JMG Tibet Tours to Beijing & Tibet

I was quite surprised at the modern Beijing. There are skyscrapers everywhere. The city will host the 2008 Summer Olympics, so there is construction everywhere too.

My 20-day tour with JMG Tibet Tours (Lauderhill, FL), Oct. 5-24, 2005, was wonderful and cost $3,100 including air from Cleveland. (In 2007 this tour is offered as an 18-day tour, air not included, for $2,895, with single supplement $550.)

Our 13-person group spent four nights in Beijing seeing the usual sights, with an all-day excursion to the Great Wall — impressive! We took a cable car up to where we could walk on the wall itself. As we were descending, we were besieged by vendors selling everything from T-shirts to cameras.

En route to and from the Great Wall, we saw people building new roads by hand with pickaxes, shovels and sledge hammers and passed villages where men, women and children worked together harvesting beans by hand — quite a contrast to modern Beijing.

On day five we took an early flight to Lhasa, Tibet, via Chengdu. After landing, we were met by our in-country guide, who would be with us for the entire tour.

Our hotel was close to the main market, which defies description — literally thousands of stalls, selling everything imaginable. None of the items had prices. You asked for a price, and the vendor entered it into a calculator for you to see, then you scoffed at his price and entered your own. Bargaining was expected.

In Lhasa we saw the beautiful red-and-white Potala Palace, once the summer residence of the Dalai Lama, and the Jokhang Temple, built in A.D. 674, one of the most revered temples in Tibet.

Visiting pilgrims carry large containers filled with yak butter wax that they pour into the many candles that adorn the temple. It has a peculiar smell that most of us would find offensive. The pilgrims also chant as they wend their way through the temple, fingering their rosary-like beads. The smell of incense permeates the air. People also walk the street spinning their prayer wheels.

I knew I had to be very careful not to drink any water except bottled water, but I must have not followed this advice because I became very sick and dehydrated. That was on the day we traveled to the Tibetan Everest Base Camp — 200 miles over very rough, gravel roads. To say it was a rough day for me would be an understatement.

Our tour director called ahead to our hotel there, in Xigatse, and within 20 minutes of our arrival a doctor came to my room. He took my vitals, gave me a shot and four IVs and monitored me for four hours, communicating through an interpreter. Later, he came back to check on me and present his bill: CNY285 (about $35) for all of this treatment.

From Xigatse we climbed for hours in five Land Rovers to Everest Base Camp. At the top of the Pang-La Pass, at 17,060 feet, we passed under an arch decorated with prayer shawls. There in front of us, not 30 miles away, was one of the most spectacular vistas I have ever seen: the Himalaya Mountains, with four of the world’s 10 highest peaks (Makalu, at 27,766 feet the fifth highest; Lhotse, fourth at 27,940, Everest, 29,035, and Cho Oyo, sixth at 26,906 feet). The weather was beautiful and the sun shone brightly off of all of them.

After more driving, we rounded a corner and there, in all its splendor, was the north face of Everest. I marveled at it and took many pictures. It’s a scene I’ll remember forever.


Ontario, OH