I've had my travel bucket list and then I've had my EXTREME travel bucket list. My bucket list includes such places as Australia, China, Kenya, and Cambodia. They're all far away and exotic and take some effort to get to. But the EXTREME bucket list includes Easter Island, Antarctica & Tibet. That's my extreme travel triumvirate or ETT for all you acronym fans. All three are about as remote in the world as you can possibly get. All three invoke an aura of mystery. All three require numerous flights/sailings to reach and all three can only be reached during certain times of the year or on certain days of the week (usually depending on weather and season). My point is that you really have to want to go because the journey getting there is very difficult.
We've already discussed Easter Island in an earlier blog and Antarctica is yet to come for us in February. So that leaves Tibet. Tibet was part of our most ambitious journey ever in the summer of 2010. I admit it was tough and was part of my "while we're in the neighborhood" theory. I had been to India, but John had not. We had been wanting to visit Angkor Wat in Cambodia and check out Vietnam. I had always heard that Singapore was gorgeous. But above all, if we were going to that part of the world, I knew that I had to visit Tibet. Maybe it was watching "7 Years In Tibet" or reading "Lost Horizon". Maybe it was viewing documentaries about Tibet or seeing the protests around the time of the Beijing Olympics. Or maybe it's just my tendency to want to see parts of the world that are almost forbidden. Whatever it was, I was not going to go back to that part of the world without seeing Tibet.
So, we started the process in February. I managed to use frequent flyer miles into Delhi and out of Singapore which was a proud moment for me. Then we just needed the inter-continent flights and hotels. We got everything arranged and then started working on the visas. We needed visas for every country except Singapore. So, not only did it cost a huge amount just for the visas (in the neighborhood of $800), we also had to make sure our passports were sent to each consulate. Tibet was the big issue. You had to get a Chinese Visa and on top of that you had to have a Tibetan permit. You could only get a Tibetan permit from the travel company that you were working with in Tibet and you HAD to work with a Tibetan agency or you just don't get in. You must be escorted in Tibet at practically all times.
We had all our visas, even the Chinese visa, when the travel company we were working with in Asia told us that there was a problem getting the Tibetan permit. This was now April and we were leaving in early June so that was not something I wanted to hear. We were flying from Delhi to Tibet through Kathmandu, Nepal which was a pretty quick and direct flight. The Chinese authorities, however, do not allow just everybody to fly into Tibet and, in fact, they watch very carefully who flies in from Kathmandu. They watch so closely that they want to "eyeball" everybody before they issue them a permit. Our flight laid over only a couple of hours on a day that the Chinese embassy was closed and they, literally, want you to present yourself at the Chinese Embassy to get the permit. Well, that was obviously not going to work. So, 2 months into the planning we find that we are going to have to shake it all up or abandon going to Tibet all together. I repeat.....I was NOT going to go to that part of the world without seeing Tibet. If we flew in from China, it would not be a problem. So, we somehow managed to change our flight and instead of flying a couple of hours from Delhi to Kathmandu, we were to fly all night from Delhi to Guangzhu and Chengdu, China. That would bypass the "eyeballing" and then it was just an issue of getting the permit from the travel agency in China. That was going to require meeting a representative of the travel agency (SITA) in the Guangzhou airport and they would then literally hand us our permit.
I was not totally comfortable with this plan since we didn't have all our permits in hand before we left home and were leaving acceptance into Tibet up to someone meeting us in an airport in China. We would not have been allowed on the plane to Tibet in Guangzhou without this permit so it was pretty important that the travel agency actually met us. We wouldn't know if it all worked out until we got there so we were sort of flying by the seat of our pants. I was just a little nervous about it.
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