China & Tibet
In October and November 2019 I spent 6 weeks travelling through China.
Arriving in Shanghai, I spent a few days exploring the typical tourist areas as well as the lesser visited residential and back streets whilst I acclimatised myself to the time zone and culture. I took a train and bus to visit the famous gardens at Sozhou and the water town of Zhouzhuang (aka the Venice of China). I found many weddings in progress here in Shanghai.
The next part of my travels took me on a 30 hour train journey to Zhangjiajie. This train journey was to be one of the big memories of the trip. I was the only westerner on the whole train, sharing my sleeper cabin with 3 old Chinese ladies who found it hilarious that I was in their cabin – once they were certain this stranger was on the right train!
Zhangjiajie is also known as the Avatar Mountain. This is a massive national park with colossal sandstone columns extending many hundreds of meters from the forested valley floor. Also visited the famous “Field in the sky”, Yellow Dragon Caves and Lake Baofeng.
Next I took the public bus (approx 8 hours) to Fenghuang (aka Pheonix Ancient Town). This is a picturesque old town built on a wide but shallow river. Old stilted houses by the river and old parts of the original town wall still exist. By day the town seems quiet and sleepy, but at night party party party with KTV bars, clubs and numerous restaurants open, plus the old buildings by the river are well lit making for great night shots.
Also visited the Tea Plantations at Guizhou Songtao, and an ethnic minority village of the Miao King.
Next I took another public bus (approx 6 hours) to Guilin and then on to Yangshou. Whilst here I visited Xianggong Hill, Five Finger Mountain, Fuli Bridge, The Southern Great Wall, Xingping plus an evening at the theatre show “Impressions” which is set on water. Also visited the rice terraces at LongJi.
Next my trip took me to Xian. Famous for the Terracotta Soldiers. Whilst I had seen many photos, they were certainly incredible to see in person. Later I visited the impressive Xian city wall and the Muslim Quarter and Mosque.
Up early for the flight to Tibet. Officially you cannot visit Tibet on your own, you need to have a trip arranged by an authorised travel company who are the only people that can apply for your travel permit. I arrived in Lhasa (altitude 3556m) late afternoon.
Tibet is very different to anywhere else I have visited. Huge mountain ranges, vast wide plateaus and of course Everest. My visit included the Potala Palace (former home of the Dalai Lama), Jokhang Temple, Shigatse, Yamdroke Lake, Karola Glacier, Simila Mountain Pass, Pelkor Chode Monastery, Gyangte Fortress, Tingri, the famous Rongbuk Monastery where we stayed over night at Everest (altitude 5200m), and the Tashilhunpo Monastery. Everest was simply breath taking. We were lucky in that another tour group we met who were returning 2 days previous said the peak had been in cloud, but when we arrived we had perfect clear view both for sunset and sunrise.