Randal and I did a quick trip to Singapore Thursday and Friday. We needed to add pages to our passports at the Singapore American Embassy. Friday morning I was going with our cruising friend Marie Louise to observe her watercolor class. We had a wonderful time and it all worked out though it might not have. For our passport pages I had checked to see cost, Embassy opening hours, if we needed an appointment; and printed out the form we would need. It never occurred to me to check if the embassy would be open Thursday. Isn’t the government always open? Except maybe July 4th or some other American holiday. Shouldn’t "CLOSED JULY 22, 2010" be in huge letters on its web page and not buried way deep in the site? Well, it was closed Thursday which we found out when we got to the embassy which is no where near any MRT entrance so involves a long bus ride or lots of walking. Thankfully Randal could take our passports back early Friday morning, fill out the new forms because we had the wrong ones directly from the US Embassy website, have them accept my signature from the wrong forms, and have them back to us by 3 pm with no additional cost for the rush job. Everyone was really nice and helpful. While Randal was being a hero and going to the Embassy in the morning (for 2 hours) and then back in the afternoon, I spent the day with Marie Louise! Marie Louise has found a wonderful teacher and he generously allowed me to watch the class, included me in the time he spent with Marie Louise and then showed me his sketchbook/watercolor paintings from Penang and George Town. His name is Seah Kam Chuan http://www.seahkamchuan.com/ and you can see his work on his website. Thursday, to console ourselves, and because it isn’t far from the American Embassy, Randal and I stopped at Kinokuniya bookstore and I bought A Year in Tibet by Sun Shuyun written in 2008 by a Chinese woman married to a Brit. The book came from a BBC documentary she created. I also bought My Journey to Lhasa by Madame Alexandra David-Neel who at age 55 disguised herself as a male pilgrim and journeyed overland to Lhasa. The book was published in 1927!
We heard from our Tibet tourmate David. He and Ronnie are in South Africa. They had just gone swimming with "great white sharks" the day he sent the email. http://www.project-7.se/ is their website if you want to see what they are up to.
Tibet # 18 …… Last few photos on our drive to Zhangmu
Herds of Yak (foreground) and sheep and the last views of snow-capped mountains.
The next story has 4 scenes…..
Where water flows is where people can live or pasture their herds.
Map of Tibet hanging on the restaurant wall where we stopped for our last lunch in Tibet.
The tiny insert up top shows Tibet in Red and China in Greenish. On the big map, Lhasa is in the middle of the very top part of the small purple where it meets the brown. Below the purple is a country called Bhutan. On the left side of the little green thumb is a tiny bit of India. To the left of that is Nepal. Below Bhutan and Nepal is India and Bangladesh….Midway between the green thumb and the far west end of the green where it meets the pink, in Nepal is Kathmandu. (I need to learn paint or PowerPoint and just put arrows!) So you can see that we traveled through only a very tiny bit of Tibet but we did visit its three largest cities, Lhasa, Shigatse and Gyantse.
We drove along through the mostly treeless geography late into the afternoon (you can only go so fast over bumpy dirt roads.) Then we rejoined the paved highway, went around and then down and then climbed a bit and then around again, all in a fairly short distance and then we were in a whole other eco-system
Drizzle and tree covered mountains and huge waterfalls.
Driving around narrow roads with blind curves, drizzle and fog and lots of signs warning of rock slides.
Zhangmu seems to be one very long road lined with everything crammed into the one possible space level enough to put this road. We arrived, checked in, went to an ATM, ate dinner, went looking for an Internet Café (Internet was down in town,) went back to our hotel and went to sleep. Early the next morning we got up, packed, ate breakfast and drove off to go to the border. There was a traffic jam but luckily some VIP types were in vehicles in back of us so our line of cars got to go first. With cars and trucks parked on the road, it’s practically a one lane road through town.
Our room was a tiny square with 2 twin beds, lots of quilts, an electric kettle that sat on the floor, a toilet/shower /sink combo and very dreary until you looked out the huge window and had this view. We slept with the window open and breathed in that wonderful moist, warm air and slept well.
Leaning out our window to take a photo back where we had driven from earlier in the day.
It would have been a quick trip from Zhangmu to the border, but the road had washed away.
Working to clear the road.
Luckily the VIP types were still in back of us. The Tibet “highway department” actually isn’t in charge here but the Chinese soldiers are. After about 30 minutes the road was cleared and we were sent along first: it was only one-way traffic. In the really rainy seasons, people can be stuck for days waiting for the road to open.
Tibet on the left and Nepal on the right.
It was time to say good-bye to Lobsang and our driver. They were actually going to collect a group of tourist coming from Nepal and “reverse our tour” back to Lhasa! David, Ronnie, Randal and I decided to stay together and share the cost of the “ 4 wheel drive taxi” journey to Kathmandu. Our Tibet tour was officially over but we were all going to Kathmandu and got along well so it was nice to stay together.