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The Seven Days in Tibet -A Travelogue

June 28, 2019

I never had the plan to go to Tibet

Actually, we never wanted to go to Tibet; however, in November 2017, we were expecting German friends in Shanghai and she really wanted to go to Tibet and she asked us if we could travel to Tibet together. Tibet in November, that's not too cold, so my first thought. But after a brief research, November turned out to be a pretty good season for travelling, as this is the Tibetan dry season and offseason. The temperatures should be around 16 degrees during the day, and it may freeze at night. But that was not a problem for us because we can dress up against cold weather. I told my wife about it and the more we informed ourselves about a possible trip, the more we got the feeling: "Yeah, let’s go to Tibet!" We agreed to the plan and started with moredetailed preparation. We needed to figure out different questions like: How does it work with the special travel permit to Tibet, whichtravelsagency to choose, what about the altitude sickness and, and, and...


Entry into Tibet is only possible with a travel agency authorized by Chinese officials and it is only allowed to travel with a group tour. I wrote to several agencies and told them about our plan. After a detailed analysis of the offers, we chosea Tibetan provider, which was priced in the upper midfield, but it offered the most interesting tour and they delivered the best service. We figured out that this trip would not be cheap. Per person,the price for our private group of four people was about 1350 euros including train + plane tickets, hotels, tickets for attractions, drivers and guide. Of course, we had the possibility to book a cheaper tour in a larger group, but we didn’t want that for two reasons. Firstly, in the case of fatigue or even signs of altitude sickness, we would be able to change the tour individually and, secondly, we will have more of our private guide, instead of a guide for a randomgroup. As we always have a lot of questions for our guides, we like to pay a bit more for such an interestingdestination and have the possibility to satisfy all our curiosity and needs.

Our plan was as follows:

  • 1stday
    Departure from Shanghai to Xining in Qinghai, a Chinese province bordering the Tibet Autonomous Region
  • 2ndday
    22-hour train ride from Xining (2000m altitude) to Lhasa (3658m altitude)
  • 3rdday
    Arrive in Lhasa and relax and acclimatize
  • 4thday
    Exploring Lhasa and surrounding country
  • 5thday
    Exploring Lhasa with a visit to the Potala Palace
  • 6thday
    Drive to the countryside and a short hike at 4000m altitude
  • 7thday
    Return flight from Lhasa via Xian to Shanghai

The Seven Years in Tibet

Of course, we had to watch the film "The Seven Years in Tibet" as a preparation. Brad Pitt plays the Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer, who in 1939 attempted a German expedition to climb the Himalayas. The film is based on true events, even though not everything is displayed correctly. The expedition members came into British captivity during the war in British India. Many of the prisoners tried to flee and muddle themselves through to the Japanese troops in Burma. Some succeeded, others did not. In 1944, Harrer managed to escape and get to Tibet. His companion was Peter Aufschnaiter, another Austrian. During the entire journey, the two overcame at least 50 passes - none under 5000 meters - and walked about 2100 kilometres. On January 15, 1946, they reached the city of Lhasa, which was at that time forbidden and not accessible to foreigners. However, they gained access and later on prestige.Aufschnaiter became a consultantto the Tibetan government on agricultural and urban development issues. Harrer was first a translator and photographer for the Tibetan government, later a teacher (for English, geography and mathematics) and most recently a friend and teacher of the young 14th Dalai Lama, for whom he also designed a private cinema. A cordial friendship connected both until Harrer's death. Because of the Tibet-China conflict of 1950/51, Harrer fled to India in 1951. From there, Harrer returned to Europe the following year. About his experiences, he already began in India to write the book "The Seven Years in Tibet", which became a bestseller. The director of the film, Jean-Jacques Annaud, as well as the actors Brad Pitt, David Thewlis and Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk, received after the release of the film a lifelong entry ban to China - which Brad Pitt was repealed in 2014, so he could accompanyhis wife Angelina Jolie on a trip to Shanghai to look after their children. There was no public appearance of him.

Read more travelogue here:

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