Few days in ‘heavenly’ Tibet!

Parash Mani Ghimire

Our flight time was at 11.45 AM. If the plane had taken off on time we would have landed at the Gonggar airport in Tibet. But we were still in the waiting ward of Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), Kathmandu.

D.k. Dai from Skylines tours was also there with me. As the group was big with 25 guests, he was there to make the trip run smoothly without any managerial hindrance. But it was not happening accordingly to our plan. It was already more than 4 hours, we were at the waiting ward. Our guests were feeling bored, we (D.k dai and me) were also bored but we were not showing that at all because we were from the management.

Our guests were roaming here and there! And asking us why is happening this? We also did not have any concrete answer. ‘Because of bad weather on Nepal’s side, the plane could not come and return to Tibet, and again going to fly from Tibet’, I tried to console them! We were waiting there. My eyes stuck  at the display board, ‘CA 408 Kathmandu – Lhasa delayed.’

After some time staff from Air china came and said, ‘flight has been delayed, we inform you all passengers of CA408 that you all can wait at the restaurant upstairs handled by Radisson hotel, Kathmandu, until the next notice. We have managed some reception there. So went to the reception at the restaurant. There were other people also. I saw Raj dai from Ramja tours also there. As I was busy with my group, had not seen him in the waiting ward downstairs. Raj dai was with a couple, as the couple was VVIP, he himself from the agency was there to extra take care of the guests because his travel agent had said to do that.

I managed two round tables for my clients and showed the refreshments item at the corner. My clients were queuing up for the reception. Raj dai managed another table for his VVIP clients and said about the refreshments. Raj dai, D.k dai and I sat in another table near to our clients and we also tried some refreshments item, that was boiled eggs, sausage, bread, morphine and tea, coffee. Although we were tired of waiting for many hours, we were relieved after the refreshments!

We were talking at the table, we saw a man in his black glass and wrangle geans and talking with an attractive lady with the dense white smoke of cigarettes, he was Nepali superstar Bhuwan Kc.  Some people were asking him to take photos with him. Raj dai also wanted to enjoy with his cigarettes but he did not have a lighter so approached Bhuwan Kc, greeted him, asked for the lighter, and started the conversation. D.k and I also greeted Mr. Kc and the lady and sat nearby them. We knew that they were there waiting for the flight to Bangkok like we were for the flight to Lhasa. After some time the announcement happened for the flight to Bangkok, so Mr k.c and the lady went for the flight. 

Our clients were spending the time with refreshments and nodding their heads in the tune of their talking. We saw Air China landing at the airport and became happy because the uncertainty of our flight was over. The staff of Air China asked us for the security check-in and to proceed with the flight. So after waiting for almost 6 hours at TIA Kathmandu. Finally, we were going to be boarded on the plane. The crew members of the air china greeted us with Nihao and Namaste and showed us the seats. Our plane took off. It was 5.45 PM. The sun was going to set, was seen so beautiful in the orange-yellow colour, although Kathmandu was not ordered and well managed like other capital cities but was seen big from the sky. We saw yellow terraces of rice field, some green terraces of vegetables, jungles, green mountains. It was seen as very beautiful. Although the staff of Air China was warnings the passengers not to take photos, I saw some of our clients were doing that. After some time we started to see snow-capped mountains.

Some of our clients were so curious to peer the view of Mt. Everest from the window of the plane that was asking the correct side for that with the air hostage and they were replying with their beautiful smile. It was really beautiful to see the view of the mountains from the sky. As the sun was setting, the view was seen so beautiful in golden color!

‘Ladies and gentlemen, after few times we are going to land in Gonggar airport Tibet’, I think it had become 1 hour and a half when our plane took off from TIA Kathmandu. But after the 10 minutes of the first announcement, there was the second announcement, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, because of bad weather we could not land at Gonggar airport, now we are heading to Chengdu airport, it takes 2 hours to reach there.’ So after flying almost one and half hour plane was diverted to Chengdu, Sichuan province, mainland China.

The airfare from Kathmandu to Lhasa is comparatively expensive than other international flights of the same distance and duration. The complex weather the condition could be the reason because of diverse weather patterns. These flights from Kathmandu to Lhasa often diverted to other airports!

After almost four flying hours, our plane landed at Chengdu airport. We were taken to the hotel. I think it was almost 12.00-midnight local time. We were said to be picked up at 3.30 AM tomorrow. So we had almost 3 and half hours for rest. D.k dai and I were in one room, the hotel where we were brought was not good as it should be but it was only for 3 hours so we did not mind that. Raj dai said to me that as his clients were In the business class were sent to a five-star hotel according to their standard! Raj dai was saying we (D.K and me)to go near there to have some beer but we said to him, ‘we want to have short sleep instead of drink.’

We did not know whether he went or not? But we switched off the lights and slept. As we were very much tired, it was good sleep although it was short!

