Becoming an Expatriate: First Four Months in China and Tibet (Adventures in Asia)
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I love this post so very much, so helpful and gorgeous photography! I cannot see doing justice to China with only two weeks! However, smany people have barely that much time so your itinerary will certainly help anyone visiting China for the first or second time.
I visited Jiuzhaigou in and was heartbroken to hear about the earthquake in It was my understanding the park had not yet reopened when I visited China between Sep — Nov Have you heard otherwise? While you are providing general information here have you considered mentioning the altitude for Jiuzhaigou? Despite taking medicine I was forced to leave a day early. The festival is our main reason for this trip so the last 3 days would be spent in Hong Kong. Any recommendations? Hi there may I know how to get from one place to another for the two weeks in China itinerary?
I was thinking of ending the trip in shanghai if possible. Thank you. Fabulous blog!!! Just one question no worries if you are unsure! Thanks Mandy. Thank you so much! Loving your guide! My friends an I are booking our whole trip around the itinerary you have written. Great article. Just thinking of a visit to China and your honest and informal style is perfect.
Table of Contents. Related Post — City guide for Beijing. Related Post — Best things to do in Shanghai.
Your essential guide for travelling to China
Accommodation in China Booking. You get free cancellation on most rooms and a best price guarantee. See all Intrepid Travel tours here. Name Website Email. Thank you for that list! Reply to Mellanie. Reply to Craig. Reply to Richelle. Reply to Annette. Reply to Maddison. Despite taking medicine I was forced to leave a day early An aside, my absolute favourite new place was the Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang.
Reply to Karen. Reply to Michelle. Hope you could share more details Thank you. Reply to Tutda. Reply to Eugene. Reply to Janet. Reply to Mandy. Reply to SAm. Reply to Eliza. Reply to Tyrone. Reply to Susan. Reply to Agostina. Trackbacks […] content I can link them to. At first, soft sleeper class gives you access to a separate waiting area and priority boarding.
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There are twelve compartments with private doors in a carriage; four berths in each compartment, two upper and two lower, with a small table next to the window, between the two lower bunks. There is enough private room in the soft sleeper compartments. Hard Sleeper is the second class car. Do not be misled by the name.
The hard sleeper berth is not a hard-board like its name. It is still comfortable and soft but less spacious and private. There are eighteen compartments without doors in a carriage; six berths per compartment forming 2 triple bunk beds, two upper, two middle and two lower. Hard seat on the train is also not hard chair like its name. It is soft and comfortable for a short journey.
There are usually 4 hard-seat cars in each train from or to Tibet, which can totally contend people. Different as a standard hard-seats car, which totally content seats, one hard-seating car just offers 98 seats in a Tibet train. Since travel to Tibet by train is quite a long journey, it is not recommended for you to take hard seat to Tibet.
All the attendants on Tibet train take training sessions before working on the train: simple Tibetan language and ethnic traditions, crash courses in English. Each train has a doctor attending the medical emergencies of the passengers suffering from altitude sickness. The dining car offers fast combination meals throughout most of the day for sale, although choices are quite limited.
On being an expat in China
Traditional Chinese or Tibetan meals are always available, with rice, noodles and meat-vegetable combinations. Beer, water, soft drinks are also available for sale in the dining car. There is a dispenser in the sink area which provides hot water 24 hours a day so you can make your own tea, coffee, hot chocolate or instant noodles which you can purchase easily in any market.
Each compartment has a thermos so that you can bring the hot water back to your room. You will need to bring your own mug and utensils as well.
You may want to bring your own bottled water for drinking, as it will be less expensive than buying bottles on the train. We recommend you buy snacks in a market or supermarket, ahead of time as the dining room meals may not suit your taste. But it does not indicate that one can board a train to Tibet only in these cities. Train Code Dep. Time Arr. Time Distance Duration Frequency. Beijing to Lhasa Train T27 the 3rd day km 43hr. Every Day. Every Two Days. Lanzhou to Lhasa Train K the 2nd day km 26hr.
Xining to Lhasa Train K the 2nd day km 23hr. All the Chinese train tickets start to sell 20 days before the train departure date, and as of , the Chinese Railway Administration official website is available only in Chinese. In China, do not disobey the country's laws. Your 'foreign' passport is no immunity for violation or circumvention of the rules. If you are caught by the authorities you will either be sent back at your expense , have your visa cancelled or sent home or in extreme cases banned from ever re-entering China.
There are even reports of foreigners being jailed on a temporary basis for breaking travel bans. Keep this in mind! North : The road from Golmud Geermu is the easiest legal land route at present. The landscape is beautiful but difficult to appreciate after the long rough ride. East : There is no legal way to travel this road except as part of an expensive organised tour; see Overland to Tibet and the security is tighter than from the north.
