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11:16 Feb 10 2009

Special ReportNetizen's VoiceMedia Voice
English>>Tibet Online
Traveling in Tibet
11:15, February 10, 2009  

The Tibet Autonomous Region, covering 1.2 million square km in the southwest part of China, is situated on the Tibetan Plateau, often described as the "roof of the world." About 4,000 meters above sea level, it is the highest region in the world.

Tibet has a population of over 2.8 million, 95 percent of whom are Tibetans. The majority of the people are Tibetan Buddhists. Religion and spirituality are extremely important to the Tibetans and have a strong influence over all aspects of their lives.

The Tibetan Plateau is the source of several of the world's major rivers, including the Yangtze, Yellow, Mekong and Salween rivers.

The air is very dry for nine months of the year with low pressure and limited oxygen. The best season to travel to Tibet is summer, although winter has its own charm and the added advantage of travel reductions and lower admission fees to places of interest.

Where to go?

- Lhasa

A city 1,300 years old and usually the first stop of all travelers. It is the most sacred city in the heart of Tibetans as it is home to important Tibetan Buddhist sites like the Potala Palace, Jokhang Monastery.

Three important monasteries of the Gelug (Yellow Hat) sect of Tibetan Buddhism to see are Zhaibung Monastery, Sera Monastery and Gandain Monastery.

Barkor Street is an ideal place for buying Tibetan souvenirs, while those looking for cultural entertainment can find it at Nammating, a bar-like venue where local residents sing and dance.

- Xigaze

The second biggest Tibetan city and location of the Tashilungpo Monastery, residence of the Panchen Lama.

Sakya Monastery houses the largest volume of Tibetan Buddhist sutras in the world.

Yangzhog Yumco Lake is regarded as a holy lake in the heart of local Tibetans.

Lharze County in Xigaze is the gateway for travelers to Mount Everest.

- Nyingchi

Nyingchi (throne of the sun) City is considered by many the most beautiful place in Tibet. Its elevation is the lowest on the Tibetan Plateau, making it a green treasure of Tibet. It is more humid and rich in shrubs, birch woods and pinewoods that cover the mountain slopes.

Forestry is a feature of the area, embraced by the Himalayas and Nyainqentanglha Mountains.

Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon in Nyingchi is a wonderland. It lies near Namjagbarwa Mountain where the Yarlung Zangbo River turns and at 496 km is one of the longest valleys in China. Flora and fauna are prolific due to many changes in altitude.

- Ngari

Located in the most mystical and remote corner of the world, there are many places in Ngari where human footsteps have never been.

Travelers can visit sacred Lake Manasarovar as well as the ruins of the ancient Guge kingdom at Tsaparang.

Lhoka, Chanmdo and Nagqu are three other prefectures in Tibet, presenting unique Tibetan folk cultures.

What to buy?

In Lhasa's Barkhor Street, tourists can buy nearly everything.

Popular souvenirs include tangka (scroll paintings with complicated patterns), Tibetan knives, colorful aprons, fur hats, caps, as well as Tibetan medicine like saffron, aweto and snow lotus. Tibetan silverware jewelry, jade, prayer wheels, carpets, and tapestries are also worth buying.

Tip: Bargain before buying!

Where to stay?

There are over 40 star-rated hotels in Lhasa with prices ranging from 6,000 yuan ($877) to 200 yuan ($30) a night. In other prefectures of Tibet, there are fewer star-rated hotels, but you can always stay at a family hotel, as local residents are very kind to travelers. Family hotels will charge less, about 20 yuan ($3) to 100 yuan ($15) per person per night.

During high season, like China's National Day holiday (October 1-7), it is usually difficult to book a hotel in Lhasa, but fine in other prefectures.

What to eat?

Tsamba (barley flour mixed with salt butter tea), mutton, beef, buttered tea and highland barley wine are common Tibetan food and beverages. Spicy Sichuan cuisine is also popular in Tibet in many restaurants.

Travel tips:

The biggest problem in travelling in Tibet is altitude sickness-rapid heartbeat and headache or nausea. Take a good rest after you land on the plateau, walk slowly and drink plenty of water.

Wear more layers of clothing to combat the cold weather.

Take cash if you are going to places other than Lhasa, and if you are not on a tour, and it is wise to hire a jeep or car from Lhasa to venture into the distant mountainous areas of Tibet.

Source: beijingreview

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