DAY 5 (2/4): MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.20
We get up at around 7am and got ourselves ready for the departure of our journey out of Lhasa. Leaving Trichang Labrang Hotel behind, we put on our backpacks and walked out to the community medical centre on Jiangsu Road to wait for our driver. We got the name and license plate from Pazu. At slightly after 8am, our driver Sangzhu (桑珠) arrived and we were all set to embark on our 6-day journey. Shannan (山南), or Lhoka (ལྷོ་ཁ།) in Tibetan, was the first destination. Bounded by Lhasa (拉薩 ལྷ་ས་) to the north, Nyingchi (林芝 ཉིང་ཁྲི་ས།) to the east, Shigatse (日喀則 གཞིས་ཀ་རྩེ་གྲོང) to the west and the international border of India and Bhutan to the south, Shannan is considered as the legendary birthplace of the Tibetan people. The landscape of Shannan is dominated by the middle and lower sections of the Yarlung Valley and Tibet’s most important waterbody Yarlung Tsangpo River (雅魯藏布江), as we had seen it from the sky upon our arrival at Gonggar Airport by plane.
We hit the road out of Lhasa before 8:30am.
Under the morning sun, the highland barley fields and distant mountains signified we had entered the southern countryside of Lhasa.
On Provincial Highway 101, we stopped by a lookout by the Yarlung Tsangpo River (雅魯藏布江).
As the longest river in Tibet, Yarlung Tsangpo River originates from the Angsi Glacier in western Tibet. From the lookout, the Yarlung Tsangpo River continues to run downstream into India and Bangladesh known as the Brahmaputra River. From the lookout, we could see the desert environment of large sand dunes along Yarlung Tsangpo River.
We continued to drive along the south side of Yarlung Tsangpo River until reaching Tsetang (澤當), the capital of Shannan region and the fourth largest city in Tibet. Sangzhu stopped the vehicle at the regional security office to register our travel plan.
Near Tsetang (澤當), Sangzhu drove us to the nearby Yungbulakang Palace (雍布拉康 ཡུམ་བུ་བླ་སྒང།) to check out the supposedly the oldest structure in Tibet, and the legendary palace of Nyatri Tsenpo, the first king of Tibet in the second century BC. Later in the 7th century AD, it became the summer palace of Songtsen Gampo and Wencheng Princess, and turned into a Gelug monastery in the 17th century.
Erected atop a high ridge, the legendary Yungbulakang Palace was heavily damaged during the Cultural Revolution. The palace then went through extensive reconstruction in 1983.
As we saw the long flight of stairs up to Yungbulakang Palace, we began to discuss how long it might take to reach the palace from the parking lot. We soon realized that the palace was closed to the public due to a $1.5m restoration work. That left us no choice but to turn back to the car.
Our visit to Yungbulakang turned out to be a brief photo stop. We soon returned to the Tsetang (澤當) for lunch. Sangzhu took us to Abba Home Tibetan Restaurant, one of the Lonely Planet recommended local restaurant.
Featuring traditional seating, the interiors of Abba Home Tibetan Restaurant was cosy and welcoming. Almost all customers were locals.
We ordered three dishes, including the local yak beef, and invited Sangzhu to join us.
For touring in Shannan, many jeep tours would stay at Tsedang for the night. Sangzhu suggested to stay in a smaller town further down the journey so we could save an hour’s drive at the next day. We decided that we would stay at Samye (桑耶鎮), the village where we would visit Samye Monastery, the first monastery in Tibet and probably the most important attraction in Shannan. After lunch, we were on our way to Samye at the north side of Yarlung Tsangpo River. On the way, we stopped by another beautiful lookout filled with vivid prayer flags.
From the lookout, we could once again admire the arid landscape of the Yarlung River Valley.
It was refreshing to take in the open scenery of the surrounding sand dunes and mountains.
The wind was really strong and we couldn’t stop for long at the lookout. After a few photos, we continued the journey towards Samye (桑耶鎮).
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More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet