Asia | China | Tibet – Tibet -Do you know the way to Shigatse?
Friday Sep 14 – 75km/47miles (dirt road 20km, paved road 55km – elevation 4080m/13,400ft)
Dora had a sore knee from the day before and rode in the support truck (which refused to actually stop and wait for riders – seems the guides had more important things to do than guide). Dora checked in the Gyangtse Hotel early and cleaned up by the time Ted arrived an hour or so later. How much we missed having hot running water and a real bathroom!!! Not having to trip over tent lines in order to get the bathroom during a rainstorm in the middle of the night – priceless!
The attraction of Gyangtse was a castle and monastary, both with substantial fortifications, evidently as a defense against the British. The Tibetan guide didn’t want to bother bringing us to these sites even though these were in the itinerary. After the usual arguing (this was beginning to be a common pattern) she offered to reimburse us for entrance fees (but ended up not doing so because we hadnt kept the ticket stubs!)
The guide had selected a tourist-trap restaurant across from the hotel. We (the group of 14) poked our heads in and were amazed to see huge groups of tour bus-type crowds waiting for a buffet. Decided to look on our own (to the probably dismay of the guide since there likely was a kick-back involved) Found a Chinese restaurant across the street. Excellent food, although probably overpaid a bit at $10/person (common problem where everything is so cheap that you start to argue over a dollar or two, not quite Manhattan prices!)
The hotel was reasonable, but apparently they forgot to put in heaters when they built it. A call to the front desk to turn up the heat resulted in a prompt response of providing more blankets! Luxury at its best.
Saturday Sept 15 – 96km / 60miles (flat paved road) Gyangtse to Shingatse elevation 3860m/12,700ft – Riding time 4hrs 37min.
The ride was unfortunately rather boring as it went through what is probably considered the ‘bread basket’ of Tibet. We passed town after town, in each one running the gauntlet of excessively exuberant local youths. This was usually a mob by the side of the rode wanting to ‘high-five’ us as we rode by, but also the bad apples who would try to throw rocks or swing ropes at us. The worst would be the kids completely blocking the rode so that you would have to nearly stop, at which time they would say the Tibetan word for money and surround you. Not a huge deal, but after the 50th village or so, one grows weary.
Arrived in Shigatse late afternoon. Shigatse is the second largest city in Tibet after Lhasa. Hotel was actually quite nice. Took a tour of the monestary, but the Tibetan guide was up to her usual incompetence and didn’t warn people not to wear shorts (not an issue in most monasteries in Tibet). After some arguing at the entrance, the monks offered some skirt-sheets for Ted and the other short-wearer. The Monastery was rather impressive with some very large Buddhas. We tried to avoid the guide’s ‘recommendation’ for dinner, but the guide book, which one of the group had, indicated a restaurant the had been closed for some time (Lonely Planet guide – check the Turkey blog for our comments on this publisher). Ended up going with the guide’s suggestion, but the restaurant was all the way near the monastery, so we had to walk 20+ minutes just to get there.