Travellers do get through this way, but for people who are obviously not northeast Asians it's difficult. West : The road is totally unpaved for over a thousand kilometres with villages and water few and far between. The main advantages of this way is that it passes by Mount Kailash and through a beautiful, very remote region inhabited by nomads.
There are many interesting things for the tourist to see on the way and it is worth considering travelling this way instead of via Mount Kailash. South : From Nepal the international border makes any sort of breaking of the rules impossible, so the only option is to book a tour with a travel agent in Kathmandu. In addition, as of , you need a group visa for China itself to cross the border into Tibet. As entering from Nepal requires the Chinese Visa, you have first to get the permits, then on arrival in Nepal to process the China Visa through the travel agent handling your tour.
The drive from Kathmandu to Lhasa is spectacular, you should take five days including this one day acclimatization in Zhangmu or Nyalam. More days are recommended if you want to include a visit to the Everest Base Camp area. Central Tibet has a good public bus network, although foreigners are not allowed to use an intercity bus currently. Jeep tours are a popular way of getting around Tibet, while not cheap, the tour operator will sort out all the necessary paperwork, and they offer you a reasonable chance of sticking to a schedule. Your driver will likely be an indigenous Tibetan who can speak Chinese.
He'll get to eat and sleep for free wherever you go he'll often be treated like a king , and he'll often need to stop for a smoke or a pee by certain vendors on the road. Be very precise with your itinerary and very careful with payment. Every stop, monastery and lake you wish to visit, etc should be written on the itinerary. Payment should never be made in advance. Many foreigners, especially pro-Tibetan ones, are so trusting of Tibetan drivers that they hand over their money in advance but never get to see their drivers again.
These drivers operate in rings and will approach their targets in hostels and speak against the Chinese government to gain support and sympathy from tourists who then lower their guard, and have their trip ruined. Some such stranded tourists, already identified as easy targets, will then be approached by a second Tibetan driver in the ring, and the same scam happens one more time. Since it is more and more complicated to hitchhike in TAR. Foreign travellers without TTP, own tour guide and private car with driver are not allowed to leave city of Lhasa.
It is possible to make it, but you will have problems at the first check point about 20km out of Lhasa in every direction. Police will probably send you back to city and travel agency who organised your tour to Lhasa will pay very high fines. However, hitchiking is still possible in other Tibetan areas as Kham and Amdo , nowadays found in provinces Qinghai , Gansu , Sichuan and Yunnan.
These parts of Tibet are worth to visit. There are a surprising number of tourists travelling Tibet by bicycle, both foreigners and Chinese. The roads vary from rough dirt tracks to good quality paved roads. There are restaurants, truck stops and shops scattered around often enough so that you don't need to carry more than a day's worth of food with the important exception of the west of the country.
The roads are often well graded, being built for overloaded trucks. Good mountain bikes are available in large cities of China or in Lhasa. Golmud is not a good place to get a bicycle assuming you want it to get you past the check point 30km outside of town. Cyclists have reported that distances cited in the Lonely Planet guidebooks can be quite inaccurate so be very well-prepared.
Good road maps of Tibet are common in China, but only in Chinese.
These are of limited use even for people literate in Chinese as the Chinese names are very different from the ones used by the Tibetans. They are useful for reading road signs, even for people with low literacy in Chinese. The Star publications map is probably the best. Amnye Machen Institute  publishes an excellent map of similar scale and detail but with the Tibetan names, with a version written in Latin script and one in the Tibetan. It makes a useful companion. If you understand the Cyrillic alphabet, the Soviet military produced good topographic maps in a range of scales from ,, down to , Coverage was virtually world-wide, although many areas were not mapped at the more detailed scales.
The maps originally were classified, but were released to the larger world following the breakup of the USSR in These maps can be dated, particularly where infrastructure has been actively developed since or there have been major political changes, but representation of topography remains valid. Much of Lhasa has been replaced by post Chinese developments with only a small quarter dating from pre-invasion times. This part is now under renovation to attract tourists.
It is still worth to take a stroll through the old part of Lhasa and buy goods from Tibetan vendors, who sometimes come from remote provinces of Tibet. Watch the impressive bargaining for Shish stones but refrain from buying turquoise or coral items as most of them are synthetic or dyed. Nevertheless Tibetan vendors have a huge range of beautiful Tibetan articles and it pays out to buy directly from them instead of spending money in shopping malls which started to appear everywhere in the centre of Lhasa.
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There are some small cafes and bars run by young Chinese or Tibetan people which are very good hangouts and a fantastic meeting place for the few expats who live in Lhasa. They provide great information about Tibet. A must are the small Tibetan restaurants who serve authentic Tibetan food. If you have never tried momos or gyantok, a definite must together with a cup of salted Tibetan butter tea.
