Tibet – Was it the trip of my life?

Tibet – Was it the trip of my life?

It was my biggest travel dream to go on a roadtrip from Lhasa to Kathmandu. Chris and me travelled 10 days across Tibet. Was it really a dream trip?

How Tibet feels like

The wind is blowing heavily and it’s bitterly cold. As doors are kept open, it’s also cold in the sleeping bag during the night. What is more, the window of our room is broken. I’m suffering because I can’t stand cold and wind. Nevertheless I feel blessed. I’m staying overnight far up in the mountains, near the Tibetan Everest Base Camp. A white yak stands in front of the “Everest Guesthouse”. Tents offer an alternative sleeping place next to the nearby buddhist nun monastery. The social cohesion with the other travellers couldn’t be better, as we share intense experiences, the good and the bad. In the evening we were watching and photographing the magnificent sunset in front of Mount Everest together. Tripods were set up and people discussed travel photography. After this we had fun celebrating the birthday of a fellow traveller. Frankly the birthday cake was horrible. In general Tibet´s food doesn’t taste well except of the food you can have in the city of Lhasa. I have eaten only few bites for days, since we’ve started this roadtrip, as I am not feeling well. All the better tastes the salty and warming butter tea. It helps you with the low temperatures and the high altitude. The air can become thin on 5,000 metres.

Nun in front of Mount Everest
Nun in front of Mount Everest

Mount Everest: View from Tibet
Mount Everest: View from Tibet

Yak at Everest Guesthouse
Yak at Everest Guesthouse

Why I wanted to travel to Tibet

For me it was a big dream, to cross the moon-like Himalaya landscape from Tibet to Nepal. Tibet became my dream destination, after I had read the autobiographical novel about the famous traveller Alexandra DavidNéel. Adventurous Alexandra mingled with Tibetan monchs, lived alone as an eremite in the Himalaya and met the Dalai Lama. My plans became more concrete, when I was drinking authentic butter tea in a Tibetan café in a hipster neighborhood of Beijing in 2013. There I found a „Lonely Planet Tibet“ guidebook, which you shouldn’t bring to Tibet. It might be taken away from you at the border. I thought: If I can handle Beijing, I can also go to Tibet. From then on I dreamed of going from Lhasa, the movie set of “Seven years in Tibet” to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. I wanted to take the exciting and impressive overland route across the Himalayas and be close to the Mount Everest. My wanderlust has never been more intense.

Special weather in Tibet

First I saw Tibet from the plane to Lhasa. I also had the first magnificent views on Mount Everest as the weather was very good. The weather maybe could nowhere be better for photography than in Tibet. The sky is clear and deep blue. So are the lakes. The sun of the high altitude region makes everything looks picture perfect. My photo equipment was very basic at that time, but I love the pictures. On the photos, however, the weather looks more pleasant as it actually is. The light was often blinding and the cold winds were just a nightmare to me

Is Tibet comfortable? 

I had known before that the hygienic conditions would be awful. This was no surprise as I had travelled three weeks through China by train already. Nevertheless I had no imagination about how bad it could really be. Therefore I warn you: If you want to travel through Tibet, you will have to stand these circumstances for a while.

In contrast, hotel rooms in the big cities were the more comfortable. There had bath tubes for example, which was unexpected but highly appreciated regarding the cold and windy climate. We rarely have lots of comfort when travelling to Asia. The hotel lobbies were huge and golden. This was not the Tibet I had imagined containing the romance of mountain huts. I also didn’t find the huts I had dreamt of in rural areas, but the exotic decoration and big butter tea pots met my requirements.

Many roads in Tibet are in good conditions. I saw other roads in the Himalaya.

The Tibetan people

People are walking in circles along a street. Their faces are tanned from the sun. They are holding prayer wheels and are murmuring. In front of a colorful temple they are prostrating themselves and worshipping. Many women wear thick black braided plaits and multicolored clothes. Some wear silver jewellery on their clothes and look like in a fairytale…
You don’t have to travel far in Tibet to see this. A walk at the holy circular Barkhor Road in Lhasa is enough. People from the whole Tibet do the pilgrimage to Lhasa. Among them you will also find nomads. If you like shooting portraits of people with interesting looks o if you are a street photographer, you will have a ball in Lhasa. You will always spot something interesting here.

