Tibet, China, with Ceylon Express

By Nili Olay
This item appears on page 32 of the April 2017 issue.
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China had been on my list for a while, but it wasn’t until my husband, Jerry, saw a Viking Cruises brochure that included Tibet that we became inspired. On a trip to Bhutan in 2006, we had heard a great deal about Tibet’s being the source of Bhutan’s Buddhism, so we wanted to learn more about Tibet.

I began to research options, but most tours (including Viking’s) were just two weeks and either included Tibet and excluded the Li River and/or the Chengdu panda reserve or vice versa. These trips stayed only one or two days in each location, but I wanted a more in-depth trip.

It was at this time that Varini de Silva of Ceylon Express International (Huntington Beach, CA; 800/423-9566, www.ceylonexpress.com) called to thank me for writing up the Sri Lanka trip we took with that company (Sept. ’15, pg. 26). She expressed an interest in putting together a private tour for us to Tibet, China.

I wanted a trip that would last about three weeks, include all of my must-see places and stay at least two days (but preferably three) at each location.

A week later, Varini came up with the perfect itinerary: three nights in Beijing; two in Xi’an; three in Lhasa, Tibet; three in Chengdu to see the pandas; two in Guilin for a Li River cruise; a 3-night Yangtze River cruise, and three nights in Shanghai.

We chose to stay in 5-star hotels, and, including a $250 repeat-client discount, the cost of the Sept. 7-26, 2016, trip was $6,500 for each of us. International airfare was $1,031 per person; we flew Air Korea from New York’s JFK Airport to Beijing and returned from Shanghai via Seoul, Korea.

The hotels all were marvelous, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing, except maybe adding an extra day in Beijing and one in Guilin.

Lhasa, Tibet, did not disappoint. Although we felt the architecture was not as beautiful as Bhutan’s, it was similar. 

Tibet has an old charm, which modern China is missing. We watched the pilgrims, in traditional dress, prostrating in front of the Jokhang Monastery. We learned a great deal about the Dalai Lamas and saw the compound in Lhasa where each built his residence.

We also visited the Sera Monastery. Before the “cultural revolution,” the monastery had housed three schools and 8,800 monks. Now there are only 200 monks, and local children go to public schools instead of studying in the monastery.

Other highlights in China included climbing the Great Wall, seeing the Terracotta Army in Xi’an, viewing the unusual mountains along the Li River (I now look at Chinese paintings with new eyes), meeting lots of panda babies at the reserve, visiting the Zhujiajiao Water Town just outside Shanghai, and eating Peking duck in Old Beijing.

Outside of Tibet, China is a very modern country with high-rise apartment buildings, new subways and lots of traffic. We quickly learned to add extra time for airport transits. Luckily, there was no pollution in Beijing during our stay. 

I’ll be happy to provide more details. Write to niliolay@yahoo.com.

NILI OLAY

New York, NY

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

China had been on my list for a while, but it wasn’t until my husband, Jerry, saw a Viking Cruises brochure that included Tibet that we became inspired. On a trip to Bhutan in 2006, we had heard a great deal about Tibet’s being the source of Bhutan’s Buddhism, so we wanted to learn more about Tibet.

I began to research options, but most tours (including Viking’s) were just two weeks and either included Tibet and excluded the Li River and/or the Chengdu panda reserve or vice versa. These trips stayed only one or two days in each location, but I wanted a more in-depth trip.

It was at this time that Varini de Silva of Ceylon Express International (Huntington Beach, CA; 800/423-9566, www.ceylonexpress.com) called to thank me for writing up the Sri Lanka trip we took with that company (Sept. ’15, pg. 26). She expressed an interest in putting together a private tour for us to Tibet, China.

I wanted a trip that would last about three weeks, include all of my must-see places and stay at least two days (but preferably three) at each location.

A week later, Varini came up with the perfect itinerary: three nights in Beijing; two in Xi’an; three in Lhasa, Tibet; three in Chengdu to see the pandas; two in Guilin for a Li River cruise; a 3-night Yangtze River cruise, and three nights in Shanghai.

We chose to stay in 5-star hotels, and, including a $250 repeat-client discount, the cost of the Sept. 7-26, 2016, trip was $6,500 for each of us. International airfare was $1,031 per person; we flew Air Korea from New York’s JFK Airport to Beijing and returned from Shanghai via Seoul, Korea.

The hotels all were marvelous, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing, except maybe adding an extra day in Beijing and one in Guilin.

Lhasa, Tibet, did not disappoint. Although we felt the architecture was not as beautiful as Bhutan’s, it was similar. 

Tibet has an old charm, which modern China is missing. We watched the pilgrims, in traditional dress, prostrating in front of the Jokhang Monastery. We learned a great deal about the Dalai Lamas and saw the compound in Lhasa where each built his residence.

We also visited the Sera Monastery. Before the “cultural revolution,” the monastery had housed three schools and 8,800 monks. Now there are only 200 monks, and local children go to public schools instead of studying in the monastery.

Other highlights in China included climbing the Great Wall, seeing the Terracotta Army in Xi’an, viewing the unusual mountains along the Li River (I now look at Chinese paintings with new eyes), meeting lots of panda babies at the reserve, visiting the Zhujiajiao Water Town just outside Shanghai, and eating Peking duck in Old Beijing.

Outside of Tibet, China is a very modern country with high-rise apartment buildings, new subways and lots of traffic. We quickly learned to add extra time for airport transits. Luckily, there was no pollution in Beijing during our stay. 

I’ll be happy to provide more details. Write to niliolay@yahoo.com.

NILI OLAY

New York, NY