– Written by Isaac Roosa
I’m in bed at our hotel, trying to sleep. We’ve read so much about the fabled “Altitude Sickness,” and now it’s finally happening. Olena, by some miracle, is sleeping peacefully to my right. She had a headache and some carsickness on the bus ride to the hotel, but aside from that she’s been fine. I was also feeling generally ok, albeit a little tired from
travelling, until I tried to sleep. I just can’t seem to get enough air, and every time I almost drift off, I snap awake, gasping.
On the bed to my right, it sounds like my Dad is going through the same thing. Every few seconds he utters a big sigh, and tosses one way and turns the other. Look like it’ll be a long night! It’s only 7:30 PM and my alarm is set to wake us up at the same time AM. My mind tries to relax, and takes stock of the day’s events…
After the plane landed, we were told not to take ANY pictures at the airport because it’s a military airport, and God forbid some Western tourist posts a picture of a Chinese tank on WeChat. As we descended the staircase to the bus, I was reminded that we are still in China by the six or seven people shamelessly clicking away right next to the plane, heedless of the guards standing just two meters away. “Hey, no fair!” said Olena “I want to film!” After I’d seen that the guards weren’t reacting in the slightest to the obstreperous behaviour of the other passengers, I took out my own phone and started snapping too. “Go ahead and film” I said, grinning. “What are they gonna do, throw us in
This joke began to feel a bit too real as we passed the armored guards with AK-47s. It looked like they do take security pretty seriously here! We managed to get by them unscathed, and no arrests were made.
While we were waiting for our bags, I started to feel a bit lightheaded. Was it Altitude Sickness (I had decided it deserved the proper noun status) or just the expectation of it? Either way, it wasn’t bad enough to tempt me to buy the bottles of oxygen they were selling right next to me, or the alleged “Miracle Drink” that promised to erase your
symptoms. When our bags arrived, we stepped out into the Lhasa sunshine.
And man was it BRIGHT! My phone claimed it was only 16 degrees Celsius, but we all immediately discarded our extra layers. In the shade, 16 felt about right, but in the sun it could be as much as 25. No wonder everyone recommended bringing sun screen!
We’re at a family kitchen restaurant in Tibet. We are eating yummy, well-deserved Tibetan food for incredible prices. We have ordered two traditional Tibetan classics: bobi and momos. For Bobi, they gave us a large tray with lots of ingredients to make our own little burritos. We went for the vegetarian kind, and it was delicious! Same with the momos, which are a bit like deep-fried dumplings. My dad, of course, is sitting next to us devouring a large yak steak. To each his own!
This first day is already taking its toll on us. After we arrived at the airport and were welcomed by our guide, we boarded a bus to head to the center of Lhasa. It took about an hour, and along the way Olena got quite car sick. She does get car sick from time to time, so we wondered: was this normal, or Altitude Sickness striking already?
It turned out that the latter was much more likely. We arrived at our hotel and immediately plopped down on the beds. We were faced with a dilemma: stay in or go out to eat? We were very hungry, and we had heard about this amazing family kitchen nearby. According to Trip Advisor, it was the highest-rated restaurant in Lhasa. Was it worth the effort? We eventually decided yes, and we set out on the streets of Lhasa. My dad was even more tired than us, but he trudged on nonetheless!
For now, we skipped shopping at the many trinket shops along the main street of Lhasa. It was quite reminiscent of China, and Olena and I thought, not for the first time, that the culture here isn’t much different, at least these days. There’s a Tibetan layer of culture in the air for sure, but it’s a bit hidden under the newer Chinese façade. This struck me as a bit sad, and my heart went out to those who were still trying to hold on to their ethnic roots.
Anyway, how did we get to this restaurant? Well, it’s a long story so… Short answer: don’t trust Google Maps in China. We followed its directions to “Tibetan Family Kitchen” by Didi (China’s version of Uber) and ended up in the middle of nowhere. Finally, we took another Didi back to where we started, and were so hungry that we just went with the first place with the words “Family Kitchen” posted outside it. It’s not the one from Trip Advisor, but it is quite good! We would eventually visit the real one the next day, but to be honest, this one was actually better!
To be continued…