It is believed that the Tibetan kings were descendants from heaven with ropes attaching them to the heaven. Upon their deaths, a heavenly creature would pull the ropes up with their bodies. Therefore, there were no remains of their bodies, and there were no tombs for the first seven Kings of Tibet. The eighth King accidentally cut off the rope during a fight against a rebel. From thereon, the bodies of Kings could not go up to the heaven, and were buried in the southern part of Tibet. Shamanism was the predominant religion before the introduction of Buddhism in the 7th century. Buddhist missionaries from India came to Tibet and started an alphabet system for the Tibetan language and started translations of Buddhist texts. During this time Tibet was a strong kingdom but by the 10th century, things began to fall apart with Tibet separating into several principalities.
At the end of the Second World War, the Mao-Tse-tung Army defeated Chang-Kai-chek and invaded peaceful Tibet. After installation of a pro-Chinese Administration, the first decisions brought a severe famine, suppressed civil rights and imposed the Chinese language. In March 1959, Lhasa population obliged the Dalai Lama to escape to India, against his will. In the 1970’s, during the Cultural Revolution the Red Guards destroyed nearly 2000 official buildings and holy places, and burnt nearly all the Tibetan libraries and books to get rid of the Tibetan civilization and language.
Tibet, a rich and beautiful land, is located at the main part of Qinghai-Tibet plateau, southwest frontier of China. Tibet is so sunny that it produces a year-round sunshine of over 3,000 hours in a year. Its old name, ‘land of snow’ – the name by which Tibet is almost popularly known as, is always thickly covered with snow with hardly any signs of inhabitation.
With an average elevation of over 4,000 m, Tibet is considered to be the highest region in the world and is often called the ‘Roof of the World’. This comes as no surprise, especially since southern Tibet is located in the Himalayas, which contains many of the world’s highest summits. In addition to its incredible heights, Tibet is also one of the most isolated areas on earth; with most of the people living in elevations ranging from 1200 m to 5100 m. Tibet with its mountains is the source and dividing line of the Asian continent’s major rivers, with the Brahmaputra being the most important. Many of the rivers in Tibet can be used for hydroelectricity, but this potential hasn’t been developed as of yet.
Tibet is cold in winter, cool in summer and generally dry, receiving only 450 millimeters (18 inch) of rain or snow. Sunlight is extremely intense. The thin air neither blocks nor holds heat, so sunshine feels warm, shadows are chilly, and temperature can vary greatly within a day.
Summer temperatures (Jun-Sep) are surprisingly warm, averaging around 20 degrees Celsius during the day, but dropping considerably at night to around 8 degrees Celsius. There is some rain in June, July and August.
Winters (Oct-Mar) are severe, with frequent hard frosts and snow. Temperatures average around 0 degrees Celsius. Lhasa’s nighttime lowest in winter is around -9 degrees. The higher you go, the colder it gets, and the winds in winter are ferocious.
Rainfall in southern Tibet occurs intermittently between May and September; bring moisture to barley fields and greenery to the valleys.
Tibet is officially a part of China. But until China invaded them in 1950, Tibet had its own defined culture and way of life. China forced them to follow their practices, and since then, the Tibetan life has changed dramatically.
The basic understanding of Buddhism is essential in Tibet. Buddhism’s values and goals permeate in almost everything in Tibet. Many Buddhists learn sutra, meditate, and discipline themselves to make their ethics higher. The Temple in Tibet is open to everyone; they accept all kinds of people without any distinction. With Buddhism as an essential aspect, it permeates things like culture, literature and art.
Tibetans are probably descendants from the variety of monadic tribes who migrated from the north and settled to sedentary cultivation of Tibet’s river valleys. A more visible ethnic group is the Hui Muslims. Two thirds of Tibetans belong to the relatively well known Kham and Amdo speaking Tibetans. However, fully one third of the Tibetans in this region do not speak Kham or Amdo as a first language. Linguistic research in the 1980’s and 1990’s has shown that these ethnic groups speak separate but related languages. These languages are entirely different from the Tibetan language.
Please see the temperature guide showing the highs and lows in temperature. It is advised that you take a practical selection of clothes for both warm and cool climates to suit the season. However please remember that this is just a guide and you may encounter a wide variety of temperatures en route due to altitude and unforeseen weather conditions – so it’s best to be prepared!
