I took the Tibet Discovery 5 day tour of Lhasa and Lake Namtso with my girlfriend. I found... read more
I took the Tibet Discovery 5 day tour of Lhasa and Lake Namtso with my girlfriend. I found... read more
Ms. Zeng from Tibet discovery did really excellent job when organizing the trip. The local guide... read more
I contacted several tour companies while researching a proposed trip to Tibet. Lyn Wang at Tibet Discovery was the most responsive of the agents that replied to me and the company offered the best rates for my available dates, which included one day longer than their standard Lhasa tours. The guides that were assigned to me were local guys that were extremely friendly and knowledgeable. I really loved my time there -- the people, sights and food were amazing -- and found the tour worthwhile and a good value. I definitely plan to return to Tibet in the future to venture outside of the capital and wouldn't hesitate to use Tibet Discovery again, though I would prefer to work with a Tibetan-owned operator.
I must also mention one snafu. I was traveling solo and had signed up for a group tour to lower costs, but the couple who I joined on the tour said they had specifically requested and paid for a private tour. This didn't have any effect on my enjoyment of the tour, since I expected other travelers, but they were a bit peeved with the company. I can't say how it happened or how it was resolved, but felt it should be mentioned for my review to be accurate.
I took the Tibet Discovery 5 day tour of Lhasa and Lake Namtso with my girlfriend.
I found Tibet Discovery to be an excellent customer focused tour company. My travel consultant, Wendy, was very helpful in answering my initial questions and sending me different options for my tour. She also assisted me with booking internal flights from Chengdu to Lhasa and ensured that my Tibet Travel Permit was waiting for me on arrival in my Chengdu hotel.
We took a private tour, which meant we had our own personal guide and driver for the duration of our stay. We were greeted by our guide on arrival at the airport and presented with traditional white scarves (khata), which was a nice touch and made us feel very welcome.
It turned out that October was a good time of year to visit. The mild, sunny days with clear blue skies meant we got to enjoy some amazing views.
The hotel, which was part of the package, was comfortable and conveniently located in central Lhasa with shops and restaurants nearby.
Our guides were very knowledgeable. We had the opportunity to see all the main sights in Lhasa with plenty of time at each location. Potala Palace was definitely the highlight.
After the day's tours were done we had the evenings to ourselves. We took a long night-time walk. Potala Palace looks even more amazing lit up at night. I found Lhasa to be a very safe city and people were friendly.
Lake Namtso was more challenging. It's an amazing sight to behold. A blue tranquil wonder of nature. There is also some great scenery on the way but be prepared. It's a very long drive from Lhasa and part of the route is over unpaved mountain roads that rise to a peak altitude of approx. 5,200 metres. For me it added to the sense of adventure but it might not be for everyone. Our driver was very skillful so I never had any cause for concern. There's a new highway under construction though so I expect it's a destination that will be more accessible in the not too distant future.
We spent 1 night in Damxung to break up the journey back to Lhasa. The hotel there was more simple, as you would expect in a small town, but also comfortable and modern (underfloor heating).
The only downside to the trip was that my gf suffered from altitude sickness. It was the first time either of us had been to such high altitude. I was lucky and suffered only very mild effects but my gf was quite ill for a time. Our guides were very helpful and attentive, providing good advice and helping to source medication to alleviate the effects. Once she had climatised we were able to enjoy ourselves. We both travelled knowing that there were risks associated with visiting such a high altitude destination and my gf bravely persevered through the worst of it. I'll never forget how happy she looked when we finally arrived at Lake Namtso and she knew she'd gotten the better of it. Neither of us had any regrets about going.
Finally, great value too. I'd have never expected a trip of this quality could be so affordable. Highly recommended.
Ms. Zeng from Tibet discovery did really excellent job when organizing the trip. The local guide Dan was very knowledgeable and always there to help. The trip was truly amazing and memorable experience.
If you want to visit Tibet, I really recommend you to use the service of Tibet Discovery and Ms. Zeng as trip organizer.
Chengdu to Lhasa and Namtso Lake.
The tour arranged with Tibet Discovery worked very well for me and my specific itinerary.
Wendy from Tibet Discovery was very quick to reply to my emails, I believe always within 24 hours, often sooner. Due to work commitments I had to book with very little time before my trip and they managed to get it done in 2 days less than the advertised minimum time, perhaps I was lucky or perhaps they moved some mountains to make it happen… I will never know, but had they have met their advertised time I would not have been able to visit Tibet. My specific itinerary meant it had to be booked as a private tour (tour guide and driver), which I was a little uncomfortable about in case I found the guide to be difficult to understand, or we just didn’t get on, however everything went well, my guide was a friendly and open young man of my own age (30ish) with very good English who was very informative and able to answer and query I had about what I saw.
The tour was 5 days (1 Chengdu – Xining by plane and Xining to Lhasa by overnight train, 2 Lhasa hotel transfer and relaxation/acclimatisation , 3 Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, & Barkhor Street, 4 Namtso Lake, 5 Transfer to Lhasa airport and flight back to Chengdu.
I have travelled to China twice before with little to no Chinese language, once with a friend going Hong Kong to Beijing overland for about 1 month. It was very nice this time to not have to worry about booking different flights and working out connections as this was all arranged by Tibet Discovery.