We woke up by the wake-up call, did brush our teeth, washed our faces, did some preparation, and came down at the reception. Some people were already there and some were coming down from the lift! The two Chinese men from the hotel gave a box of bread with sauce. ‘Let’s say breast’ to everyone and said us to get on the bus which was outside of the hotel.

We arrived at the Chengdu airport for the flight to Lhasa. The flight was in time, we did securities check-in and get into the plane!

Chengdu airport was comparatively bigger than the TIA Kathmandu many planes were seen landing and taking off. All it was seen very systemic! Our plane took off for Lhasa.

After almost 2 hours and a half, our plane landed at Gonggar airport, Tibet. It was 8.30 AM local time.

It was the morning of 20 Sep. 2019, we were in Gonggar airport, Tibet. All the hills surrounding areas were covered by snow, was seen very beautiful. Comparatively cold than in Chengdu. It did not take long time for us to get our luggage. Then we came outside of the airport.!

Our local guide Nima was there waiting for us with placard, skylines tours !

I raised my hands toward him and he came near to us and asked us to follow him. We all went with him carrying our luggage. Mr. Tenzing, our Tibetan driver was waiting near the door of our bus with khadas in his hand. Nima welcomed all of us with khada and said us to get on the bus. Tenzing and his helper put our luggage on the roof of the bus and tied them properly so that they could not fell down!

Almost 2 hours driving from the airport, passing through wide roads and tunnels, we finally reached our hotel. We saw really good roads, tunnels and very sophisticated. The physical infrastructure that any modern city needs to have there in Lhasa, throughout the trip, the railway line (probably the highest rail network in the world) was amazing. We saw a big hoarding board of the communist party with their leaders (Mao, Jian Jing, Hu Jintao and Si Jing Ping) in red colours. They were welcoming us symbolically in their land.

There was a group of Nepali diaspora from Europe who were there for the trip to holi mountain kailas, to welcome them there was a yak dance (dancer were inside the dummy of yak), our clients really enjoyed that. They welcomed us in the lobby and serve us herbal tea.

Nima our local guide gave us introductory briefing of Tibet, saying what to do and what not to do! He advised the clients to drink more water and avoid alcoholic drink and if in case of dificulties showed the clinic at the corner of the hotel. He showed the souvenir shops inside the hotel to change Chinese currency, as it would be easier to them if they had local money. He gave the key of the room to the guests according to their paln and showed the restaurant for dinner and breakfast!

I had given my room no. to Mr. Alejandro, tour leader from Spain so that he could contact me if in.case!

D.k dai and I went to our room. As it was our first day in altitude both of us had some headache, but for me it was comparatively soft than that headache when i was in Tibet 2 years ago. We did some rest and had bath and after that we went to a nepali resturant for dinner, we ate there like in our home.

After the dinner we were sleeping at room, Alexandro called me and said, ‘hola paras, algunos del grupo, tuvieron dificultades de la respiracion por eso estoy con ellos en hospita (hello Paras, some people of the group got a repository difficulties so I’m with them here at hospital) and he said me to be with the rest of the group and to continue the tour.

Tomorrow morning after having breakfast, we went for the tour of Potala Palace and Jokhang temple. Potala Palace, the glory of Tibet, magnificent architecture, although it was quite difficult to climb the steps our clients really liked that. Jokhang temple was also very beautiful. Our guide explained to me then I translated that to the clients, it was a really interesting story.

After the tour, we went for lunch and we gave free time to the clients. Nima stayed with the group as they wished to go shopping with him.

The next day, we had a tour of Drepung monastery, Norbulingka, and Sera monastery. Norbulingka used to be a summer palace for the Dalai Lama, where the present Dalai Lama also had spent some of his time, had a beautiful garden. Drepung monastery was really hard to reach, almost at 4000 meters from sea level also has historic importance there in Tibet. The most interesting scene what our guests did feel was the debating session of monks. They were questioning and answering with their fellow mong with the clapping sounds of their hands, Lots of tourists were there to see that. It was really interesting.

After the sightseeing, we had  lunch at local restaurant. D.k dai was also at the hospital where our group members are getting their treatment with Mr. Alejandro.

After the sightseeing we returned to hotel. I was doing rest at the room. D.k dai also returned from hospital and said me that our clients were doing well.

Tomorrow morning, we were at the lobby afer the breakfast, I saw Alejandro comming from hospital with the guests. They were okay but still with oxygen bag at their hands. They went for breakfast, as they could not have any visit. Alejandro decided to have especial time with them. Alejandro and the people who could not join the group because of their respiration difficulties went for the tour, we stayed at hotel.

As all group members could not have time together, Alejandro organized a farewell dinner at the hotel.

Tomorrow morning 24 Sep 2019, after breakfast we departed to the airport from the hotel. Nima dropped us at the international terminal of the Gonggar airport. I gave him the white envelope which Ajenadro had given to me. Nima did bye to us with his smiley face. We all proceeded for check-in with the luggage in our hands. After securities check-in, we waited almost 1 hour in waiting forward and finally boarded in the plane then we flew back to Kathmandu leaving the heavenly land in our Memoriam!

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