Southwestern China

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Tibet has always been a mysterious place to Westerners. It is often referred to as 'Shangri-La', 'the Land of Snows', or 'the Rooftop of the World'. Most of Tibet is situated at an altitude between 4000 and 5000 meters, but most people live in the lover valleys. The strategic importance of Tibet was one of the main reasons China invaded it in 1950. The province of Qinghai used to be part of the Tibetan empires until it was incorporated in the Chinese empire in the 18th century, but geographically the area is not much different from Tibet.

Travel is Qinghai is fairly easy, while in Tibet several permits are needed. Until 1984 Tibet was not open to foreigners at all. After an uprising by Tibetans in 1987 it was closed to most tour organizations again, but since 1992 it has been more open again.

Places of interest

Transportation

Gonggar airport, 90 km from Lhasa has air connections with Beijing, Chongqing and Kathmandu (Nepal), while Xining can be reached by airplane from Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Ürümqi. Xining has rail connections with Lanzhou, as well as Beijing, Shanghai and other regional cities. There are five roads to Lhasa, but most people visit the city via the spectacular Friendship Highway from Nepal. Getting around in Tibet can be problematic. Local transportation consists of buses that can (and do) break down at any time, while 4WD vehicles are very expensive to rent. Tibetan roads are very unsafe, as most people rely on prayer in order to arrive somewhere safely. Cycling is a little safer, but you still have to be very careful of other traffic, hypothermia and pulmonary oedema.


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