29 Jun 2010 @ 7:37 AM 

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at this present moment, we are sitting on a train bound for xi’an. we have just concluded our tibet trip and we are both sad to leave the roof of the world.

after spending three days in lhasa, the four of us (me and robin, and our two internet travel partners gabriel and sabrina) hopped into a toyota land cruiser and made our way toward everest base camp. it takes two days of driving to make it to base camp even though it is only around 500 km from lhasa. the scenery of tibet reminded me a lot of arizona actually because tibet is full of broad valleys with brown mountains and not a whole lot of vegetation.

our first destination on the road trip was yamdrok lake, one of the three holy lakes of tibet. other than the interesting viewpoint we had at 4700 m, robin had to brave what she called “the worst toilet in the world.” it was a non-western toilet for westerners, so a lot of old people who couldn’t or wouldn’t squat had pooped and peed all over the floor, then stepped in it and walked it everywhere. there were also no trash cans, and you can’t flush ‘sundries’ in china, so soiled toilet paper and feminine products were everywhere. the best part was that they made her pay 2 RMB after she peed for their ‘bathroom maintenance’. good thing that is only about $0.28. out of her bitterness and rage, she stole a picture of a yak (which they charge like 20 RMB for).

after leaving yamdrok lake, we made our way to gyantse and then onward to shigatse, where we stayed the night. i was excited that night since the USA game was going to be playing at 10 PM. and though the US is out of the world cup right now, i was still able to witness one of the best endings the US has had in a while. oh well, damn them ghanans for knocking us out two times in a row!

on day two of the road trip, we started the long road to everest base camp. there really isn’t a whole lot to see between shigatse and EBC and the road seemed like a long one. finally, about 60 km away from EBC, we got our first glimpse of the mountain, and then shortly after, our driver decided to screw the road and do some offroading to save us some time. we also stopped to help another land cruiser that followed us; our guide and driver thought that their car didn’t fare as well on the offroading and they needed help. it turned out that the people in the car had diarrhea and needed to stop.

we made it to EBC at 7:30 PM and found ourselves a hotel (which is a tent made of yak hair with a fireplace that burns yak dung for warmth and had one occupant who sleeps in the back and cooks for you). we had her make a HUGE pot of fried rice; we ordered the three fried rices on the menu and told her to mix them together. she laughed at us for ordering it. at about 10 PM, we were informed that only two guests other than the guide and driver could stay in the tent and that two of us had to hide when the police came. so robin played anne frank and hid in the back room, while i played elian gonzales and ate some cuban sandwiches (and also hid in the back room). after the police left, we went back into the main room and played some cards with our guide and driver. and then we all retired for the night.

the next morning we had the option to hike to the real everest base camp, which was 4 km up the road or to take a bus up there. since we were all full of ourselves and didn’t think that the altitude would stop us, we all opted to hike. and it really wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be (this is coming from the only person on the trip that didn’t have any problems with altitude, i must have some sherpa in me). when we made it to base camp about an hour later, we snapped our photos and admired the view. and it was all downhill from there.

on the way back from EBC, we ran into a problem. along all of the roads in tibet, there are numerous checkpoints. we reached our first checkpoint outside of EBC and found out that sabrina didn’t have her passport. and without that, they were really reluctant to let us pass. our guide called all the people that she knew at EBC to see if they could find her passport. all of us just lingered around trying to figure out what to do if they can’t find the passport. we collected the canadian embassy’s phone number since they would probably be able to safely get her to where she needed to be (even though we were literally in the middle of nowhere). after some time, the checkpoint told us they would let her pass if she could show some other form of picture ID, so she went in to show her student ID. at about that time, we were informed that her passport was found and was being sent with another tourist group and she could collect it from them in shigatse. and so we headed in that direction.

the next morning was the unveiling of a thangka in shigatse. the panchen lama was to come from beijing to be at the ceremony. for any of you that traveled to dharamsala with me, you would remember that the real panchen lama was kidnapped by the chinese government and then a fake one was installed later. so apparently, the fake panchen lama was in shigatse with us.

we started our drive to namtso, another holy lake of tibet, and stopped enroute at a hot springs. throughout our whole tibet trip, we had kept seeing the same few people all over the place. and especially two of them, frank and bong, were everywhere with us. they were on our train from chengdu to lhasa, i saw them walking around lhasa, we saw them at EBC, and now at the hot springs. we found out they literally had the same itinerary as us. but sadly, i forgot to ask them for their email address.

at the hot springs, we ate an egg boiled in hot spring water, and showered away all our dirt. it was a pretty relaxing few hours after all the driving we had been doing. at around 8 PM, we made it to namtso. the accommodations and all the shops were like tents scattered around the shore of the lake. we had dinner and fed half of it to the stray dogs that were hiding in the restaraunt. after eating, i knew i had to do some duties before it got too dark to find my way around.

it was actually impossible to find the bathroom in the nighttime. i had gabriel hunt with me, but we found it to be impossible. i decided to drop trow in the middle of an open field, but also found that to be impossible because there were hoards of dogs running around barking at me and that wasn’t really condusive to me going to the bathroom. so i gave up.

the next morning, i headed out to the lake and skipped rocks with a couple tibetans. then we all packed into the land cruiser for our last drive and made it to lhasa around 4 PM. we separated from our guide and driver, and i was a little sad to part with them. i loved our driver especially. he would sing in the car and had some quirky humor. but anyway, we had scheduled to take pazu (the person who arranged our trip) out to dinner that night, so we went to his cafe, dropped off our stuff, and then went to the market to buy souvenirs. we came back to his cafe and he informed us that we were going to go to some tibetan restaurant that gives out a set meal of 20 dishes or so and around 15 of us were going to go to dinner together and have quite a lavish going away dinner.

