Yes, boats. Expect the unexpected when traveling in Tibet. We've experienced so many wonderful things and now we have been on a tibetan boat.
I'll start from the beginning. Friday was our last day in Lhasa and we were all very sad to leave. Everyday Brett (tour leader), Belinda (Aussie passenger much like us) and the two of us would have breakfast together. Nothing major other than the fact that no matter who ordered first out of the four of us either Brett or myself got served our food first. Belinda no matter what she ordered was always served last and this was not isolated to one place. It seemed to be everywhere.
Yesterday she was served first. It was amazing. I commented on how this could possibly be a bad sign. Little did I know....little did I know.
First the drivers showed up to the hotel 30 minutes late. Not too big of a deal as long as all was well. Next we get out on the road and it is raining. Our first day of rain since getting into China\Tibet. It's also the coldest day we've seen.
We are supposed to be heading to a place called Samye. Samye is the first monestary in Tibet and it's also got a very unique shape. It is shaped like a mandala. It's supposed to be about a 4 hour drive from Lhasa.
So we're cruising along and we get to a bridge. There are a few big trucks on either side of the bridge that are basically blocking it off. Our guide (Champay) gets out of the truck and investigates. He finds out that the bridge is closed til 6 PM. That does us no good, the place we want to see will be closed by then. So our handy tour leader knows that there is a ferry and boat that will take you upriver and drop you off near Samye. After some discussion with our guide (Champay) we decide to skip lunch and head for the docks.
This should be pretty cut and dry. People do this all the time because getting a Land Cruiser isn't cheap right. Ummmmmmmm yeahhhh... So we get to the dock and the locals are not of the same calibur of nice as the locals in Lhasa. They seen foreigners witha Tibetan guide and they see money. Lots of it. It usually costs a native 3 yuan to go over on the boat. They wanted to charge us 25 per person and we'd have to wait for them to load some lumber on a boat. At this point we needed to get to Samye in time to walk around and see the place and leave enough time to get back and checkin to the new hotel near the airport.
After much discussion and a lot of bad karma we ended up agreeing to our own boat with our own driver for a great price of 190 yuan. Holy crap. We got gouged and it wasn't even close to being over.
It's basically a passenger barge. We make it up river on this boat. Not a great ride by any means but we made it.
Now we are across and I thought we'd be through the woods but no. We now have to get a ride to Samye. If we had the time we could have walked it in about an hour but time was not on our side. So there was a group of Tibetan men trying to gouge us for a ride. It normally cost 2 yuan per person. After much disscussion we got the great deal of 50 yuan for a round trip which included a very scenic ride for Brett standing on the back of the truck holding on for his dear live as we go through the crazy terrain near Samye.
We get there finally and grab a quick bite to eat and start touring the place. It was very cool. It could have been my favorite. The murals on the wall were awesome. The grounds were pretty cool. I can't wait to get the picutres on the site.
We leave Samye and head back to the boat. We get to the boat launch and low and behold there is a busload (literally) of people waiting for us so they can go back to the other dock. We figure we paid a big chunk of change to have our own boat and if they are going to load up a boat and ship us over in that that they could give us a discount since we paid for our own luxury barge. So the debating and discussions begain again. Luckily we only paid half up frount so we did have some leverage.
Those pricks wouldn't budge. Unreal, we ended up getting a very small discount but it's the point really. So we rode across with the natives (which is actually much nicer than having the thing to ourselves). We got into the Land Cruiser and left the dock hoping never to see it again.
After a an hour on the road or so we made it to our hotel. We were staying at the Airport Hotel near Lhasa (2 Hours south). It was a craphole of a place. We checked in just fine and needed to grab a bite to eat quick because we had an early morning date with Land Cruiser (5 AM start). We walked down the road to the dozen or so food joints and picked one.
We got in there and nobody spoke english and there wasn't a menu that had english either but that didn't stop us before and it wasn't going to stop us now. Brett who speaks passable chinese got his sheet of how to say different dishes in chinese and we ordered up some food. We ate well and asked for the bill. The lady who ran the joint added it up and it was going to be our most expensive meal on the trip. It was not even close to our best nor did we have obscene amounts. So after more bickering we lowered the price by 20 yuan and we left.
Another screw job for the foreigners right. Well, it is not over yet.
On our walk back we heard a lot of loud music coming from what we could figure was our hotel. All of us just laughed. I mean come on we just need a good nights sleep right. Not too much to ask right? We were right, the closer we got to our hotel the louder it got. So we wanted to find out where the music was coming from and it turns out there is a ballroom\dance floor on the 2nd floor. We are on the 3rd floor, right above it. We freaked out a little and then just figured we'd use our ear plugs.
It ended up not being to bad. We slept well and got up the next day at 5:00....what a long day.
We were about to embark on a long day of traveling in the Toyota Land Cruiser.