Tibetan people in general are wonderful and friendly people who always have a warm smile. Some speak a bit of English and are happy to have a chat with you. For an authentic, fulfilling visit to Tibet, you must have a native Tibetan guide. Many of the Chinese guides are relocated from other areas of China and don't have a real understanding of the people or culture of Tibet that make the country so amazing.
Since visiting Tibet requires being accompanied by a licensed tour company, the following is a list of some Tibetan owned and operated tour guides:. The traditional Tibetan diet is largely limited to barley, meat mutton or yak and dairy products, with very few spices or vegetables, although brutally hot chili sauce is often served on the side.
Even good Tibetan food is very monotonous with most Tibetan restaurants serving nothing other than thukpa noodle soup and tea. By comparison, Chinese restaurants in villages often put out some excellent food. All Tibetan restaurants in Lhasa featured in guidebooks and frequented by non-Chinese tourists are westernized ones serving a few Tibetan dishes along with pizzas, spaghetti, pancakes, etc. While traveling be prepared for the bus to depart late or break down. Carry a snack on short trips and enough food for a few days or a week or more for longer journeys, such as to Mount Kailash.
Instant noodles are convenient even if you don't have a camp stove. They can be eaten cold or softened with boiled water. Tsampa roasted barley flour is an ideal travel food because it's already cooked. Eat it mixed with tea, butter and salt, or as a high energy snack by mixing it with water, milk powder and sugar.
Tea houses are an important social venue in Tibet, and offer a chance to sit down and relax. The tea houses in the larger town and cities offer sweet tea, or salted; in the villages you may only have the option of salt tea. The line between a tea house and a restaurant is blurred and many also offer thukpa.
It is a salty mixture of black tea and Tibetan butter. Traditionally it is churned by hand with a thick rod in a long upright wooden container. However, when electricity came to the city in recent years, modernized Tibetans turn to use electric mixers to make their butter tea.
The Tibetan butter is not rancid as commonly described, but has a cheesy taste and smell to it, close to blue cheese or Roquefort. Think of it as a cheese broth rather, that you will appreciate particularly after a long hike in cold weather. An alternative to Tibetan butter tea is sweet tea which is more familiar to western palates. Sweet tea drinking was introduced only recently by merchants returning from India, first among well-off Tibetans, since sugar was a luxury on the Plateau, then when sugar became more available among the general public.
Unlike Indians, Tibetan do not use spices clove, cinnamon, cardamon to flavor their tea. Chang , or Tibetan beer made of barley, has a lighter flavor than a western-type, bottled beer, since they do not use bitter hops. Often home-brewed and with as many taste and strength variants as industrial beers. The following Text was entered by someone but is completely false: "Beware of chang: the yeast is still alive in it, and will carry on fermenting and producing alcohol in the warm temperatures of your stomach! Usually no germ risk since yeast prevents bacteria proliferation.
Brewers yeast cannot survive at temperatures and acid levels associated with human stomachs. Lastly the amount of yeast present in any one bottle of beer would produce negligible amounts of alcohol even if it could ferment your stomach's sugar contents. Plan your route to manage altitude sickness ; the main thing is to give your body enough time to acclimatize before going higher. Be prepared to adjust your plans, descend or spend a few extra days acclimatizing if it proves necessary. Bring and use sunscreen. You can also take some drugs to mitigate altitude sickness, and butter is also good to mitigate altitude sickness.
When traveling in the countryside be prepared for the vehicle to break down and for bad weather. Carry a snack and some warm clothes. Water and fluids are essential. Beware of the dogs! In the cities there are numerous stray dogs about and in the country side the villagers and nomads keep large guard dogs for security, usually chained up. A modest level of caution is enough to prevent you from being bitten, as the strays usually run in packs and if you don't get too close you should be okay.
If guard dogs are unchained, keep them at bay by staying away from the house or tent they are protecting at all costs as their barking will indicate they have picked you up on their radar and pray they don't come running after you. If they do, pick up or pretend to pick up some stones and be prepared to be attacked at the ankle. Sometimes kicking or lunging at the dogs before they attack may scare them off. Some other ways to protect yourself is by wearing boots and thick pants. Much is made of the viciousness of the Tibetan dogs, but few travelers have problems with them.
See also aggressive dogs. Steer clear of political unrest. The last major eruption of violence was in Lhasa in when rampaging mobs of Tibetans murdered, looted, and committed arson against Han and Hui civilians. Foreign tourists were not targeted in the violence. Just click any blue "Edit" link and start writing! From Wikitravel.