China and Tibet

China was an amazing port. Unlike most students, I had the opportunity to go to Tibet; only 34 of us did.

The first day the ship was in Hong Kong and I immediately went to the airport to fly to Beijing. Beijing was amazing. It was my second time there so I decided to leave the group and head off with my friend. We left the hotel around 8am and did it all. We first went to the 2008 Olympic Stadium. We saw the Birds Nest and went inside the Water Cube. Since the Olympics, they have made it into an amusement part. It was very cool but it was surprising to see that the diving pools and swimming pools were very small. The Water Cube couldn’t t even hold that many people. Anyways, after that we took a train to a huge market. They had everything in this market for very cheap. We both ended up getting Beats by Dre and some really cheap electronics stuff. We were at the market for about two hours. After that we headed to Tennamin Squaure and the Forbidden City. They were both amazing. We walked around the area and took a lot of pictures with local people. It was so crazy how a lot of people asked to take pictures with us. And some parents would put there babies in pictures with us! After that we went to another night market where we bought jackets, make up and other clothing. We ate at a buffet above the market which was delicious. After a long day of completely traveling on our own, we headed to Starbucks and then back to the hotel where there was free wifi!! (On SAS, wifi in general is amazing – and when its free you choose that over sleep!) The next morning we woke up very early and went to the airport for a flight to Tibet; the highest city in the world. It was a pretty long flight considering we were flying across China, but it was well worth it. Right when we got to the hotel, our tour guides greeted us with white scarves. We didn’t understand the meaning of the scarves until the next day. Anyways, we got to the hotel pretty late and went to a quick restaurant for dinner. After dinner we headed back to the hotel to adjust to the elevation of 12,000 feet. I fell asleep very easily but after about an hour I couldn’t sleep – I had the worst headache. We all met for breakfast around 8am and quite a few people were sick. After eating breakfast and drinking some water mostly everyone was ready to go for the day. The first place we visited was a blind school. The School for the Blind was created in 1997 by a German man who was blind. He raised enough money to start this school which now has graduates working all over the country in various majors, many in massaging. It was incredible to see all of the children fully functioning while being completely blind. After the school we visited the Polota Palace; the home of the Dalilama. Every single Dalilama has lived in this palace. We climbed 536 steps to the top of it and were literally on top of the world. While we were climbing up, we saw a lot of monks walking up to pray. All over the palace and the city were prayer flags. Along with prayer flags all over the place were the white scarves, just like the ones our tour guides gave us. People give these scarves to heal the sick and to free spirits. All over the palace was white scarves placed in front of different Buddha statues and different rooms of the house. After walking around the palace we headed to lunch. We had a fantastic lunch full of Tibetan food such as Yak – the meat of choose in Tibet.  After lunch we headed to one of the most prestigious temples in tibet; the Jokhang Temple. This temple is where all of the local people come to pray on a daily basis and the area around it is sacred land. Pilgrims come from all over the world to see this temple and to pray to the Buddha of the Future and the Guru. After walking around the Temple we had some free time to walk around the markets (which was very rare for tour groups because you usually cannot be away from your tour guide). After an hour or so of shopping and buying our own prayer flags, we went back to the hotel to rest. It seemed like we had a lot of free time but it was definitely needed with the elevation adjustment. We then went to dinner at a local hotel and the food was yet again delicious. Four of the main dishes were full of Yak. We then headed back to the hotel and called it a night. We all met for breakfast around 7am before having a two hour drive to the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen. We went to one of the most sacred rivers in Tibet, the Yamdrok Yumtso. We drove up the side of a huge mountain to end up at the top, looking down on the river. Along the way we saw a lot of Yak, the animal of Tibet. When we got to the top, we had a chance to ride the Yak. After stopping for about a half an hour taking pictures and riding Yak, we headed down to the river. It was unbelievable. A perfect reflection of the mountains were in the water. There were also a lot of prayer flags flying every where. One of the many Tibetans do is when someone passes away they go to the foot of this river and make a mound of rocks with the ashes of their loved ones. All over the foot of the river were mounds of rocks. There was also a shrine-like statue with thousands of prayer flags and white scarves hanging everywhere. After the river we went to a local Tibetan house. It was very interesting to see how the local people live. Everything was based around their prayer room. The kitchen and other rooms of the house had a very easy access to the prayer room. Prayer flags also hung from every house. After visiting the house we went to eat lunch. They had really good Tibetan food – meaning they had a lot of delicious Yak. We then went to one of the most famous monasteries in Tibet, the Sera Monastery. It was freezing while we walked up a long walkway to the monastery, but when we arrived all of the Monks were in the yard debating. They all sat in the middle of a yard and were debating about philosophical things. It is one of the places where the people who choose the next Dalilama go. When we left it started snowing! It was so cool but we all enjoyed the snow. We quickly went back to the hotel and rested until dinner. We went to a Tibetan steakhouse for dinner which, of course, was full of Yak meat. It was yet again another great meal, our last one before we leave to go to Shanghai! We were pretty much flying all day to Shangahi but after we landed my friends and I experience the beautiful nightlife of the city. When we got back to the ship, we quickly changed and went to see my friend from Semester at Sea this summer (Maymester 2011). It was so much fun, there were four of us from Maymester 2011 so it was a complete reunion in China! After reminiscing we went to the Hyatt hotel where they had the highest bar in the world. The view was breathtaking – pictures don’t even give it justice. After that, we went to a few other clubs and had a blast together. The following morning we woke up early and went to some markets around the area where we bought Beats by Dre headphones, Longchamp bags and Tory Burch clutches all for very cheap. China and Tibet were amazing, both fun and beautiful.