Archive for February, 2007

Travel Permits


I may be travelling from Hong Kong (and be a permanent HK Identity Card holder) but when it comes to traveling in Tibet or even China that doesn’t count for much at all.  I am still counted as a British Citizen and British Passport holder.  As such, I need both a Chinese Visa and Tibet Travel Permit to travel in through both countries as I plan to do, so I am in the same boat as those travelling from Europe or the US so this information in not only useful to HK travellers.  As for a Nepali VISA, you (and I) will need one too.

Nepal Visa
Easy to get hold of.  Charges vary depending on where you come from.  In my case, a Nepali VISA is going to set me back HK$300 (around USD30/GBP15) and I found all the information here, but thats only useful for HK visitors.  For everybody else, ‘Google’ the Nepali Consulate in your own country and you will generally find the information without too much hassle.

Tibet Travel Permit
There are several ways to get hold of a Tibet Travel permit.  You will need it before you enter Tibet so don’t rely on picking one up on arrival.  You can get it through an agency, or from your city of departure etc.  If you are taking an organised tour (i.e. Kathmandu to Lhasa overland) it is likely your organisers will be able to hook you up.  Just make sure you have it, it’s cheap (USD7) and not worth the fine and being kicked out to avoid.  Some more useful information is here.  However, if you are coming from Kathmandu into China there is an additional charge of USD20, more information on why this is below.  Also, if you are coming from Kathmandu you TTP will only be issued if you are travelling in a group.  Don’t worry, two people constitutes a group so don’t think you will need a bus full of people to get through.

China Visa
If you are performing this trip from Lhasa to Kathmandu there are no problems.  Organise a Chinese VISA through your consulate or agency as usual and, providing you have your Tibetan and Nepali travel permits, you should have little problem making your way from China to Tibet to Nepal.  HOWEVER, (and this is a big however) if you are entering Tibet from Kathmandu the situation is VERY different.  There is a weird rule between China and Nepal that states that any Chinese VISA will be voided on entry to Nepal.  In other words, you can only get your Chinese VISA whilst in Kathmandu.  So make sure you get on this as soon as you arrive (I will be!) and you should have no problems.  In addition, this will also increase the cost of your Tibet Travel Permit by USD20.  Awkward eh?

It sounds complex, but so long as you pay particularly attention to making sure you have your papers in order, by all accounts, you should be fine.  As for myself, I guess time will tell but I will certainly be making sure no stone is left unturned.  I really don’t want this trip ruined by technicalities.

I gathered this information from a variety of sources but by far the most useful was this entry from the excellent Life on the Tibetan Plateau blog.


Coloured Paper Wow

Just had to post on Jen Stark’s amazing artwork.  Normal coloured paper, cut, sliced and shredded into amazing constructions…


Nepal! Tibet! Cripes!


Wow! So I just went and bought a one way ticket to Kathmandu.  Looks like the beginning of another interesting trip, and I will be charting each stage of the planning (and eventual execution) on this blog.

 My plan so far is this:

– Arrive Kathmandu 1st May
– Spend 7 – 10 Days in and around Kathmandu
– Perhaps 2-3 Days at Gaida or another wildlife park so I can go see some Rhinos and Tigers or something.
– A wee bit of chillage and beer time.

Then I want to get overland from Kathmandu to Lhasa somehow.  My research has shown this to be a pretty popular route with dozens of companies offering the service at vastly differing prices so booking in Kathmandu shant be too difficult.

However, I definitely want to see on the way:
– Rhongpur Monastry
– Perhaps a trek up to Everest Base camp
– Shigatse (Highest Monastary in the World…pretty DAMN high)
– Gyantse

– 7-10 days in Lhasa.
– Go see the Potala and other religious sites
– Markets and yak butter!

Finally I am going to get hold of a train ticket from Lhasa-Guangzhou (a mere hour from Hong Kong).  Failing that I will have to get one from Lhasa to anywhere else in China, then navigate my way back to Hong Kong.

I can’t find a combination on my keyboard to draw you a smiley to describe how I feel right now but it is somewhere between excitement, apprehension, joy and hunger.  I think the hunger can be taken care of pretty soon though.  Despite sounding a little reckless I have research broadly into most areas and none of this is particularly hard to facilitate.  This is a very well travelled route, support and advice is aplenty and some of these ideas are well into their planning stages.  So despite next to nothing being booked or planned already, things should be fine. 