Clothing should be simple and consist of layers, which can be added or removed as the temperature varies during the day. During autumn the night temperatures in the mountains often dip below freezing, making warm gear essential. In summer the days can be hot, requiring light cotton clothing. Good wet-weather gear is recommended during the rainy summer months. A warm windcheater and stout comfortable shoes are especially recommended.
Your day-pack needs to be large enough for a 1-litre water bottle and all other items you will need during the day. Carry this piece with you. In it you should have:
• Necessary medication
• Camera, sunglasses, a hat
• Hand Sanitizer
• Any other item you require for the day.
Some essentials you need to bring with you:
• Long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and a hat to wear whenever possible while outside, to prevent illnesses carried by insects (e.g., malaria, dengue, filariasis, leishmaniasis, and onchocerciasis).
• Insect repellent containing DEET.
• Iodine tablets and portable water filters to purify water if bottled water is not available.
• Sunblock, sunglasses, and a hat for protection from harmful effects of UV sun rays.
• A folding umbrella especially if you are travelling during the monsoons of mid June to late September. Rain is possible any time, and is almost certain from June through August.
• Be sure to carry earplugs (and spares) for when you sleep.
• There are occasional electric outages throughout the country; so you should always keep a torch (flashlight) beside your bed.
• A Swiss style army knife is a good thing to bring, but with the recent concerns over air travel you may want to bring a folding utility tool such as a Leatherman and make sure to put it in your check-in luggage.
• Bring a small alarm clock if you need help waking up after all those barking dogs. Not all hotel rooms have telephones or wake-up service.
Note: Our guides will definitely make sure you are not late for anything.
This is an important item on your list if your program includes hiking. Make sure your boots are well broken -in. Ill-fitting boots can make your trek miserable. If you’re buying a new pair, look for medium weight boots of fabric or a fabric/leather combination with a waterproof breathable membrane such as Gore-Tex. They should provide adequate ankle support but be comfortable in the Achilles area (a notch in the top of the rear ankle helps). Bring your thick woollen socks when you are trying on boots so you get the correct size. Short boots can jam your toes painfully during long steep descent. Makes sure you walk up and down an incline in the store.
We recommend walking shoes/boots, as comfortable shoes with good ankle support will make all walking more enjoyable. If your trip does not involve hiking/trekking and you do not own a pair of hiking boots, then trainers/sneakers will suffice.
Everything you normally use for your days in the city and do not forget sun lotions.
Considerations for Women
• Hand wipes: The kind that are in a roll that comes in a plastic container with a flip-top. Take them out of the container and put them in a Ziploc®.
• Tampons and extra Ziploc bags for disposal and carryout.
You will be allowed to check in a total of 44 pounds or 20 kgs per person. So we encourage you to travel light, packing only one duffel bag or a suitcase. The hotels you will be staying in are well equipped with all basic essentials. Pack an extra duffel bag to bring back purchases if you want.
Any person in reasonably good health is able to travel in Tibet. Those in good physical shape will no doubt enjoy the trip more. Please start to get in shape NOW! A good 30 minutes walk, jogging daily, stretching and regular exercise should put you in the right shape (concentrate on your heart and legs – Aerobics). During the hike it is recommended that you bring a good day pack and are fit enough to carry your day pack that would probably have filled water bottle/canteen, food/snacks, camera, map, fleece, sun hat, first aid kit, lightweight rain gear, etc. To ascertain your level of physical fitness take the Harvard Step Test online at http://www.brianmac.demon.co.uk/eval.htm
The hotels used in Tibet range from the average two star hotels to luxury hotels. Outside Lhasa the hotels are rather basic with very limited facilities.
In Tibet, the range of restaurants is limited apart from the ones in the hotel itself. The restaurants outside usually provide a local Tibetan/Chinese menu. Unboiled water is NOT safe to drink anywhere in Tibet. Always stick to bottled water. Uncooked vegetables are also not safe to consume, unless properly treated by soaking in a solution of iodine. Always peel your fruit.
