|China Air aloft over Xining area|
|White satin sandals - what our fashionista wore to Lhasa|
service. We boarded the train in Xining with the assistance of a guide who had picked us up at the airport and taken us for a quick lunch, visit to the mosque and a market tour before getting us to the train. There's a fairly long walk from the drop-off point to the train - if you can't manage your luggage easily, plan on hiring a porter and good luck with the language. Nobody speaks English but we were fine with Richard's Chinese. Our guide hired the porter for us and he got us into the right compartment and hoisted our luggage up onto our beds. The bed is the only place you get for luggage so you share your sleeper with your bag. Richard slept with the old bag again.
|Preparing to sleep with the old bag again.|
|Sitting on the flip down seat|
|Selfie in the compartment...see the size?|
|This photo flatters this common sink area which was plugged up for most of the trip.|
There's a hot water dispenser which you can use to fill your insulated pitcher - the only amenity provided in the compartment. The surly, and I mean really surly, attendant offered no help to people trying to use the dispenser. I've only seen surliness from service people like this once before in the Ukraine. When we tried to get a bite to eat in the dining car a few minutes before it closed, we were barked at to get out - closed. It was only open for an hour or two in the morning and in the evening. Forewarned we brought sandwiches and snacks from the Shangri-La Hotel which got us through. Passengers were trading food around and sharing if they had too much.
Each individual compartment is fitted with a sound system and controls which do not work. They blast old propaganda style broadcasts through the speakers for much of the time. Blissfully, I couldn't understand it and it quickly blended in with my ever-present tinnitus and faded out of consciousness. Richard could understand it and he would groan and moan at the mindlessness of it all and try repeatedly to spin the volume and off/ on buttons to no avail.
The train reaches 16,640 feet in elevation. I'm not sure how much oxygen was being pumped into the compartments. Whatever it was, it wasn't enough. Several people had to use oxygen masks. We were all OK but noticeably low on energy; perhaps the diamox, prescribed by our doctors, helped. The compartments are hardly air tight and there's wide open spaces between the cars. Plenty of opportunity for the 02 to escape.
So much for the comfort factor. Now for the good part. The scenery was outstanding and ever-changing. For most of the time, we forgot about our discomfort and gaped out the window at the sheep grazing, yak herds, prayer flags and mountains. It was wonderful. I wish our pictures were better but we were on a high speed train and the windows were dirty. A deadly combination. Maybe you can get an idea from these however....
|Photomatix shots...still trying the software.|
|Another HDR'ed photo with Photomatix.|
|A very pretty yak.|
|Prayer flags over the river.|
|Lhasa - thousands of empty Chinese apartment buildings. Construction everywhere.|
August 4th, 2014. A tour bus has plunged into a Tibetan valley after hitting two vehicles, killing 44 people and injuring 11, China's official news agency Xinhua reported.
Lhasa was closed immediately. They recognize that the infrastructure just cannot support the level of tourist interest in the area and in order to maintain safety they will close everything down quickly. Fortunately everything was re-opened when we applied for visas so all was well. When we were traveling (in a van with a great driver) over some of the under-construction roads with dangerous blind curves and construction equipment all over the place, I could see how accidents were just waiting to happen. Stay off those buses around Lhasa!!!