The thing is, you can plan all you want but until you take the dive you never know how it will turn out.  I have thinking about this trip for a long time, the time has finally come to make it real.

Why you don’t want to drive in Vietnam…

The worst feeling in the world may be sitting here at my desk, my suit rubbing against my still fresh sunburn, and my mind wandering off into memories of the last week.  Actually, that may be the best feeling.  I still can’t figure it out but it definitely a feeling of one sort or another; I am not too good at identifying these things.  One thing is for sure though, giving the chance I would be back in Ho Chi Minh right now seeing out the rest of the Tet festivities.  Despite being a short trip we managed to cram a fair bit into the time as well as get some high quality nothing done too, so I’ll probably do this in a few parts to avoid one uber-post…

This one is dedicated to motorbikes…

We arrived pretty in HCM after a pretty uneventful flight.  Hong Kong to Vietnam is only a 2 hour hop, so I just snoozed for a while because the in flight entertainment was a documentary on tigers that I had already seen.  After which, we were met at the airport by Samantha’s parents and their driver.  That’s right, for the rest of the trip we would have a driver.  How fancy am I?  It turns out having a driver in Vietnam is not so uncommon for western expatriates who have need transport within the big cities.  A driver’s fees are guaranteed to be more than taking a taxi or, of course, driving yourself, however, it’s not as lazy as one might think.  It’s just that driving in Ho Chi Minh City, especially around a major festival, is not an activity for the faint of heart.

Small motorcycles, such as the Honda Cub, are the vehicle of choice in Vietnam.  They are practically a national emblem.  They should be on the flag and I am sure they sing about them somewhere in the national anthem in between something about the glory of communism and whooping the Americans.  Everybody has one, and during Tet, everybody is on holiday too and free to do their thing.  ‘Their thing’, it would seem, is for everybody and their dog to hit the street on their bikes and ride around the main areas of the town in their hundreds of thousands with no apparent aim or destination. The result is total chaos.  There are bikes everywhere from the roads, to the pavements and even inside buildings and shops.  In fact, driving back from the airport the bridge we needed to cross to get to our destination was so clogged with bikes we gave up and had to take a massive detour to the next bridge along the river, turning the 30 minute drive to and from the airport into a 2 hour odyssey through the only marginally less crowded back streets of Ho Chi Minh (which, of course, we would never have found without a driver).

It is not the only sheer density of traffic which warrants the service, it is also safety.  Traffic lights mean nothing, personal safety also seems to be relatively insignificant except, strangely, when it comes to air quality.  Despite the fact that most bikers are content to drive (one handed) at 50mph directly through a red light without a helmet, almost everybody on the bike (anywhere between 2 and 5 people, plus livestock/goods) will be wearing a mask over their nose and mouth to protect them from the fumes.  Go figure.

Sitting in the car your worry turns from your own personal safety to the safety of others.  Besides, if one of these little mosquito bikes hit us, we wouldn’t be the ones in trouble.  Mr. Ha was an amazing driver and could weave the 4×4 between seemingly impossible gaps whilst avoiding knocking over any bikers or even denting a panel, however, he would be totally blameless if somebody were to slam into the side of the car.  Over the couple of days I was there I took a few shots out of the window of our car, or from the sides of roads while we were out and about enjoying Ho Chi Minh City. 

Forest for the Trees
Tet Parade
More Motorbikes

That in (not so) short, is why you don’t want to drive in Vietnam.

Project 365 Update

Wow, my little trip to Vietnam really threw me off the pace on my project 365 and I am little bit behind.  The photos are all taken but just lying around on memory cards of different shapes and sizes.  Now I am back in Hong Kong it is time to catch up before my next trip in April so here are my photos from the week of 11th – 17th Feb:

Getting Ready to Go... (p365 43)She's Not Around Here Anymore (p365 44)High Key Samantha (p365 45)Lai See Tree (p365 46)Lunar Tangerines (p365 47)Happy (p365 48)Street Artist (p365 49)

Vietnam Photographs (Part. 1)

Captured Chopper
I have uploaded one batch of my photographs from Vietnam to Flickr.

 Go look!

Just Imagine…

Korean Photographer/Artist Yeondoo Jung turns the crayon drawings of children into photographs.  They’re awesome, so just go look…