Travelling in Tibet is strenuous owing to its high elevation. The elevation of Lhasa is 11,500 feet. We strongly recommend a medical examination. Discuss the extent of your adventure with your physician. The physical exam should be conducted more thoroughly than a routine checkup. Be sure any abnormalities, chronic problems or special medications are noted. Ask your doctor about various medications available high altitude sickness. This may be helpful to your trip leader/guide if you begin to exhibit any symptoms during the trip.
Necessary immunization for Tibet: Vaccinations such as Typhoid, Tetanus, Poliomyelitis, Gamma Globulin (anti Hepatitis A &B), Malaria, Meningitis, Rabies should be considered before going on a trip and of course-anti dysentery precautions such as Imodium, plus anything that your doctor recommends. For the most up-to-date information visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control online at www.cdc.gov.
Stomach upsets are the most likely travel health problem but the majority of these cases are minor problems. Thoroughly cooked food is the safest but not if it has been left to cool. One should be careful about what one eats and drinks. The number one rule is not to drink tap water or other water from open sources. Reputable brands of bottled water or soft drinks are available. While drinking and eating it is important to make sure that water which may be unsafe has not been added.
Do not drink unpasteurized milk. Boiled milk is fine if it is kept hygienically and yoghurt is usually good. Tea or coffee should also be all right since the water would have been boiled. Salads and fruit should be washed with purified water or peeled where possible. Food, drink and snack from reputable sources are usually safe. However beware of food that has been kept out in the open for long.
Wash your hands frequently, as it is quite easy to contaminate your own food. You should clean your teeth with purified water rather than straight from the tap. Avoid climatic extremes: keep out of the sun when it is hot, dress warmly when it is cold. Avoid potential diseases by dressing sensibly. Do not walk bare feet, as it is easy to get worm infections through bare feet. Try to avoid insect bites by covering bare skin when insects are around, by screening windows or by using, insect repellents.
Dharma Adventures asks, as a condition of accepting your booking, which you take out a comprehensive personal insurance policy, which covers you for sickness, accident, loss of baggage and trip cancellation (this may mean an extra premium). For trekking clients, it’s important that the policy covers you for the unlikely event of evacuation by plane or helicopter. If you have optioned rafting, the policy must cover this as well. We will provide you with a certificate, which should be accepted by your insurance company, if you need to claim.
When you are away, things might go wrong!
We do provide evacuation specialists and assistance specialists. Insured clients have 24 hours access to our doctors and nurses in the cities and towns, but can be organized at the earliest time in the mountain if paid for.
Existing Medical Conditions
Existing medical conditions must be declared and will probably incur an additional premium. If you do not declare, claims will be refused.
Travel insurance is compulsory.
Major convertible currencies and traveller’s cheques can be exchanged at the Bank of China in Lhasa and Shigatse.
All major foreign currencies are accepted in the Bank of China in Lhasa in return for Yuan. The basic unit of Chinese Currency, Yuan equals 10 Jiao and 1 Jiao equals 10 Fen. At present USD 1 = 6.2 Yuan, Credit cards are not accepted in most places in Lhasa. You can however get a cash advance on your credit card in Bank of China in Lhasa. Foreign currencies can be changed in Lhasa, Tsedang and Shigatse.
Make sure you exchange only what you need. The “selling” rate is much less than the “buying” rate. In Zhangmu your last stop in Tibet should be the place where you would want to change your balance Yuan to either US Dollars or Nepalese Rupees.
Whilst the vast majority of travelers never experience anything untoward it is worth taking precautions particularly in urban areas. You should take sensible precautions in crowded areas such as street markets and airports, where pick-pocketing is a possibility, and keep clear of any street disturbances. Don’t wear jewelry, never leave your bags unattended, keep large amounts of money, cameras and cell phones out of sight when walking in town centers, and avoid venturing into quiet alleys and lanes after dark. Keep copies of important documents, including passports, in a separate place to the documents themselves, together with details of credit cards. Leave copies at home with a friend too. Safeguard valuables, important documents and cash and deposit them in hotel safes, where practicable.
Tipping is a recognized part of life and although at your discretion you will be expected to reward good service. Please remember that tipping should be a way for individuals to thank staff for good service. The amount is entirely a personal preference; you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip.