and lavish it was. first came out the cold dishes, which were vegetables and hoisin sauce, cold beef in a chili sauce, some sort of animal cartilage (i was told it was ear), strip of animal stomach (which someone referred to as ‘organ’), and mushrooms in a hot sauce. then the hot dishes started coming out: curried potatoes, beef and vegetables, cheese and yak momos, yak steak, and the best eye pleaser of all, meat stuffed in yak hooves. i’m actually probably missing a lot of things because there were a million things on the table. but it was an amazing dinner and a great way to say goodbye to pazu and lhasa. i’m gonna really miss being in tibet.

after saying our goodbyes, we took a cab home and returned to our hostel. me and robin said our farewells to our tibet partners gabriel and sabrina, and we retired to our rooms. the next day we got on our train bound for xi’an, and we bid tibet one last goodbye.

What is the Tibetan name for Mt. Everest?

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Posted By: Sunil
Last Edit: 11 Jul 2010 @ 07:28 AM

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 21 Jun 2010 @ 11:01 PM 

click here to view the pictures for this blog entry!

we are finally back to having some internet and are able to update with more of our adventures! we are currently in lhasa and are about to start a trip to everest base camp tomorrow. so here is a collection of our past adventures:

we left off somewhere in chengdu. the day that we were there, we went to the panda research base to go look at the most unadapted creature ever. despite being very bad at life, the pandas are amazingly cute creatures, and i freaked out many times during the trip at the park. i actually really want to take one home and nuture it like i would my own baby.

in any case, there were also red pandas, which robin was obsessed with since they are redheaded like her. we heard that you can take pictures with red pandas, but for some reason, that day they weren’t letting people take pictures with them, which was kinda sad. so we left the panda base slightly disappointed.

when trying to find our way back to downtown chengdu, taxis were offering double the price of a ride to downtown to take us down there. we basically told them to eat garbage until they finally brought the price down to what it should be. and then we went back to our hostel and got ready to get on our train ride to tibet.

the ride from chengdu to lhasa is 43 hours long. right before boarding the train, i had a diarrheal explosion and i went into the train station bathroom looking for something that resembled a western toilet. sadly, the western toilet looked like it had been bombed, and the only other option was a long trough that eight other people were pooping in. so, i just sucked in all my pride and joined them.

we boarded the train at about 9 PM and pretty much went to bed shortly after. the next morning a baby pooped in our train car. see, in china, they don’t use diapers for their babies. babies just have slits in their pants so they can poop everywhere. so i guess trains are no different. surprisingly, it didn’t really smell bad, so it was more humor than anything.

the train ride went pretty smoothly. even though it was long, it wasn’t totally terrible. they played the kenny g version of my heart will go on over and over and i was known to sing it quite loudly during parts of the trip. the scenery was pretty aweswome, from huge mountains to plains of yaks and sheep. we also got a little altitude sickness since the train reached an altitude of 5000 m (16400 ft). it wasn’t really hard to breathe, but we both got really huge headaches. by the time we reached lhasa (12000 ft), our headaches had subsided a little bit, but they were still prevalent enough.

we were greeted in tibet by our guide and driver. to travel in tibet, you must be part of an organized tour group and have a paid guide. we split the costs of our tibet trip with two canadians that i found online. we hadn’t met them yet and we were on our way to the hostel to meet them.

the person who organized our trip was a man named pazu kong who owns a cafe in lhasa, so we went to his cafe to meet him. he gave us a couple of lemonades and we chatted with him while he showed us a bunch of magic tricks. soon after, we met our trip partners, gabriel and sabrina, and the four of us went an indian restaurant for dinner.

the four of us seemed to get along very nicely and since they were from vancouver, we all had something to talk about. the next day, which was our first full day in lhasa, we went to the jokhang temple and sera monastery, which were both full of tibetan culture and very interesting. we all kinda had the altitude headaches, but starting to slowly get over it. sabrina felt a little sick that night, so me, robin and gabriel went to spinn cafe to hang out and play canasta and chill with pazu for a while.

the next day, we visited the potala palace. there was a ton of security around the place since it is like the crown jewel of tibet. all around tibet, there are chinese military people holding shotguns since tibet is under a constant state of a maybe-riot, and china needs to make sure they have tibet under control. and the potala palace had so much military everywhere that it is almost sickening. some tried to disguise themselves by dressing in a variety of pilfered tibetian authority-type uniforms, so there were actually probably twice as many as we saw.

but military aside, the potala palace is incredible. you have to hike up 500 steps to get to the main chambers, and in lhasa’s altitude, it’s ridiculous difficult to do the hike. the potala palace has 1000 steps, 1000 rooms, and 1000 windows and it is probably the most pretty building that i have seen. i have to say that i was a little sad when they showed the throne of the dalai lama and knowing that he will never sit there again. they showed us the room he used to stay in, and most of his belongings were still there, including the clock that brad pitt’s character in seven years in tibet gave him.

across the street from the potala palace is a large square with a huge flagpole with the chinese flag. also in the square is a large phallic pillar with the chinese stars, which probably symbolizes china using its muscle to conquer tibet. after being here for a couple of days, you hear from so many people about all the things that were destroyed during the cultural revolution, and even some people slyly express that tibet and china are different countries. it is sad that in our lifetime, we will not see a free tibet. and it is pretty dumb that it has to follow under the idiocy of mao zedong (he also has an ugly mole).

china might kill me for those comments! hopefully they aren’t reading this right now! if this blog is never updated again, please contact the embassy. that is all.

What is the second tallest mountain on Earth?

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Posted By: Sunil
Last Edit: 11 Jul 2010 @ 07:27 AM

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