Our day yesterday largely consisted of domestic travel, but it began very early (4:15 am!) with a cab ride to Tian'an Men Square where four of us went to watch the flag raising ceremony. We had been told that the evening flag lowering ceremony was very crowded, so we imagined that we would have a much better view in the morning. Boy, were we wrong. First, I should tell you that we were the ONLY non-Chinese people in the Square. We estimated that there were between one- and two-thousand people there for the ceremony. It lasted only a few minutes once the soldiers marched out of the gate of the Forbidden City. The national anthem was blared through a loudspeaker while the flag went up. Once the ceremony was over, we walked back to the hotel. We arrived at 5:30 am, with plenty of time to pack and prepare for a 7 am departure.
We were booked on a domestic flight to Lhasa that first stopped in Chengdu. I'll readily admit that I am not the world's best flier. I have been sandwiched in the middle four in the back of the plane for just about every flight we have been on. What was unnerving about these flights was that the television screens flipped down to show actual video footage of takeoff and landing. Since I was feeling all the turbulence and bumps along the way, I really didn't want to see what was happening. Here are the views from our plane as it left Chengdu for Lhasa. Since I was stuck in the middle, one of my colleagues seated next to a window took them for me. Thanks, Nezih!
We have all been very nervous about this portion of our trip. We have been overwhelmed with information and horror stories about high altitude sickness. Nearly everyone began taking Diamox or some generic form of this diuretic a few days before we left. This was really problematic in Beijing. Our first day on the drug was the day we went to the Great Wall. We were becoming dehydrated and required to drink lots of water, yet bathrooms were few and far between. Remember how bad I told you Beijing traffic was? The trip back from the Wall took 2 hours longer that we anticipated, so most of us were not having a lot of fun by the time we arrived. However, we decided to suffer through these bouts if it meant the symptoms of high altitude sickness would be lessened.
Since no one in the group has ever been this high, we had no idea when the symptoms might kick in. Would it be the minute we walked out of the airport? An hour later? The next day? No one knew. Our guide told us it would take 3 or 4 hours and that we should just spend the afternoon resting before our welcome dinner.
We arrived at the airport at 3:30 pm after approximately 6 hours of travel. One very strange thing about China is that even though it covers latitudes that include several time zones in other countries, China occupies only one time zone. This means that morning in Beijing is the same time as morning in Lhasa, even though the sun may not have come up yet in Lhasa.
Once we collected our luggage, we stepped out into Tibet and saw the first truly blue sky. Here is the view from the airport.
The trip from the airport to Lhasa took approximately one hour. Along the way our guide gave us a bit of history and talked to us about our itinerary. Here is what the view from the bus looked like. We were simply amazed at how dry and rocky this place is. We crossed the Lhasa river several times, only to find that in most places there was very little water. During the rainy season in July and August the river will fill its banks again and in some places, may flood.
We arrived at the hotel just before 5 pm and were greeted by a lovely group of young people.
After this we checked in and all went up for short naps before dinner. We were all very tired and feeling a bit loopy. Dinner was amazing, and like all our meals here, there was way too much food. What we did get here that we haven't had so far was mutton and lots of yak.
We all went to bed early in order to prepare for a long day of sightseeing. One member of our group was feeling really lousy, but the rest of us seemed to be surviving with only minor headaches and some light-headedness. We'll be taking it slowly in the next few days and see how we do.
P.S. - A Note for Grace
Thanks so much for visiting and following my trip. I am blogging because I was inspired by your writing about your trip to Hong Kong. Please know that you and Robert are in my thoughts and prayers. I hope all is going well with the trial.