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The untold spy story of WWI

In 1910 a proposed Alliance between Germany and France (See New York Times Article ) worried Britain so they sent someone to 'sniff around'.

The story is a personal journey of discovery set in the vibrant energy that is Zanzibar. Susan finds herself in the palace of the great Sultan of Zanzibar as private tutor to his children. She immerses herself in the heady experiences of that rich island. From making friends with her personal servant, Subira, to falling in love with Asim, a senior member of the Sultan's court. Susan delights in the discovery of Zanzibar and the discovery of herself. The only shadow being that she was recruited by British Military Intelligence as a spy. That compromises her love for Asim and will eventually cut the silken thread that is her journey into the exotic.

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Dec102011

Beijing-to-Lhasa train journey

 

Beijing-to-Lhasa train journey

 Tashi delek - བཀྲ་ཤིས་བདེ་ལེགས

 

 

 

 

 

The Beijing-to-Lhasa train journey is the world's highest railway ride and an adventure in itself

For those wanting to slow their busy minds before arriving in Tibet, the 48-hour train journey from Beijing is a zen-like way of doing this. The Qinghai-Tibet railway, which runs between Xining, the capital of Qinghai province, and Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet autonomous region, makes up the major part of the journey and authorities have been planning this project for a century. But it was only in 1984 that the first section of track - an 814-km stretch from Xining to Golmud - both in Qinghai province, was completed.

The most amazing engineering feat occurred in 2001 when construction began on the 1,142-km railway between Golmud and Lhasa. The 30 billion yuan ($4.7 billion, 3.47 billion euros) high-altitude railway project employed about 100,000 engineers and construction workers for four years, and many staff had to use bottled oxygen and endure temperatures of minus 45 degrees. It is truly one of the engineering wonders of the world.

The railway climbs from 2,829 meters above sea level at Golmud to 3,641 meters at Lhasa and it is crowned the highest railway in the world. More than 550 km of track is laid on permanently frozen earth and its highest point reaches 5,072 meters above sea level.

Before the Qinghai-Tibet railway was built, travelers had to take a train as far as Golmud followed by a grueling 48-hour bus journey to Lhasa. Now there are direct trains from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xi'an. The Qinghai-Tibet railway is also reported to extend 300 km west of Lhasa to Shigatse and then all the way to Nepal.

In Beijing, the T27 train leaves at 9.30 pm daily and arrives in Lhasa at 8.58 pm on the third day. It has 15 coaches and can hold 867 passengers at one time. There are three classes of tickets: soft sleeper at 1,189 yuan, hard sleeper at 766 yuan and hard seat at 363 yuan.

In addition to a train ticket, foreigners need a special travel permit to enter the Tibet autonomous region, applications for which can be made at the local branches of China Tibet Tourism Bureau. A travel agent can normally handle this procedure.

And once on board, travelers from all over the world can enjoy the trip of a lifetime.

"It doesn't take long to discover that this train, in soft-sleeper class anyway, is a United Nations on rails. All of us, it transpires, are making this journey for the first time," Louise Southerden, a travel reporter from The Sydney Morning Herald writes.

As the train trundles along, picturesque scenes of North and West China drift by. On the second day when the train leaves Xining at dusk, it rides onto the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, an enormous highland 3,500 km across, with an average altitude of 5,000 meters.

Previously running at a speed of 160 km/h on the plain, the train now slows to 120 km/h. Owing to the lack of oxygen at that altitude, oxygen-enriched air is pumped through all the carriages. Personal oxygen masks are also available.

While smoking is not allowed as the oxygen-enriched air is highly flammable, there is no lack of gourmet choices. Classic Chinese cuisines such as stewed beef, fish filets in hot chili oil, stir fried shrimps with gingko nuts and Mapo tofu are served in the restaurant car.

Passengers are told they should bring medication if prone to altitude sickness. But the views of the plateau more than compensate for any discomfort. Instead of farms, mines and the high-rises seen on the first day of your trip, whizzing by are flat plains and the snow-topped Kunlun Mountains.

As the train enters the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau special sights can be seen. "There are prayer flags strung across glacial, fast-flowing rivers and streaming colorfully down steep hillsides; people dressed in chubas harvesting barley, or resting beside yaks harnessed to primitive ploughs; and stone walls around old stone houses," Southerden recalls of her trip.

As soon as you catch sight of hordes of Tibetan antelope and yak, you are entering the area of Hoh Xil Nature Reserve, also known as the last fairyland of wild life in China.

There are a total of more than 230 species of wild animals here, among which the Tibetan antelope is a unique species of China. Animals' migration habits are not disrupted as this stretch of the railway is built on a bridge of three to four meters high.

 

At present, there is a daily train from Beijing to Lhasa run by China Railways. The train from Beijing to Tibet takes about 44 hours to cover 3753 kilometers, of which 1110 km are over Qinghai-Tibet railway. It departs from the Beijing West Railway Station at 20:09 and arrives at Lhasa Railway Station at 16:00 on the third day after nearly 44 hours. Its operational speed is 120 km/h, 100 km/h over sections laid on permafrost. The Beijing to Lhasa railway route began on July 1st, 2006 and presently costs around RMB1300 for a first-class sleeper berth, around RMB800 for a second-class sleeper berth and half that for a soft seat.

The train to Lhasa from Beijing is equipped with advanced facilities that are tailor-made according to the special elevation, temperature and other specific situations along the world's highest railway, Qinghai-Tibet Railway, such as air-conditioning, supercharging system, oxygen supply, altitude display, etc. Moreover, the totally-closed train is installed with sightseeing windows covered by anti-ultraviolet film so as to  protect passengers from ultraviolet radiation. To be honest, a Beijing-Lhasa train tour is really worth a shot for the unique and wonderful scenery along the Qinghai-Tibet railway alone. 

Beijing to Lhasa Train Cost
Actually, in China, the train fare does not include meals,  so you need to pay the food in the train, a normal breakfast will cost you about 10RMB and a lunch or dinner 20-30RMB. Drinking water is free but if you want to have a cup of coffee or milk, you need to prepare in advance. Except the cost on food, another big expense on the Beijing to Lhasa train trip is that you have to pay the service charge to the travel agency who help you purchase the train tickets. The cost ranges from 100RMB to 500RMB in different seasons. In a word, the total cost of Beijing Tibet Train Journey is about 1500RMB.

 

Beijing to Lhasa Train Service

Soft Sleeper

There are 12 compartments with doors in a cabin of the first class soft sleeper berths and 4 berths in each compartment, two upper and two lower. More>>

Dining Car

A dining car comprising a general cook house and a dining room offers passengers tables, seats and both of simple western style and Chinese style food. More>>

Toilet

Both Asian and Western toilets are available at the end of each car on the Tibet train. Over all they are kept clean and toilet paper is available. More>>

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

China and Tibet - Xi Zang 西藏

HOME

 "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that," Dalai Lama

 

 

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Beijing's Hutongs

 

The Hutong, an old-style city alley or lane, is one of the most distinctive features and must-see attractions in Beijing. There are thousands of hutongs in the city, many of which were built during the Yuan (1206-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. We list the most famous hutongs that all travelers to the capital city shouldn't miss in order to get a better experience of the unique culture of ancient Beijing.

 

 

List of Beijing's Hutongs