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By SUEP
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May 24, 2006 – A journey to Lhasa, China in Asia


Lhasa, A City Of New And Old

Been wanting to go to Tibet for a very long time. I've heard from quite a few travelers, friends, and even my brother, that I may be disappointed due to much Chinese-influence and modernization there. At first, I couldn't really tell from looking down my airplane window. The scenery looked beautiful and serene to me - snowcapped, brown barren mountains, green lakes and rivers, and so forth. The hour-long bus ride from the airport into town happened to be quite scenic as well, with small villages and similar natural scenery as seen from the plane.

Until we hit town. The majority of Lhasa is quite modernized with tall buildings, shopping areas, paved wide roads - exactly like a Chinese modern city. Set upon a steep hill, Potala Palace, although beautiful in the sunlight, looked a bit out of place in the heart of the industrialized city. It's not until you get to the old section of the town, which is hidden by the new section, that you'll see some remnants of "old Tibet." Barkhor and Jokhang Temple, considered as the holiest area in Tibet, are located behind the main street (Beijing Road), where dingy apartment buildings and hotels line.



brown, barren mountains and a green river (shot from airplane window)


some local houses seen on the bus ride to Lhasa


new town masking the Barkhor/Jokhang Temple area


a new town street, leads to Jokhang Temple area


In the afternoon and the next morning, we enjoyed watching the pilgrims circumvent Jokhang Temple from my hotel window (stayed at Mandala Hotel the first night). Unbelievable to see so many Tibetans from all over come to worship.



pilgrims circumventing Jokhang Temple clockwise in the afternoon


a partial view of Lhasa city


***
A note to travelers who decide to come to Tibet without being on an actual tour:

If it's high season, I highly recommend booking a nice hotel or guesthouse in advance (at least for one night). Scrambling all over town with a heavy backpack on your back in high altitude, which you haven't fully adjusted to yet, is really NOT recommended. (Rick and I suffered for the effects of this stupid move later on in the afternoon).

Once it hits high season, even the prices at the most grungiest accommodations go way up – some of the prices are even equivalent to what some modern business hotels in town are asking for. (Note that the budget hotels listed in Lonely Planet are really rundown and are actually much higher-priced than what's quoted in the book).

We ended up staying at Tibet Yun Long Hotel, a business hotel on the main street and located between Potala Palace and Barkhor/Jokhang Temple. For a standard room with 24-hour hot water, free Internet and breakfast, they were asking for 180 yuan ($22.50 USD).

Or try Elong.

As for Mandala Hotel, we were quoted 280 yuan ($35 USD), but we were given a special discount via a common connection at 200 yuan ($25 USD). This included a decent double with a cloggy bath and an excellent view of Barkhor/Jokhang Temple.

If booking in the low season and if you want to stay near Barkhor/Jokhang area, I recommend the Tibet Gorkha Hotel at Suite 45, South Lingkor Road, Lhasa (tibetgorkha7@hotmail.com).




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