan, Nepal or regions of India like Sikkim, Ladakh (considered as little Tibet), Lahaul and spiti

It is said that there are archaeological remains that show the human presence on this plateau since 10,000 BC. although the high degree of nomadism does not make it until 300 BC. when a small military dynasty makes its way between the surrounding kingdoms, practicing a shaman religion called Bön. It was King Nyakhri Tsampo and set the starting point for a dynasty of 30 kings who would rule until the seventh century, a historical moment for the appearance of the first buddhist king

The territorial extension of Tibet continued to increase king after king and already with Buddhism as a religion reaching in the year 763 to what is now Xi'an and getting its maximum splendor during the years 780-790 with territories in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Burma, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. We were in an independent country where noble families, Buddhist monasteries and small landowners predominated.

At 13th century Tibet was now dominated by the Mongol Empire which we already knew a lot in our trip through Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. However, Buddhism was the predominant religion between Mongols and Tibetans and even Altan Khan endorsed the religious government of the Dalai Lama already in the 16th century. It was at this time when a Portuguese Jesuit named António de Andrade became the first European explorer to reach Tibet until the early twentieth century.

A tragic episode would change history when already in the 18th century, a Chinese commissioner would be killed giving rise to the invasion of the Chinese army of Tibet until the interests of the British, in the colonial era, collided in 1904, taking its protectorate in 1906 that would last until a new 1910 treaty that would return it, this time with full central power, to China


If in the previous episodes we contextualized Tibetan between different types of Buddhism and explained the keys to understanding it as a philosophy of life, today we list a series of basic precepts or ideas of the same:

1. Do not take for granted traditions of yesteryear or the facts because yes
2. Desire and ignorance causes suffering
3. We must not miss the environment around us
4. Set aside and hate and do no evil
5. Do not feel attached to things or people
6. Be aware that we are responsible for our path and learn to love ourselves
7. Take care of our body in addition to our mind.

The 20th century is a very troubled time for Tibet. The Chinese Republic and the return of the troops opens a new period of independence between 1912 and 1950 but along the way they give the British a possession in northern India called Arunachal Pradesh that would generate a dispute in 1962 between China and an already independent India. Meanwhile, since 1950, China invades Tibet again that he had also lost the regions, now Chinese, of Kham and Amdo and began a period of numerous revolts, Western support for the Tibetan cause and escape from the Dalai Lama to India

Especially hard it turns out 1969 when China strips the Lama of its lands, it leaves aside Buddhism and Tibet undergoes destruction of Buddhist temples and monasteriess, as well as the death of many monks. With the coming to power of Den Xiaoping in 1978 religious freedom was reestablished and thousands of Buddhist temples reopened and the contemporary era began of conversations and solution search for the so-called conflict in Tibet and although it is said that they have carried out major reforms to achieve a real democracy as an Autonomous Region of Tibet, the demands of the provinces with exiles (Kham and Amdo) and the recognition of how an independent State are completely out of any negotiation (SOURCES PHOTOS: Ezoterik, China seen and Earlytibet)

Almost without realizing it, dinner has arrived. Sele talks to an older couple of Australians who have just arrived by plane from Xi'an and tell us that they are somewhat "heavy."

RESTAURANTS IN TIBET | LHASA: House of Shambala, one of the best Tibetan restaurants in the capital with a nice patio and interiors

In addition to a buffet dinner with a lot of variety I have a whim completely discouraged (why not drink alcohol).

As a good beer lover and finding myself wonderfully about the height issue, I enjoyed a fresh Lhasa Beer like never before.

On the way back to the hotel we have already seen the first Tibetan markets that Lhasa houses in its alleyways of the old quarter and, especially, those small prayer grinders that will no longer leave us on the entire route

It is beginning to get dark. Sele, do we take the backpacks and inaugurate Tibet as it deserves?

The first snapshot of Tibet ... The Potala Palace at night!

They say that it is convenient to be at least 3 days adapting in Lhasa before continuing and that the first day is best to relax and rest. True, it's like that, but ... it's only 10 minutes away and we have waited a lifetime for this moment.

Yongphel accompanies us to explain the checkpoints of backpacks and passports that the Chinese have installed to access the main square. We will also find them in other points like in Jokhang. And suddenly, you go up the stairs and there it is!

You look at it from wherever you look, with reflection, without reflection, between trees or behind a stupa, the The majestic Potala Palace finally looks before us as that great icon of Tibet, the former residence of the Dalai Lama (fled in India) and the imposing emblem of an ancient culture How much spirituality it conveys.

I have no words to describe this moment and maybe some tears of emotion. Have passed more than 30 years since I knew the existence of this place and its meaning and 15 years since I started preparing this trip that I tried to do 10, 8, 5 and 2 ago, failing all my attempts for various reasons. Today, at this moment that stops time and at 3,650 meters high, the great white and red palace of copper and gold roofs that houses the most sacred symbols of Tibetan Buddhism It is illuminated in the blue hour before me.

Thousands of columns, beams, rooms, chapels, rooms and secrets form a Potala Palace declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1994 and that we can visit in the next few days. Now if, like those monks who play in the street in front of us, we can return to the hotel to sleep peacefully our first night in Lhasa and pronounce vigorously "THE TRIP TO TIBET JUST JUST BEGAN" ...

Isaac (with Sele), from Lhasa (Tibet)

EXPENSES OF THE DAY: 155 CNY (approx. 20.67 EUR)