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Collectors Council Trip to Tibet

Amdo & Kham Grasslands Kumbum Festival
Train Trip through Central Tibet

Day 1. : Arrive at Shanghai.
Overnight 4 star hotel.

Day 2. :Tour Shanghai
Visit Shanghai Old Town, famous for its shops. Tour 5 acre Yu Garden, an island of tranquility amid the hustle and bustle of the city, it contains over 30 pavilions and lotus ponds, bridges and winding paths which are characteristic of the architectural style of the Ming dynasty. It was a private garden with a history of 400 years. Outside the Yu Garden there is very interesting market, the Yuyuan Bazaar. Walk the riverside waterfront area known as the Bund. After lunch we visit the I.M. Pei Museum. Overnight Shanghai at 4 star hotel. B. L.D.

Day 3. : Shanghai to Lanzhou
In the morning, we fly to Lanzhou, the capital city of Gansu Province. It is an important industry city in Northwest China. Alt: 1600 m.(5248 ft.) and was a vital communication line on the old Silk Road. If time allows, visit the Provincial Museum. Overnight at the Lanzhou Sunshine Hotel***. B.

Day 4. : Lanzhou to Labrang
Drive 290 km (7 hours) to Labrang (Alt: 2900m) seeing the Chinese Muslim Hui people with many mosques along the roadsides. Lunch is in Linxia Hui Autonomous City, which is known as the “Small Hong Kong” by local people. We’ll visit one street specializing in Tibetan antiques. In the last third of today’s journey the landscape becomes more beautiful and you will start to see white chortans by the roadside. Now you will feel you are really in Tibet. Overnight at the Overseas Hotel, strategically located on the main street of Labrang. This hotel has internet access and a restaurant where you can buy a burger and rub elbows with travelers from all over the world. B.

Day 5. : Labrang
Morning visit to Labrang monastery-built in 1709, it now has 1000 monks. It is one of the six most important Gelukpa (Yellow Sect) monasteries in all of Tibet. We will see many Tibetan nomads here who have come on pilgrimage. They stop to buy textiles for their clothing and jewelry in the numerous Tibetan shops. Overnight in Labrang at the Overseas Hotel. B.

Day 6. : Labrang
A full day for shopping in Labrang, all within walking distance of our hotel. It is interesting not only to see the variety of antiques and textiles from this area but also to peek in the stores that provide the nomads with their household needs. For those not interested in shopping, take a drive outside of town on the beautiful grasslands to visit some Tibetan nomadic families and at the same time enjoy the landscape. Overnight in Labrang at Overseas Hotel. B.

Day 7. : Labrang / Tongren (Tibetan name:Repkong)
Morning drive of 130 km.(about 4 hours) to Repkong Alt: 2400 m. (7872 ft.) Pass through the beautiful Red Mountain Valley seeing grasslands, forests and agricultural land. Afternoon visit to the famous Tibetan art school, Sengeshong Magotsang which was founded during the 15th century. Repkong, by the 16th century had became the center of Tibetan art in Amdo. All monks here have been well trained in the arts of painting and sculpting. They are invited by people from all over Tibet to create works of art for monasteries and private houses. We will visit some of monks’ houses. Upon arrival, we check in the best local hotel, Overnight in Repkong at Hua Nan Hotel or Post Hotel. B.

Day 8. : Tongren / Maqen (aka Machen).
It is an interesting drive to Machen, the Tibetan Golok capital. The Goloks in the past were the most feared Tibetans because they made their living from plundering the caravans that passed through Xining and on to Lhasa. We encounter a great variety of landscapes; from a sea of sand with huge dunes and a heavily eroded landscape of strange shapes, to pastureland. This is where nomads can be seen herding their flocks of sheep, living for the summer in black yak hair tents. We will stop at a monastery en route and admire the huge lhatses of colored flags and spears. These are refurbished every year by the men of the family in honor of the Mountain Gods. The altitude increases to 3800 m. (12,464 ft.) here but we shall be acclimatized as we have driven higher slowly. Overnight in Machen at Snow Mountain Hotel or another better hotel with facilities. B.

Day 9. : Machen / Madoi (aka Mato)
If the weather is fine we should see Amnye Machen, once thought to be higher than Mount Everest. In the 1960's the height was fixed at 6282 m.(20,604 ft.). Amnye Machen is the sacred home of the protector deity Machen Pomra, revered by Bonpo and Buddhists alike. It is a day of wonderful “skyscapes” and rolling pastureland grazed upon by sheep and yaks. We’ll picnic on the open plateau among the wild flowers. Mato, where we stay, standing at approximately 4200 meters (13,776 ft.) is one of the highest points on this journey. It is an outback frontier town and is an administrative centre for the Golok prefecture. This is the most testing hotel. There are no private facilities but the rooms are clean and warm and the food is fine. It can be very cold on the windswept plateau. White clouds scud across the blue sky, sometimes quickly changing to grey. This can mean the occasional snow storm, which passes as quickly as it came. Overnight in Mato at the best facilities available.