Prayer wheels below the Potala Palace
Pilgrimage in Lhasa

Prayer wheels below the Potala Palace
Prayer wheels below the Potala Palace

Old lady, modern shoes
Old lady, modern shoes

Personal conlusion

Tibet was the most exhausting trip, although it was organized (You are not allowed to travel to Tibet individually) and we had prepared for the high altitude by a six days trekking in Nepal. Was it the journey of my life? Yes and no. With regard to intensity – positive as well as negative – Tibet was a superlative. I had experienced much more pleasant journeys though, packed with more and feeling more at ease. Nevertheless: Thinking of Tibet, I see the interesting people, the moon-like landscape, the herds of yaks, the crystal-clear and deep blue lakes… Nobody can take these impressive pictures from me. They were worth the quite tiring journey.

Stuopa in front of monastery of nuns
Stuopa in front of monastery of nuns

Herd of yaks in Everest National Park
Herd of yaks in Everest National Park

Traditional Tibetan Architecture
Traditional Tibetan Architecture
If you want to see more photos of Tibet, you can find them in my Flickr-album.

 

This post is also available in de_DE.

24 thoughts on “Tibet – Was it the trip of my life?

  1. This place looks incredible! I love when the original culture of a location is still alive and thriving! Might need to add this to my bucket list!!
    http://beyondblessedblog.com/

    1. Ricarda Christina Hollweg

      Thank you for your comment, Chloe. Yes the local Tibetan culture is still there, but sadly also very endangered, Visit Tibet, to see it yourself, it’s highly recommended.

  2. Tibet sounds like an incredible experience. Your photos are certainly very beautiful. I would like to go there and experience the views and the butter tea. I’m glad to be prepared for different hygienic conditions

    1. Ricarda Christina Hollweg

      Thank you very much for your nice compliment, Stella! It’s good to be prepared, but it should really not prevent you from going. It will be for sure an amazing trip.

  3. Such an honest post! It´s nice to read about the uos and downs on the road. Tibet does look like an amazing place – i had no idea you´re not allowed to visit on your own!

    1. Ricarda Christina Hollweg

      Thanks very much for your words, Kat!

  4. This was a fantastic read, I have always wanted to go to Tibet but have always had reservations. This is really well balanced, and honest. You have cemented my drive to go to Tibet – cold and discomfort and all 🙂

    1. Ricarda Christina Hollweg

      Hi Sam, Thanks for the nice comment. I’m glad I could push it a little bit 🙂

  5. Interesting article. I learned a few new things by reading it, and that’s always a plus in my book. The views are gorgeous, and you completed one of your travel dreams! That just makes it worth it.

    1. Ricarda Christina Hollweg

      Happy you could learn a bit, Sheila. Yes, it’s important to pursue travel dreams. I also would go again 🙂

  6. Daniela || Ipanema travels to

    Tibet is also one of my dreams! I am sure I won’t be disappointed. I’m a bit surprised you ended up with mixed feelings.

    1. Ricarda Christina Hollweg

      Hi Daniela, Thanks for your comment. The trip was amazing, it was just a bit exhausting. The beautiful impressions prevail.

  7. I will need to get myself much more used to indifferent food if I would attempt this then…! I’m Malaysian, we love good, flavorful food. ‘But where will you eat?’ Is a legitimate travel planning objection haha

    it took a while for me to diversify and tolerate not having that, in order to travel as I do LOL 😂 but not enough for these extreme locations yet

    1. Ricarda Christina Hollweg

      Hi Nuraini, yes, I know that food is pretty amazing in Malaysia 🙂 It was a challenge for me, too. Today it would be much more difficult because I turned vegetarian meanwhile.

  8. I never thought about going to Tibet to be honest and despite the fact that you had mixed feelings about the country, the scenery on your photo’s looks absolutely amazing. I would love to go there one day.

    1. Ricarda Christina Hollweg

      Thanks, Danique! Yes, it’s a landscape which is not from this world and I highly recommend a trip.

  9. I’ve thought about going to Tibet before, but I never thought about the western comforts that I’d be giving up to go there. That sounds silly to think about now, but I think I’ve romanticized Tibet thoroughly in my mind. What tour company did you go with?

    1. Ricarda Christina Hollweg

      Hi Lauren, I did exactly the same before I went. But in the end it was all managable. The great views were worth the discomfort. I booked the trip with “Erlebe Fernreisen”, wich is a German tour operator. They organised the tour with a Tibetan agency, but I don’t remember its name.

  10. Wow amazing pictures! I can believe it must have been an exhausting trip but those views should easily make up for it. Great post! 🙂

    1. Ricarda Christina Hollweg

      Thank you very much for the kind comment, Becky!

  11. This is such a brilliantly crafted post.. enjoy reading it. Hope Tibet calls me soon..
    Cheers
    Yatripandit.com

    1. Ricarda Christina Hollweg

      Thanks you being so kind. Hope you will manage a trip soon.

    1. Ricarda Christina Hollweg

      Elizabeth, I’m very happy you found it helpful and inspiring.

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