We are very happy to have Pazu Kong, one of our favorite local hosts on our round the world tour, to answer your top Tibet travel questions. Today, we will address some of the most common questions on best places and time to visit Tibet. Then next Wednesday, Pazu will share his recommendations on the logistics of how to get to Tibet. He’ll even include a sample travel itinerary that you’ll find very valuable too!
Now, let’s be honest. Traveling to Tibet is not easy. If you thought getting to Tibet was hard, just wait until you try and get into Tibet. There are a number of travel requirements that one must satisfy in order to be allowed in, many of which seem to change way too often.
But, for you few persistent and fortunate souls who manage to get in, what you will see in Tibet is a timeless place where spirituality takes precedence over morality, a place where we come to terms with the harsh reality of life there and hope to achieve the ultimate goal of enlightenment.
We were very fortunate to have picked Pazu to organize our tour in Tibet (note: you must join an organized tour to go to Tibet, no exception.) So, from the confusing chore of organizing delivery of the travel permit to the mundane task of helping us navigate the impossible alleyways in Lhasa late at night (when it was so dark, that a flashlight only served to show us how lost we really were), Pazu was there for us every step of the way. His hospitality was truly unmatched, and we hope sincerely that you will be fortunate enough to work with him to schedule your Tibet travel as well
Disclaimer: With this glowing review, you must be wondering what’s in it for us to recommend Pazu? Well, nothing. We are not related, and we received no compensation or special treatment whatsoever. In fact, this post is written months after we left Tibet, and is purely there to help you travel to Tibet as well.
Tibet Travel General Tips
OnTheGroundTravel: Tell us about how you discovered Tibet and ended up settling there.
Pazu: I was born in Hong Kong and came to Lhasa as a traveler in 2001. At the time, I stayed in Lhasa for 3 months, discovered that I really loved it and decided to travel to other Tibetan areas for another 6 months, learning the Tibetan language and culture. After I left Tibet, I always thought of coming back to Lhasa so I bought a bicycle and cycled from Bangkok, Thailand to Lhasa, Tibet. The cycling trip took 6 months. Once in Lhasa, I opened Spinn Cafe and Tours and settled down in Lhasa most of the time.
OnTheGroundTravel: Tibet is absolutely stunning. Where is your favorite place in the region?
Pazu: My favorite place is actually Lhasa. A lot of travelers pass it as a transit point, going to Everest Base Camp or Samye, but I do like Lhasa a lot. The Barkhor Circuit is a fascinating place, with lots of old and traditional buildings to hang around for many months. I remember walking down an alley one day with my Tibetan friend and I was surprised. I thought I knew all the streets in Barkhor, but somehow my friend showed me yet another new path. This is what makes Barkhor so interesting, like a maze, with so many small temples (some are less famous and free to enter).
Not far away from Lhasa lies several villages, I hopped on my bicycle and cycled around with no destinations, just roaming around. We cycled up to a monastery on a mountain, spent some time reading. This is my most favorite way to spend time with my friends. There is always something interesting, I found it hard sometimes to concentrate on a book, then voila, I could finish it on top of a monastery in a mountain! There must be some special spiritual energy in the mountain.
As I was born in a big city, while I love the rural side, city atmosphere is important to me. I love Lhasa as you can find good restaurants (Tibetan, western, muslim, vegetarian, Chinese, etc.), good infrastructure (fastest internet in Tibet is of course in Lhasa), good bookshops (but I use Kindle most of the time, so this is not as important as in the past).
OnTheGroundTravel: What is it about Tibet that most intrigues you?
Pazu: People, definitely the people. Even an atheist Tibetan would have Buddhism implanted in their hearts (Well, most Tibetans are actually Buddhists, but theoretically speaking, government workers are supposed to be “atheist,” at least in the name anyway). It is interesting to see how people implemented the teaching of buddhism in practical life. The way how Tibetans interact with others, how not to take advantage of them, and how Tibetans believe in the working of karma, etc.
OnTheGroundTravel: When is the best time to go to Tibet and why?
Pazu: Let’s talk about the “worst” time to go to Tibet. It’s actually not worst, but I found August not very enjoyable indeed – too many tourists (its supposed to be good for business, but I think it’s overwhelmed.) The best months are May and June, October and November. These are the months with less tourists, not too cold or hot, most roads are opened, and hence simply the best time to come here.
OnTheGroundTravel: What’s the weather like in Tibet?
Pazu: No matter which month you come to Tibet, remember to bring enough warm clothes. Tibet can be cold and hot in the same day. Take Lhasa as an example, summer time (June to September) can be – 2 to 31 degrees Celsius in one single day. Raining is frequent. In winter time (November to April), it can drop to -10 to 18 degrees Celsius.
In terms of clothing, it is best to take whatever you think is appropriate for an environment of around -5 degrees Celsius and 20 degrees Celsius. So yes, you will have to bring two sets of outfits.
OnTheGroundTravel: What are the top mistakes that you think travelers make when planning to go to Tibet?
Pazu: A lot of travelers thought of Lhasa only as a transit point, which is a mistake I think. There is simply so much to see here. It would be nice to give yourself at least 3 or 4 days in Lhasa, just to explore the town itself. It’s also a good idea to spend a few days in Lhasa as acclimatization.
Nothing is actually worst (because you can always find something worse…), but… a serious mistake that some travelers make is to spend too little time for acclimatization, or do not listen to their body. I remember a young traveler who looked very sick, his friends thought he was sick, the driver knew he was sick, the tour guide was very worried, but the young traveler insisted to go to the Everest Base Camp. He had to turn back after leaving Lhasa for a few hours. I think this was a serious mistake.
OnTheGroundTravel: When we were Lhasa last year, we were in the city for a few days, and were never bored so we definitely agree it’s a wonderful place to visit. Thanks for sharing! Next week we’ll pick your brain about how people can navigate the challenges with getting into Tibet so they too can experience Lhasa and nearby places!
Are you planning a visit to Tibet? Come back next week on Wednesday, when Pazu will share his thoughts on making it into Tibet.
Want to learn more about our adventure there? We’ll be writing a series on Tibet in July and you won’t want to miss that. Better yet, subscribe via email or RSS so you don’t miss an update! Comment and let us know if you have any other questions.
About Pazu Kong: Pazu is the owner of the Spinn Cafe and Tours, located in Lhasa, Tibet. His company has been organizing tours in Tibet since 2008. The best way to reach Pazu is via the email address located here: http://cafespinn.com/en/aboutus/index.html
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