Electrical sockets (outlets) in Asia usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you’re plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need. If you are using an appliance with 110 and 120 volts then you need a voltage converter.
Charging your electronics such as mobile phones, cameras, music devices might not be frequently available during the tour. When camping it is often difficult to find a safe and secure wall outlet to recharge these devices, therefore we recommend that you bring extra batteries. When you are staying in hotels, your room will have an electrical outlet (just remember your international adaptor!).
Some restaurants and hotels offer free WiFi while some require a paid password protected system. The connection however may be slower than expected. While going to remote areas outside the main cities, WiFi may not be available.
It is considered auspicious to make donations at sacred sites like the monasteries and temples. However, the donations and the amount to be donated are not obligatory.
Begging is a normal practice. While giving to the needy and the physically handicapped is a good practice, we do not encourage begging. There is no need to feel pressured to give, even if crowds of beggars approach you and struggle to get your attention.
You will be surprised by the power of bargaining. Bargaining is a way of life throughout Asia. It is important that you do not over pay for anything. Your guides can make recommendations about what a fair price is. Never suggest the price for yourself in the beginning. Wait for the storeowner to quote a price before you start bargaining.
The effects of altitude can be felt by anyone at anytime above a height of 8000 ft. Statistically two-thirds to three-fourths of those going to high altitudes (above 14,000 ft.) will have mild symptoms of A.M.S. (Acute Mountain Sickness) but less than 2% will develop serious illness. Fitness does not affect acclimatization. Generally older people acclimatize better and teenagers are at the most risk and need to be extra cautious. This may be because older people are often slower and going slower helps your body have a chance to adjust.
The best precaution to altitude sickness is drinking a lot of water. Avoid being dehydrated; you need to drink slowly and often. Be sure you are eating enough in small amounts throughout the day.
Also it is very important to take time to acclimatize. Altitude sickness starts from mild symptoms such as; headache, nausea, loss of appetite, mild shortness of breath with exertion, sleep disturbance, breathing irregularity, dizziness or light-headedness, mild weakness, slight swelling of hands and face, lethargy, malaise etc. Any symptoms should not be ignored and must be reported to your group leader.
We do not expect any problems in the trip but it is better to take precaution. AMS is only applicable for those trekking in higher altitude.
There are many important customs in the Buddhist tradition. Any Buddhist temple or stupa should be circumambulated clockwise. It is customary to eat, handle food, gifts money, etc. with your right hand.
It is considered impolite to point the soles of ones feet at any one or towards alters, holy objects, people or a family’s fire. It is considered impolite to be physically demonstrative in public-especially between people of the opposite sex. It is okay to be affectionate (but not demonstrative) with a same-sex friend.
It is important to dress appropriately while visiting monasteries and temples. Full sleeved shirts and trousers are a must.
Please do not take photographs of people without asking permission. It is also important to ask permission before taking photographs in a monastery. Some monasteries may ask you not to use the flash on your camera. This is important for the preservation of the wall paintings.
Following local customs to a certain extent just shows good manners and your consideration is much appreciated.
Hello – Tashi dele
Hello – (Informal) Demu
How are you? – Khye-rang ku-zug de-po yin-pe
Fine, thank you. – De-po yin. Thug je che.
What is your name? – Khye-rang gi tshen-la ga-re zhu-gi yod? Or Khedrand ming Gangyin.
My name is ______ – Ngai ming ___ yin.
Nice to meet you – Khye-rang jel-ney ga-po joong
Please – Thuk-je zig
Thank you – Thuk-je-che
You’re welcome – Yin dang yin
Yes – Red
No – Ma-red
Excuse me – gong-pa-ma-tsom / gong-ta
I’m sorry – Gong dag
Goodbye (when staying) – Kale phe
Goodbye (when leaving) – Kale shoo
Sorry – gonda
The following checklist is to be used to double check right before you depart for the field.
• Copy of passport
• 2 passport-sized photos (just in case)
• Final documents – air tickets, hotel vouchers etc.
• Credit cards, Traveler’s checks, Cash ($1, $5, $10 & $20 bills)
• Necessary items from Clothing section
• And lots and lots of Spirit for Adventure, an appetite for learning and patience & flexibility!!!