Train Trip to Lhasa

The train from Beijing to Lhasa in Tibet takes 40 hours, and passes through some of the most stunning scenery in the world – across the top of the world. I took this amazing trip in November 2015.

(Credit for music: I regret to have lost my notes about the origin of it.)

2016, 10.59

Sitting on the sofa in my small flat in London talking with a friend about all the places we’d love to go…we found a link to this amazing train journey – and it only cost $100 for a soft sleeper on the train from Beijing to Lhasa! I had been to Lhasa 30 years before, when you could only go in a group, and everything was very highly controlled by the Chinese government. Well, it still is actually. I had, have, been in love with Tibet and the Tibetan people, and their amazing spiritual life that has been developed there over the centuries, and heartbroken by the destruction of much of that culture during and after the invasion by the Communist government in 1959. But in the past decade I have also been visiting China a lot, and have come to love and respect their own immense cultural and spiritual heritage. So on my next visit I suggested to my friend Naomi, who runs a Kung Fu and Zen Meditation School near Beijing, that it would be wonderful if we could take this train trip. She has also worked as a tour guide, and looking on the internet said that all the soft sleepers were booked up for a long time ahead, and foreigners needed a special pass, and it would be very difficult.

I had one week left before my visa ran out – but I emailed a couple of specialist travel agencies on the off chance – and lo and behold one of them said she could get me the pass – but it would take a few days… I could never have done it without Naomi, but finally the pass came through about half an hour before we had to leave, an Naomi managed to find 2 soft sleepers, and a flight back from Lhasa that would get me to the airport 3 hours before my flight left for London! The only trouble was that it was fully booked… But by this time I just figured that something would work out…

We took a taxi into Beijing where we met some other friends in a cafe and they helped me as I tried to pay the travel agent…but their bank didn’t recognise my credit card…or Paypal…we struggled for a couple of hours, but the train was due to leave and it was Friday night in Beijing… In the end the travel agent said I could pay in cash when I got to Lhasa, and we struggled through the crowds – you can imagine the traffic, the underground! and made the train with 10 minutes to spare!

Naomi had arranged for my heavy suitcase to be left in her school and assured me that her local taxi driver friend would meet us at the airport in Beijing with it in time for my flight back… Trust…Phew!

We found our lovely comfortable bunks shared with 2 other ladies. There were only a few foreigners on the train, by far the most travellers on this route are Chinese holidaymakers and even pilgrims. We had bought lots of food, as various internet sites had said the food on the train wasn’t very good – but actually it was fine, so we didn’t even manage to eat most of the things we had brought. They also suggested taking medicine for altitude sickness, but said we should have started taking it a week before. Ibuprofen is also meant to be helpful, and though I usually have lots, this time I only had some cold capsules so I took those – and was fine. It was a wonderful experience altogether – and we got the flight back in time…

The train takes 40 hours, and passes through some of the most stunning scenery in the world – right across the top of the world… I took this amazing trip in November 2015.

Now you can watch the movie!