It was a scenic trip, and a concentrated experience of Tibet’s natural scenery.
We started our trip at 9am from Lhasa. It was a great sunny day. The sun spread its light over the highland, but it hardly drove off the morning’s coolness. While the large part of China, especially the south, is dominated by an unbearable heat, it is very cool in Lhasa. You need a coat to cope with the coolness in the morning and evening. I felt a bit chilly in my thin sweater.
Shigatse is located to the west of Lhasa. Driving westward outside Lhasa, vast golden fields came into sights. It was late August, the harvest season, and locals were harvesting their crops in the fields. The golden fields on the banks of the Lhasa River set off the blue sky wonderfully.
The scenery became more attractive as the road rose with hairpin turns. We were climbing a 5,030-meter mountain pass.
The road wound around high mountains leading to a mountain top. Just a few steps away were deep valleys. The Chinese saying “a mountainous road with 18 turns” fits this stretch of road vividly.
After one hour winding and climbing, we reached the mountain top. Although in my thin sweater, I felt chilly there. I suffered a little headache. Every time when I was in a place above 4,500 meters above sea level, I felt a minor headache. The symptoms disappeared as soon as the altitude dropped. The pass commanded a fantastic view of fields at the mountain bottom extending to mountains far away. There were heaps of prayer flags put up by the Tibetans. It was quite windy, so a thick overcoat was needed.
An amazing sight greeted us. The breathtaking Yamdrok Lake came into sights as we traveled arosss a mountain pass. What a fantastic lake! It din’t look like a real lake, but it resembled a turquoise portion of sky embedded among the mountains. This is, for certain, the most beautiful lake I have ever seen. We marveled at its beauty, regardless of the chill and discomfort brought by the high altitude. The place we were standing was 4,500 meters above sea level.
Mists hung over the lake. The mountains surrounding the lake were carpeted with green grass. Fields on the opposite bank of the lake were covered with yellow flowers, and Tibetan village quietly lay among the flowers. The lake is even more attractive in fine days.
There was a toilet on the roadside beside Lake Yamdrok. It charged 2 yuan per person for entering. Expect the most basic conditions.
The road continued on the lakeside. The scenery awakens every cell in your body.
After around one hour’s drive, we arrived at Nagartse, a town at an elevation of 4,200 meters. Most travelers to Shigatse will stop at this town for lunch. Lhasa restaurant is the best restaurant there, but the food options were very limited. You can choose a buffet meal or order separately. We had buffet meal. The time we arrived was late, around 1 pm, so there were only a few dishes left, tofu, curried potato, pumpkin, and onion. Hot water was supplied. The toilet there was acceptable.
The road continued westward running between high rocky mountains, so high as to appear to be touching the sky. About one hour’s drive brought us to the bottom of a giant glacier, called Khorala Glacier,. The glacier is just several hundreds’ meters away from the road. It is chilly. Locals have their thick down coats on.
The glacier was just above us, at a elevation of 7,200 meters high.
As soon as our bus stopped, Tibetans rushed to us selling their dairy products. Kids came to ask for gifts or small notes. Tibetan girls and women asked us to take photos with them (10 yuan per time). There was a toilet there, and a store selling necessities. But batteries were not available.
The altitude declined as we past the glacier, but the scenery was by no means fading away. There came clean rivers, vast highland pastures, herds of yaks and sheep, and flower-covered fields. Words can hardly convey the beauty. I was impressed, open-mouthed, and pressed the button of the camera as fast as I could so as not to miss any highlights.
The landscapes continued until Gyantse. Gyantse is famous for the 14th Gyantse Dzong or fort which perches high above the town on a huge grey brown rock. But it was closed for maintenance the time when we traveled there.
The road from Gyantse to Shigatse is flat. The altitude is around 3,900 meters. Shigatse is 90 kilometers away .
We arrived at Shigatse at 7:00 pm. Shigatse is the second largest city in Tibet, after Lhasa, and it is the administrative center of west Tibet. Mount Everest is 5 hour’s drive from Shigatse.