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2013 Mar by Jorge Sanchez
I arrived early in the morning to Xining. While looking for a cafeteria to have breakfast I saw a sign where it was written:
“The special train way to Tibet”
I asked for the possibility to buy a train ticket to Lhasa, but was informed that in those times permits to visit Tibet were not issued. Therefore they could not sell me the ticket.
Anyway, I copied from a sign the schedule of that train to Lhasa. That is what it was written in English:
“The train departs from Xining every other day at 15:02 from Xining Train Station, and arrives at Lhasa at 14:55 on the second day.
The train from Xining is pressurized, supplied with oxygen altimeters and sealed. The windows have ultraviolet filters to protect passengers from UV radiation”.
After drinking a coffee I took a bus to Xining downtown.
Xining was called Xiping in the past. I knew about that for a sign in Chinese and English in the downtown, where it was explained that the old city of Xiping, was the East Gate and an important military area and transport hub during the Silk Road period.
Not far from Xining was located an important Tibetan Monastery that I wanted to visit, called Ta’er, or Kumbum, but I did not go because I wanted to combine that visit with the train to Lhasa, and those days when I was in Xining, permits to visit Tibet were not issued. So I plan to go back in the future to Xining and will also visit the Kumbum monastery.
In the streets I saw frequently Tibetan people, easily recognizable by their clothes and hats. They probably had arrived to Xining by train from Lhasa.
In the evening I bought several fruits (strawberries)for my dinner and headed back to the railway station, where I bought a night train ticket to Harbin, in Heilongjiang.
GOLMUD IN 2016: The best of Golmud was the train journey from Xining. I saw lakes, desert and pretty scenery, plus some small villages populated mainly by tibetans. I also noticed the presence of some signs for tibetan pilgrims.
I knew beforehand that I would not be able to cross, legally, into Tibet without a permit. At the train station there was a sign in Chinese and English confirming that without a Tibetan permit no ticket will be issued. The same happenned in the bus station of Golmud.
I had been in Lhasa in the past, so my main purpose to travel to Golmud was the train journey itself plus the exotic atmosphere of a town located in a semi desert, feeling myself in a remote and remote place between Tibet and Xinjiang.
I learnt that Chinese are presently constructing more ways to get to Kashgar by trains.
I have friends that in the past have crossed from Golmud to Lhasa illegally, in trucks, or even walking from the border of Qinghai to Tibet in the evening when there is no so much control, and once in Tibetan territory they have hitchhiked to Lhasa.
But I did not even tried that way. I felt just satisfied for having reached Golmud and waited until the evening to go back to Xining, again by train.
During the day spent I only visited the local market since there is no much to do in the town of Golmud for a tourist.
Chinese know the city as Ge'ermu.
In Xining railway station I boarded a local bus to a village in direction to Lushar, but I had to get off and then I caught another one that left me in Lushar, at 100 meters from the Kumbum Monastery.
I did not see any foreigner around. It seems that visitors have to pay an entry fee, but since I did not know where to buy it and nobody stopped me, I penetrated the monastery without being molested.
It was enormous. It is considered the second most important monastery of the Gelugpa sect of the Tibetan Buddhism. I calculated that it was inhabited by several hundreds of monks.
I was very excited because the, probably, best woman traveler of all times, Alexandra David-Néel, had lived there a couple of years learning Tibetan.
I asked for her, in Chinese and in English, to the tibetan monks, but nobody understood me. I do not speak Tibetan and many monks only used tibetan language, but not chinese, and still lesser they could understand english, so finally I did not know if I was not understood in chinese and english, or if really nobody knew anything about Alexandra David-Néel. I asked in all the places, directly to the monks, in the office, in the kitchen... and all were surprised to hear the name of Alexandra.
Apart from Alexandra, other famous travelers have stayed in that monastery, like Ella Maillart.
I asked to be accepted as a guest, sleeping there, but I was refused and sent to the several guesthouses in Lushar. Monks told me that frequently foreigners sleep there but I asked to the administration several times and each time was not accepted. I even went to the guesthouse, but a woman working there denounced me and was forced to leave the building.
I visited the monastery for several hours. When I was hungry I went to the kitchen and the monks gladly invited me to have lunch, even I repeated the bowl of soup twice because the food was good. It consisted on meat of yak plus noodles. Tibetan monks are not vegetarians, although the animals that they eat are killed by ordinary people, not by monks.
In some temples I was not allowed to go, even to its premises. Signs in English advised foreigners not to enter. But everywhere where it was allowed I visited, like the birthplace of Tsongkhapa, the founder of the monastery during the XVI century.
Finally, after two more unsuccessful attempts to sleep inside the monastery, I abandoned it, traveled by buses to Xining and caught a night train to Golmud. |
2012 Oct by Veikko Huhtala*
Our train from Lanzhou arrived Xinig railway station at half past 7 PM.
We had not any hotel reservation, but there were some local people waiting train who took us into one very cheap accomodation. We had to pay only 9 Euros for room. Next morning we went to nearest park to spend our time. It was very cold morning and temperature was -2 Celsius.
On the park there was a little pond where some men were fishing. After two hours we were almost freezing and we had to go railway station to get warm up. Our train to Yinchuan was leaving at 7:15 PM, so we had to spend several hours before that, but this was not problem. There were many restaurants for eating and also post office to send your post cards to Finland. Because we had no a permit to Tibet we had no possibility travel to Lhasa. |