Day 10. : Mato to Yushu (aka Jyekundo)
Drive 360 km. to Jyekundo: alt: 3700 m. (12,136 ft.) Today’s driving is exciting; we pass the first bridge of the Yellow River, and then the famous mountain pass Bayankala at elevation 5080 m. (16,662 ft.) where we will throw Prayer papers into the wind and shout “Lha Jia Lo.” in thanks for a safe journey across this high point. Passing the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, these landscapes present an amazing picture. Under the blue sky with white clouds you will see mountains decorated with pray flags, beautiful grasslands embellished with flocks of yak and sheep, nomad’s black and white tents and the colorfully dressed Golok and Khampa people. Lunch is at a typical frontier town and we will probably see nomadic girls wrapped in wool chubas wearing yellow amber pieces on their long black hair, contrasting with blue turquoise. As we approach Jyekundo the hills are a rich green and we note a number of monasteries, perched high on the cliff face, painted in earth colors. Jyekundo is the capital of the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. This region is known for the monasteries belonging to Sakyapa and Kagyu sects.. Overnight Yushu Hotel*** with facilities in the rooms and hot water for shower. B.

Day 11. : Jyekundo
The local people honor Jyekundo by calling it “Small Lhasa”. More than 90% of the population here are Tibetan Khampa, one of the four main Tibetan tribes. They are the strong and wild but honest formerly fierce warriors of Tibet. Many Sakyapa monasteries are concentrated here with different construction style. We visit an important Sakyapa monastery Jyekundo Dondrublin, built in 1398, which at one time had more than 1000 monks. The monastery was home to many Buddhist masters and scholars who made great achievements in Tibetan religion, medicine, history and art. One of the Rinpoches (teachers), Gyanak, choreographed more than 100 kinds of dances. Jyekundo became the hometown of Tibetan dancing and singing. Later we will visit another old Sakya monastery Saiba Gonpa. It was founded in 1269. Overnight at the Yushu Hotel in Jyekundo. B.

Day 12. : Jyekundo
Drive about 20 km to the Lerba Mani Valley. Here there are countless Mani stones which have been left in the very clean stream water. After a local person’s death, the family seeks a Living Buddha’s advice about a ceremony. They are told to place a certain number of Mani stones into this small river. The swift water runs over the rocks inscribed with the deceased’s name and this helps to cleanse the dead person’s soul so they can be reincarnated for the next life as quickly as possible. The river’s melodic sound also helps the dead to be reincarnated to a new life. You can also see many very old rock paintings on each side of cliffs in this small valley. Some of them were done during the 7th century when the Chinese Princess Wencheng, future wife of Tibetan king Songten Gampo, passed through the valley. Overnight at the Yushu Hotel in Jyekundo. B

Day 13. : Yushu/Chabcha
We drive 470 km.on another road to Chabcha. It is a fascinating journey across a great variety of landscapes. We pass a sea of sand with huge dunes and a surprising eroded landscape of strange shapes. We drive through a large, flat desert basin where no any rain falls for a long periods. Overnight in Chabcha at the best local hotel. B.

Day 14. : Chabcha / Kokonor / Xining
We drive for 2 hours to Kokonor, the biggest holy lake of Tibet and the largest salt lake in China. It covers an area of 4581 square km. (2,844 sq.m.). About three thousands years ago, Mongolian and Tibetan nomadic people believed that all of the holy lakes and the holy mountains contained unique treasures or minerals. Those minerals give out a kind of magnetism or spirit to a few special sensitive Masters, like Shamans or Living Buddhas. The Masters then teach people how to respect and protect nature in order to receive the good luck waves from those holy mountains and lakes. The beneficial waves emitted can help one to have a good fate in life. In May of 1578, King of the Mongols, Altan Qan gave the title Dalai Lama 3 to Sonam Gyatso at the east shore of Lake Kokonor. This was the start of the “Living Buddha” system of Gelukpa. After sightseeing by this beautiful lake and lunch, we drive for about another 2 ½ hrs. to Xining, the capital city of Qinghai Province. It city is located on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau at 2200 m. (7,216 ft.). Today it is a quite modern city. There is little left of the old walled town that used to be the main trading station between China and Tibet and the entrance to the Silk Road. The population today is Chinese, Tibetan, Mongolian, Muslim and Tu. Time allowing, we will stroll down to see the huge fruit and vegetable market. This is the time to buy lush peaches grown in the Lanzhou area and famous all over China. Overnight at the Qinghai Hotel **** in Xining. B.

Day 15. : Kumbum Festival
Morning visit to Kumbum Monastery to see lama artists perform a masked dance that happens only twice a year. The performance starts at 1:00 PM and finishes at 4:00 PM. Kumbum ,only 30 km. away from Xining, was founded in 1560 to commemorate the birthplace of Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Yellow Sect. The monastery was built round a tree that was the birthplace of Tsongkhapa. For a short time the abbot of this spectacular monastery was the Dalai Lama’s brother. The monastery has a great assembly where one can buy everything needed for monastic life. It also has antiques and tourist trinkets for visiting pilgrims. Perhaps one of the most interesting workshops is where they make the great metal sculptures of the “Wheel of Life” which are mounted on the temple roofs. Textile enthusiasts will be delighted to find various embroidery materials and hopefully some antique embroidery. One of the most interesting finds is the embroidered plait decoration the Tu people wear. Overnight at the Qinghai Hotel **** in Xining.

