Son Noah and Howard

Daughter Sarah

Wife Rebecca


Mongolian Adventurers: Leo Murray, Mongolian Horseman, and Howard

Sunday, July 18, 2010


I became frustrated, irritated, and even a bit homesick from the trip to Lhasa, around the time in my journey that I expected to experience some culture shock. After making the travel arrangements to go to Lhasa, I found out that I needed a Tibetan Permit and that to get the permit I needed to sign up for a tour. So I found the shortest least expensive tour of Lhasa available on the internet, a 2 day tour, and signed up with that company for several hundred USD. They turned out to be lax about the tour, assigning me a young inexperienced guide, a sweet 21 year old Tibetan girl Tenzin, who unfortunately didn’t really know how to conduct an efficient tour. She couldn’t explain the cultural sites to me very well. Often the transportation vehicle didn’t show up and, in the interests of seeing as much as possible in a short amount of time, I would suggest we take a taxi, which I would sometimes even pay for, though the tour was to provide transportation. One advantage of her youth and naivety, however, was that she would speak frankly about the political situation in Tibet. The Tibetans do not like their status as an occupied colony of China. I saw instances of extreme rudeness and condescension of the Chinese towards the Tibetans while there. Additionally, there were military posts stationed every few blocks in Lhasa. The tourist literature on the plane and at the sites was propaganda lauding the so called “liberation” of Tibet and the noble efforts of the Chinese to modernize it. It was not a pretty picture and you just want to speak up against it ... capitalist, imperialist roading by the Chinese Communist Party.

My hostel in Lhasa was not very satisfactory. The room was only marginally clean and the service at the front desk was non-existent. I didn’t figure out how to get hot water until the last day there when a maid helped me … you turn on the cold water tap and let it run for 10 minutes.

Nonetheless, Lhasa was quite fascinating. I managed to see the Sera Monastery outside the city some hour’s drive up to the top of a local mountain. I also visited the Dalai Lama’s Potala Palace and Summer Palace. I enjoyed rambling around the street markets in the evening around the Jokhang Monastery, with the pilgrims prostrating themselves in front the entrance. The Drekung Monastery was closed due to repairs. However, I visited the museum which was quite interesting. Each early morning I made my way down to the Yak Hotel for a British breakfast, enjoying eggs and bacon along with muesli.

I had taken a plane from Chongqing to Lhasa to get there and took the new train ride back from Lhasa to Xian. The train was comfortable and clean, but very cramped. Chinese public bathrooms, though plentiful, are always unmaintained and foul-smelling. I enjoyed the company of a British couple who had been backpacking around Asia for a year and a half, taking a break from work in their late twenties. I also befriended a bunch of wild retired Aussies. When I introduced myself to one of the grizzly looking Aussie men, I asked him, I thought jokingly, if he was a crocodile wrestler. Without batting an eyelash, with a straight face, he told me that he had had several interesting encounters near his home with crocs. There were two couples and they had traveled all over the world, staying at hostels wherever they went. They looked to be in their 50s, but, with all that croc experience, they may have aged more quickly than their years.

The train ride was not what I had expected. I thought I would be traveling over high mountain passes, but instead we mostly traveled along high dry plateaus. There was almost no human habitation for the first 2/3 of the trip, until we gradually descended into the lower elevation mountain valleys near Xining. After a day and half, our train arrived in Xian which will be the next chapter of my journal.

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