Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Overland Trip From China To Nepal (Chengdu - Tibet - Kathmandu)

Swayambunath Temple
Kathmandu, Nepal

Overlooking The Summit of Mount Everest
Tibet, China

Potala Palace
Tibet, China

Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda
Chengdu, China

When I was sitting at my geography class in my elementary days, I remember my teacher told me that the highest mountain in the world is Mount Everest, located at The Himalayan Range which spread across India, Nepal, China, Pakistan, and Bhutan. I wonder how does the highest mountain in the world look like? Does the snow always cover its peak? 

The other day, when I read a book about countries of the world on the book at a city library back home, I read about Lhasa. It was the capital of the highest country in the world, known as roof of the world, Tibet. And now Tibet is a part of China, but it still is the roof of the world, and I was still  wondering how does it feel like to stand at the roof of the world? "Would I be able, someday?" is what I always thought. 

At the beginning of 2017 my dear friend asked me if I would like to go to Tibet with her, for there is an open trip (Open trip price for Overland Tibet-Nepal: USD 1150) with Mba Nina, visit her website Stalking Nina for information about the upcoming open trip. At that time I was still doing my clinical study, by the time the trip will begin, April 2018, I still don't know where I will be. Will I still doing my clinical study and wouldn't be able to attend the trip due to some exit exams? Will I be working at a clinic and would not be able to get any days off? Those were questions I have in my mind. 

But, if not now, when? 

So, might as well, say yes when there is this opportunity coming and let the universe sort the other things out, naturally.

Turns out my dear friend couldn't continue this trip due to personal event, so I ended up continuing this trip alone. But, nothing to worry about because there are 13 other people joining this open trip and turns out they are all an experienced traveler and a great travel mates! 

So, last April  I went on a 16 days overland trip from China to Nepal, live witnessing Lhasa which I used to only read on a book at the library, truly a dream comes true :') Here is my itinerary and later on I will share my day to day experience in a separate long and serial post haha, meanwhile, here is the highlight so you will first able to imagine the complete picture:

  • Day 1: Departing from Lombok, Indonesia en route Chengdu, China with an overnight layover at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I fly Air Asia which cost idr 3.100.000 (USD 219) for economy seat and 25 kg baggage. For the overnight layover I stayed at Capsule by Container Hotel, KLIA 2. I booked a female only, 12 hours room via Agoda for idr 411.000 (USD 30). 
  • Day 2: Arriving at Chengdu and finally met with the other traveler. We stayed at a two bedroom Chengdu Memory Space Apartment Taiguli Branch for one night which cost idr  348.000 (CNY 155) per person. I arrived at 2 pm and after quick rest at the apartment, we wandered around downtown Chengdu, walked and walked passed the crowded Chunxi Road, take a photo in Tianfu Square, having noodle at a halal restaurant in one moslem area, and ended up at JinLi ancient street
  • Day 3: Our train from Chengdu to Lhasa depart at 9 pm, so that in the morning we got some time to visit Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda, an ex situ conservation base, scientific research and breeding base, and public education and tourism base 30 minutes from our apartment. At night, after a quick rest at our apartment we depart to Lhasa for a 36 hours train ride from Chengdu Railway Station. I take the hard sleeper one which cost idr 2.680.000 (usd 190), we spent the night at the train. 
  • Day 4: One full day enjoying the journey to Lhasa, overlooking the beautiful landscape along the route which known as the highest railway in the world with the highest pass is Tanggula Pass (5.072 meters above sea level). Spending another night at the train. 
  • Day 5: At about 10 am we arrived at Lhasa Train Station and went straight to our hotel Kyichu Hotel Lhasa, just a 10 minutes walk from Potala Palace. For the rest of the day, I only spent my time resting and having lunch and dinner at the hotel and walk a five minutes walk to the nearest department store, Baiyi, to buy some water and food. Because it was the time for the body to rest and acclimitize to the high altitude (Lhasa altitude: 3.656 meters above sea level) to prevent accute mountain sickness. 
  • Day 6: The second day at Lhasa, we visited Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple by walk, because it is only 10-minutes walk from our hotel. At night, me and some people from the group walked around Jokhang temple while observing the pilgrims do Kora. 
  • Day 7: The next day is still the time to explore monasteries in Tibet. Early in the morning we went to Drepung Monastery, one of the big three monasteries in Tibet. That morning, it was snowy in Drepung and it was so beautiful. Then after lunch off we went to Sera Monastery to enjoy The Debating Monks in a debating courtyard. At night, me and some friends walking to Potala Palace to enjoy the beauty of its lighting lit up the night. 
  • Day 8: Then come the time for a road trip to approach Everest Base Camp (Altitude: 5.200 meters above sea level). Along the road we passed Kamba La Pass (4.794 meters above sea level) and finally visited Yamdrok Lake, a beautiful lake with its blue water located at 4.441 meters above sea level. Then a few minutes from Yamdrok Lake we met Karo La Glacier (5.560 meters above sea level), not a big glacier but it already is beautiful. After that, straight we went to our hotel at Shigatse (Altitude: 3.800 meters above sea level), Manasrovar Hotel Shigatse
  • Day 9: In the morning, before driving to New Tingri, a small county town where we stay before heading to Everest Base Camp the next day, we stopped by at Tashi Lunpo Monastery, a traditional seat for Panchen Lamas. I personally love this monastery the most over the other. Tell you why in the next post! ;) This night, we stayed at New Tingri rather than like the usual Everest Base Camp trip where people stayed at Rongbuk Guesthouse.
  • Day 10: Early in the morning, before the sun showed itself we drove to approach Everest Base Camp (EBC) North Side (Altitude: 5.200 meters above sea level). To be able to visit everest base camp as a tourist we need a permit, other than Tibet Visitor Permit itself. And if one want to do summit expedition, they will need climber permit also. For I only go as far as Everest Base Camp as a tourist, I only need Tibet Visitor Permit and Tourist Permit. After we walked to  the monument built on the EBC and enjoyed the magnificent view, we continue our road trip to approach Gyirong, a small beautiful city with tropical vegetation yet has the magnificent view of snow capped mountain around. Gyirong is the border between China and Nepal.
  • Day 11: Early in the morning, we drove to where The China Immigration is at Gyirong border. On the other side of a bridge is Rasuwa, a district at Nepal. I'm quite amazed by how different the condition is just after a few meters from the China side. The Nepal side is quite under developed. After done with the immigration and Nepal Visa on Arrival, we drove for 7 hours to Kathmandu and have a rest at our hotel at Thamel area, Truly Asia Boutique Hotel which cost idr 425.000 (30 USD per night). At night, I have a nice cup of coffee and vegan burger at French Bakery, Thamel. I recommend you to stop by at this cafe once you're in Kathmandu for the coffee and meals here is perfect! 
  • Day 12: In the morning, we went to Swayambunath (Entrance fee: NPR 200/ idr 26.600) and I very much enjoy the time watching the pilgrims praying and turning the prayer wheel. After that, we have a tour with a guide who tell us all the history of Patan Durbar Square (Entrance fee cost: NPR 1000/ idr 133.000), one of Kathmandu's three medieval kingdoms. Then, we went to Boudhanath (Entrance fee: NPR 250/ idr 33.000) to enjoy the beautiful twilight as the background of the magnificent stupa inside the complex. At night, we were having dinner at a traditional nepali restaurant, Gokarna House Restaurant. I personally love Nepali Food, but some people might not find it suitable with their taste. 
  • Day 13: This day I have a staycation at Nagarkot, a village where there are some hotels and resorts available. We will be able to see the himalayan range from the comfort of our hotel, if the sky is clear, which I unfortunately did not get the last time I stayed. Me and my 3 friends stayed at Mystic Mountain Hotel (Rate upon booking (via Agoda): idr 1.600.000), have a buffet dinner (Cost: NPR 2500/ idr 332,500) and breakfast and enjoying some spa session available (Deep massage tissue spa cost: around NPR 3.630/ idr 482.000). Before going to Nagarkot, we stopped by for a visit to Kathmandu Durbar Square, the center of administration of all the three durbars (Entrance fee: NPR 1000/ idr 133.000) and Pasupatinath (Entrance fee: NPR 1000/ idr 133.000), a temple complex at the banks of Bagmati River where the cremation ceremony of the hindus held. 
  • Day 14After having breakfast and a refreshing spa in the morning, just before lunch we went back to Kathmandu. And before went back to our hotel at Thamel area, we stopped by at Bhaktapur Durbar Square (Entrance fee: NPR 1000/ idr 133.000), the center of culture out of the three durbars. After satisfied walking around Bhaktapur, eating some Juju Dhau, the traditional yoghurt which taste heavenly and having lunch at Cafe Beyond (I really recommend this cafe!) located just before the entrance gate of Bhaktapur, we went back to Truly Asia Boutique Hotel, Thamel area. Because it was my last night before went back home, I went around Thamel that night, looking for some souvenirs, masala tea, shirt with words "Nepal" on it and of course yak wool pashmina. While wandering around I stopped by at Pilgrims Book House, truly a heaven for book lover! And ended the day by having dinner at Pho 99 (I love their Pho Bo!).
  • Day 15: My flight back home scheduled at 1.00 pm so I got some time to spend in the morning, walking just around the hotel. I went to French Bakery again to enjoy some coffee and apple pie while reading a book I just bought the night before. Then I walked just a little bit farther to enjoy the breeze at Garden of Dreams, a surprisingly beautiful garden as a hideaway in the middle of the chaoss of Thamel. At 10 am I went to Tribhuvan International Airport, I booked a flight with Malindo Air departing for Kuala Lumpur (I fly economy (including 25 kg baggage) which cost idr 2.328.000 (usd 165)). That night I stay for one night at Apple Hotel, Bukit Bintang (Price upon booking via Agoda: idr 342.000 (usd 24)) for I craveee for a Tom Yum Noodle Soup at Jalan Alor heheh. 
  • Day 16:  Spent the last day of my journey walking along Bukit Bintang, looking for some make up at Sephora and having breakfast at Fountain Cafe, Pavilion then went straight back to KLIA 2 using KLIA Express for my 4 pm flight with Air Asia (I fly economy and booked a 30 kg baggage which cost idr  1.059.000 (MYR 289)) back home to Lombok. 
So, that was a recap of 16 days journey which make my heart and mind feel complete. Some of my friend requesting the budgeting detail and breakdown which I will share in the next post. Stay tune and feel free to email me if you want to ask questions about journey to Tibet, anyway. 

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