Day 16. : Kumbum -“Sunning the Buddha”
Early morning return to Kumbum (35 km- a ½ hr. ride) to see the procession which marks the beginning of the Sunning the Buddha ceremony. A huge Tangkha (40m long 20m wide) is carried by the monks to be displayed on a slope for the Commemoration Day of Enlightenment of Buddha Sakyamuni. Meanwhile in front of the big Buddha painting, monks and believers pray for good rain for the crops and the grasslands. In the afternoon we view the Masked Dance of Hayagriva (Horse Headed Protector King) performed by the monks only twice a year. Overnight in Xining at the Qinghai Hotel. B.

Day 17. : Kumbum
Day in Kumbum to explore the numerous local shops. Leave Kumbum 5 p.m. for 7 p.m. train departure from Xining on shared 1st- Class 4-berth soft sleepers train compartments. Overnight in the train. B.

Day 18. : Golmud – Lhasa (1240km)
About 7:00 a.m. we arrive at the Golmud station. In between Golmud and Lhasa the train stops briefly at 9 different viewing platforms for photo opportunities. Enjoy the highland scenery along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which is the longest railway running on the world’s highest plateau. We’ll see the Gobi desert with its huge wild, dry plantless iron-colored mountains. Then suddenly the scenery changes to beautiful grasslands rimmed by snow-covered mountains sprinkled with herds of yak and sheep grazing under the blue sky. Clean rivers and lakes look like mirrors. Nestled on the lush tundra are countless different tiny highland flowers. At this time, you will feel your body is melted with great nature. Our guide reports that when their Western clients see these fantastic landscapes, they begin singing and dancing regardless of the high altitudes, even though most of them are in their 60s, & 70s, and the oldest one is a lady, 86 years old. The highest point will be Tanggula mountain pass (elevation 5200m,) this is where the Yangtze River originates. Arrival at 8:00 p.m. in Lhasa . Overnight in Lhasa at the Lhasa Yak Hotel***,

Day 19. : Lhasa Tour
If Tibet is the "Roof of the World”, then its capital, Lhasa, is certainly the "City of the Sun". It stands on a plain at over 13,000 feet (3700 m.) above sea level, surrounded by towering mountains. Lhasa is a town bathed in sunlight. This morning we have a leisurely breakfast in the hotel restaurant which offers a view of the Potola. After an acclimatization rest in the hotel we visit the Jokhang, the monastery considered to be at the center of Tibetan Buddhism. Innumerable pilgrims come for worship everyday. The temple, built in 647, is the earliest wood-and-masonry structure still existing in Tibet. We’ll have time to walk surrounding Barkhor Street lined with shops mostly owned by the Chinese and smaller outdoor stalls owned by Tibetans. Everything to supply the pilgrim’s needs can be found here: otter skins, brocaded fabric, prayer flags, jewelry of coral, turquoise and amber, leather pouches and handmade felt boots. Overnight at the Lhasa Yak Hotel in Lhasa. B.

Day 20. : Lhasa Tour
We drive about 8 km. (4.96 m.) west of central Lhasa to visit Drepung monastery. Once the world's largest monastery, it housed about 10,000 monks. It was founded in 1416 and the second, third and fourth Dalai Lama resided here. In the afternoon, we visit Norbulingka which has served as the summer residence since the 7th Dalai Lama. Norbulingka means the “Garden of Treasures”. Overnight at the LhasaYak Hotel in Lhasa. B.

Day 21. : Lhasa Tour
In the morning, we visit the Potala Palace, which was constructed in 637 by Songtsen Gampo, the first king of the united Tibet. It later served as the winter residence of the Dalai Lamas. Then we drive to Sera monastery. Built in 1419, it has always been an important Buddhist seminary. As roses are planted everywhere in the monastery, it is also called the “Court of Wild Roses". Today 200 lamas still live here. We may see the lamas doing “scripture debating”. Overnight Yak Hotel. B.

Day 22. : From Lhasa fly to Shanghai.
Transfer to Gongga Airport and depart for Shanghai. Overnight 4 star hotel in Shanghai. B.

Day 23. : Shanghai to LAX
Transfer to International Airport to take flight back home.

Tour includes: international airfare, domestic airfare, all domestic transport within the tour inside China and Tibet, accommodations at 4 star international standard deluxe hotels in Shanghai, Lanzhou and Xining, 3 star hotel in Lhasa and the best local hotels with standard rooms in the Amdo and Kham area, good Japanese Landcruisers with three guests sharing one car in the Amdo area, native Tibetan/English speaking guide, all hotels, all admission fees, all breakfasts. Tour does not include your visa for China, tips, and airport exit taxes. Price based on 10 participants. You must join the Collectors Council to travel. For more info contact Janet Seward at (949)650-4778 or e-mail sewardjan@aol.com.


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