13 Sites I Spied in China
Jade Lake, Tibet
While waiting at the gate in the Chongqing Airport to take the fifth of 13 flights, a two-hour hop to Tibet, I manage to send an email over the airport's free Wi-Fi connection and found myself on Google(GOOG) Earth.
To land in Lhasa, you fly at the level of the mountain peaks and spiral down into a valley filled with modern buildings, billboards and power lines. Skies over Tibet are clear and blue, absent pollution and the normal amount of oxygen. Don't lose the baggage tag stickers; they do check them upon exit of Lhasa Airport baggage claim.
Lhasa boasts 3,000 hours of sunshine per year. Be sure to bring a hat, because at 12,000 feet of altitude you will have significantly less atmosphere between you and the sun than you may be accustomed to. The drive along the Lhasa River from the airport to our hotel shows ample plantings of trees meant to increase the oxygen supply. Every little bit helps.
The expressway from the airport is well paved, being only one month old. Our local guide, who can't talk about politics without the risk of losing his job, is celebrating 60 years of since the Chinese government "liberated" Tibet. While seashells can be found on mountaintops that used to be ocean floor, you will not find heavy industries as they have been banned by the Chinese to maintain Tibet's clean air.
We leave the Jarden Secret Hotel, which has free Wi-Fi in the lobby, after breakfast for the bus ride thru the mountain pass to observe the Jade Lake, also known as Yamdrok Yumtso or Holy Lake, from an altitude of 14,000 feet. As a precaution, we brought a can of air from the hotel room but did not need to use it. We reach the turquoise-colored lake in less than two hours. There is a nice chill in the September air, so a heavy shirt or light jacket is warranted. The view of the lake with the Himalayas on the horizon is spectacular.
On the way back down we see road crews digging out rocks and dirt from the mountainside to prevent road blockage by dumping the rubble over the cliff. This is done with a combination of old and new technology, including a Caterpillar(CAT) tractor scoop and branches bound together with twine to use as a natural broom.
For dinner, the fillet of yak at the Tibet Steak House was tender and delicious.