The Tibetan approach to Mt Everest or Qomolangma (8848m/29,021ft) provides far better vistas of the world's highest peak than those on the Nepal side. Some 27,000 sq km (10,422 sq mi)around Everest's Tibetan face have been designated as the Qomolangma Nature Preserve, aiming to protect the environment and the cultural traditions of the local people. For foreign travellers, the Everest Base Camp has become the most popular trekking destination in Tibet, but this does not mean that the region is exactly swarming with hikers. The two access points are Shegar and Tingri, along the Friendship Highway to Nepal, but be warned that neither trek is an easy three- or four-day stroll. Take your time getting acclimatized and be prepared for a strenuous climb. If it all sounds too much, 4WD vehicles can lurch all the way to Base Camp along the Shegar track.Gyantse
Gyantse, some 200km (124mi) southwest of Lhasa, is one of the least Chinese-influenced towns in Tibet and is worth a visit for this reason alone. The Palkhor Monastery here was built in 1427 and is notable for its superb Kumbum (10,000 images) stupa. The dzong (old fort) that towers above the village offers a fine view over the valley. Gyantse is a four-hour bus ride from Shigatse.Sakya
Sakya is 152km (94mi) west of Shigatse and about 25km south of the main road. The huge brooding monastery here was Tibet's most powerful 700 years ago. The monastery probably contains the finest collection of Tibetan religious relics remaining in Tibet, although the monks may restrict you to viewing only a couple of halls. There's an unreliable bus from Shigatse, but most people arrange to see Sakya on their way to the Nepali border or the Everest Base Camp.
Facts for the Traveler
Visas: All individuals entering
Tibet must hold a passport valid for at least six months. If you are entering
Tibet from China, your Chinese visa will be valid, though only travellers with
tourists visas (not business, resident or student visas) are permitted. You must
also obtain a Tibetan Tourist permit (TTB) before you can enter Tibet. Entering
Tibet from Nepal or by air from another country requires a separate visa valid
for Tibet from a Chinese embassy (30-60 day visas are the norm). You may have to
get a group visa (minimum of two people in a group and you must leave China with
this person unless you can change the visa inside China), arranged by an agent
and enter on a tour. Be aware that permit and visa regulations for Tibet change
every year, sometimes every month, and are notoriously hard to keep track of.
For the latest information and travellers' reports check out the Postcards and
Thorn Tree sections of the Lonely Planet Web site (www.lonelyplanet.com).
Little is known of the beginnings of the Tibetan people. They originated from the nomadic, warlike tribes known as the Qiang. Chinese records of these tribes date back as far as the 2nd century BC. However, the people of Tibet were not to emerge as a politically united force until the 7th century AD.
The Tibetans have many myths concerning the origin of the world and themselves. As the myths suggest, the Yarlung Valley was the cradle of the civilization. Credible historical records regarding the Yarlung Valley Dynasty date only from the time when the fledgling kingdom entered the international arena in the 6th century. By this time the Yarlung kings, through conquest and alliances, had unified much of central Tibet. Namri Songtsen (circa 570-619), the 32nd Tibetan king, extended Tibetan influence into inner Asia, defeating Qiang tribes on China's borders. But the true flowering of Tibet as an important regional power came about with Namri Songsten's son, Songtsen Gampo (circa 618-49).
The Dalai Lama continues to be vocal in the Tibetan struggle for independence in some form. He has abandoned any hope of nationhood, but continues to strive for a system of Tibetan cultural, religious and linguistic autonomy within the Chinese state. In Western political circles, covert sympathy rarely translates into active support, and foreign governments are careful not to receive the Dalai Lama in any way that recognizes his political status as the head of an exiled government. The Chinese government continues to protest regularly against the Dalai Lama's international activities. In February 2000, celebrations were held in Dharamsala for the 60th anniversary of the Dalai Lama's enthronement.
Recently the Dalai Lama has admitted to a growing sense of failure in his dealing with the Chinese and there is a small but growing disquiet within Tibetan ranks as to the best way forward.
While Chinese authorities have trumpeted recent rapid advances in industrial and agricultural output, there is also evidence of a new approach to assimilating Tibet into the motherland. A combination of foreign investment, ongoing Han immigration and exclusive use of the (Mandarin) Chinese language in the higher levels of the education system ensure that only Sinicised Tibetans will be able to take part in China's economic progress.
On the positive side, the US government appointed a 'Special Coordinator for Tibet' in 1997, and in 1998, the UN human rights commissioner, Mary Robinson, visited Tibet. There is even hope of talks between the Dalai Lama and Chinese premier Jiang Zemin following a visit to Beijing in October 2000 of the Dalai Lama's brother, Gyalo Thondub.
However, as long as there are no further bloody crackdowns in Lhasa, foreign countries are likely to support the status quo to protect important trade relations with China. The 50th anniversary of the 'liberation' of Tibet in 2001 offered a sobering moment of reflection on half a century of tragedy and disintegration for the Tibetan people.
Flights to Gongkar airport, 95km (59mi) from Lhasa, depart Beijing (via Chengdu, Chongqing and Xining), Chamdo, Kathmandu, Xi'an and Zhongdian. There are five major road routes to Lhasa, the one we take is the Friendship Highway that borders Nepal and Tibet.
Getting around Tibet can be difficult: the buses are often gasping their last while travelling by 4WD can be expensive. Trucks tend to charge the same inflated prices as buses, but the Chinese government discourages foreigners from hitching rides. 'Road safety' is little more than a slogan. Tibetans tend to rely on prayer to facilitate a safe arrival - you might consider doing the same once you see the conditions.
Bicycling is possible, but is not without its hazards: cyclists in Tibet have died from road accidents, hypothermia and pulmonary oedema.
It is highly recommended that on join a well organized expedition like the ones Peak Freak Expeditions operate for you personal safety and enjoyment of this amazing and mystical country. Whether it be by bike, jeep overland or an Everest Expedition, we can help you reach your goal.
Adventure one step beyond your expectations!
HIMALAYAN HIGH ALTITUDE SPECIALISTS since 1983