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Monday, September 19, 2011

First views of Tibet

It was a seven-hour trip from Shanghai to Lhasa, with a stopover in Xian. Both legs of the flight were delayed, which wasn't much of a surprise. Reasons range from the weather to air traffic control, but flights are reliably late in China - a good thing to know if you're rushing to catch a plane.

Flying into Lhasa was an incredible sight. The Tibetan capital lies 12,000 feet above sea level. I expected to see snow on the mountains & lush vegetation below. Instead I saw a beautiful landscape of rocky peaks & trickling river beds with lots of little villages populating the river valleys.

As the plane approached the airport, I got a closer look at the matrix of streams braided across the landscape. I thought of Alaska - could that be glacier melt? I wondered where all the glaciers were.

I stepped off the plane into a bright sunny afternoon. It was much warmer than I expected - I didn't need my light jacket at all.

Outside the airport a throng of tour guides held up signs, each with a different name printed on it. I found the sign with my name & nodded to the man holding it. I spoke to him in Chinese at first. He seemed taken aback, but quickly recovered.

Once we had our bags safely packed into the back of the all-terrain vehicle that would be our transportation for the week, our guide welcomed us to Tibet with traditional white silk scarfs.

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