Leaving Tibet was a bit of a bittersweet experience. On the one hand, it was time to go. But we also left some unfinished business. We failed to complete our planned trek from Ganden to Samye due to altitude sickness. Well, that, at least, gives us a reason to return.
The good news, or so we thought, was that we would be taking the Lhasa to Beijing train, one of the high points of the trip. The scenery was outstanding, but poor service standards, choked toilets and continuous smoking would mar our memories of the ride.
Service standards are variable. Some of them are good, others are poor. And they have a peculiar habit of chasing away passengers from the dining car during non-meal times (I suspect this is so that the staff have somewhere to sit, rest and smoke). Incidentally, the food in the dining car turns out to be quite decent.
Toilets eventually become choked and unusable by even the most hardy. But to be fair, the staff do clean the toilets. So if a toilet looks too grim to use, return in a couple of hours and the situation should have improved. Bring your toiletries, towel and extra toilet paper with you.
No smoking signs, like pedestrian crossings, mean little in China. Even the staff smoke freely directly beneath the ‘No-Smoking’ sign in the dining car, and they do little to prevent other passengers from doing the same. The smoke permeates everywhere, so even if you retreat to your cabin, there is no escape.
The train is the best option for those arriving into Lhasa. But when leaving, I’d choose to fly out. Which way you choose to do it, the train is a must do, and will surely leave you with a memorable experience.
Photos from top:
Laura with our little cabin mate outside the train;
Scenery from the train: Mountain and Gateway;
Our two cabin mates checking out the scenery from our cabin;
More scenery: Nomad tents and yak herd;
Chilling out in our cabin;
Scored a watermelon! In the dining car with a gift from our cabin mates.