Tibet Discovery did suggest that with my limited time I might be better to visit things closer at hand to Lhasa than Namtso lake, as the 1 day tour there did take all day, and reached high altitude to which I had little time to acclimatise. Personally I wanted to see the beauty of the natural areas of the region, the highland plains, the mountain passes, and having seen photos of Namtso wished to stand on its shore myself. The 1 day trip there certainly provided this, although it is worth noting the train travels the same way as the road (for at a guess 2 hours drive) so if you have got the train in and been looking out of the window you will be seeing pretty much the same things for a few hours outside of Lhasa.
As a smoker I was (in my case) happy to find it was possible to smoke on the train between carriages where ash trays were provided for part of the trip. At I think Golmud (which we got to at 10pm) the ash trays were removed and smoking was not allowed from that point onwards, I suspect due to the altitude and oxygenation of the carriages (this was fine by me) At the first stop of the morning I joined others who had rushed onto the platform to swiftly inhale half a cigarette in the circa 2 minutes before the whistle blew and the train pulled out again.
I was aware of and concerned by altitude sickness, and with this in mind took with my some medication to lessen its effect if needed. In the end I did not need to use any of the medication. I stayed hydrated, and although I did consume some alcohol I was careful about how much I drank (if you do go to Lhasa try the Tibetan Barley Wine, a sweet creamy drink that went down very well) I did smoke throughout the trip but less than normal, at home I could jog up 2 flights of stair and be breathing heavier a minute later but otherwise be unaffected, In Lhasa jogging up 2 flights I could take 3 further steps and then be panting for breath. The only other effect of altitude I noted was slight pressure in the head occasionally, perhaps like the beginning of a headache but never becoming painful just a sensation of pressure that was enough to notice.
There is a small restaurant/eaterie just inside the Monastery (door on the left) at Namtso which although basic was very tasty and cooked on a small wood fired stove in the middle of the room. Butter Tea is something I would recommend trying but not after a heavy meal as I did…. For me it was just too heavy and buttery, however my guide had mentioned that it would normally be drunk in the morning, in part to help protect the lips and stop them from chapping in the harsh climate, I can confirm for the following 2 days my lips were noticeably soft and I can imagine no way that they could have chapped!
Overall we had great experience with Tibet Discovery. Guides were attentive and knowledgeable, flexible. I find it was a good value for the price.
Our tour was very intense with couple of glitches because of delayed flight and Tibet visa, but otherwise was very well arranged. Our trip coordinator Lily Xu was excellent and always kept in touch. Highly recommend.
Overall we found the Tibet Discovery to be a good value for the price. Other than one glitch with the Tibet visas, the trip went smoothly. The initial stop was Shanghai and we were met promptly at the airport and driven to our hotel. The Sunrise on the Bund was older but remodeled, comfortable, clean and had a very good breakfast buffet. Tours around Shanghai by Lily were group tours which entailed a lot of hotel stops but we got a good feel for the city. The trip to the Zhujiajiao water town was a nice way to see the suburbs and try some local street food.
The glitch was that our Tibet visas were delivered to the hotel but not to us personally. We asked our guides repeatedly about their delivery but they were only responsible for their day trip, not anything else related to the larger tour. Finally we were told that the visas would be at the airport. Naturally they weren't and we were denied boarding on our 6:45 AM flight to Lhasa. We called Jack our tour agent and he booked us on a flight later in the day and we returned to the hotel. The visas were with the concierge but under the wrong room so they were never delivered. After some give and take the tour company split the extra cost of the tickets and we made it to Lhasa late in the evening.
I can't say enough about our guide (Tensing) and driver (Soonam) in Tibet. We had booked a small group tour but there were no other customers so we had a private tour in a good sized Hyundai van with plenty of room to stretch out. Tensing was exceptionally knowledgeable about Buddhism and the history of the monasteries that we visited. They were very helpful with the adaptation to the altitude (Lhasa 11,995 ft), Shigatse (12,615 ft) and Everest Base Camp (17,065 ft). They recommended a herbal supplement that really helped and arranged an oxygen tank in Shigatse for the Everest trip that really helped my wife, who had pneumonia two years ago. Even though we live at 7300 ft, the altitude is tough.
Shangbala Hotel in Lhasa was just fine. Comfy bed and a decent breakfast. Not a luxury hotel but quite nice for the price and in a good location. The Gesar hotel in Shigatse had problems with plumbing, toilet paper and noise but was sleepable. There is a new hotel at the property but we were booked in an old wing. It has an elaborate breakfast buffet but is almost entirely Chinese dinner banquet food. We had trouble finding something palatable for early morning. Lack of appetite at altitude is a very real problem.
Given that we spent 8 days in Tibet and much of that on the road, we couldn't have asked for more enjoyable companions. Good humor mixed with in-depth knowledge of the country and its culture. We would highly recommend both driver and guide.
A couple of words on trip preparation: Chinese visas for Americans are expensive and time consuming so start early. The visa fee is $140 US but by the time you go through a service it is over $500 for two. Be aware that the quoted trip price does NOT include return fare from Lhasa to Shanghai, only the outbound fare. It is another $1000 for the return. However, this is not bad considering quoted fares from Shanghai to Lhasa, which were more than twice the price of the flight from the US to Shanghai.
Summary. A pretty good deal for the price and a willingness to fix problems as they arose. One suggestion would be for more communication among guides and the tour company. It appears that the guides are independent contractors and only responsible for their part of the tour. More team work would help avoid problems. We would use again.