Adventures in Asia

by Greg & Francie

On the (Rail) Road to Lhasa

After a couple days of errands, planning, & organization in Chengdu, we are finally embarking on our next exciting adventure: Tibet!!!

We will be leaving tonight on the new, very popular, and somewhat controversial Qinghai-Tibet Railway. We got really lucky and were able to score some tickets even though many travel agencies told us it was impossible. If you’re trying to get tickets in Chengdu let us know and maybe we will pass on to you our secret source ;-).

Some quick facts about this train:
–it is the highest railroad in the world, crossing a pass that is 5,072 meters above sea level.
–over half of the railway length (from Xining to Lhasa) is built over permafrost, and 80% is at an elevation of over 4,000 meters.
–each seat/bunk has its own oxygen supply that passengers can tap into at anytime.
–there are lots of bridges and elevated sections of the track that were designed to allow animals to continue on their migration routes without becoming ‘track kill’.
–from Chengdu it will take us 48 hours to reach Lhasa, Tibet. Yay for sleeper tickets 🙂
–For more info, check out the very informative Wikipedia entry.

A photo of the track:

So, why is such a popular train route and engineering wonder, with such beautiful scenery, controversial? The main issue is that many Tibetans feel like it is an invasion of their culture and their home to pave the way for hordes of tourists to reach Tibet from big cities like Beijing and Shanghai. Since the railway opened, tourism in Tibet has increased drastically (btw, this means that if you want to see Tibet, perhaps do so sooner rather than later). Another issue is the unknown future environmental impact of the railway. I don’t claim to know very much about these issues so I can’t make any judgements, but if I get an insights on the train ride or in Lhasa I will report back.

That’s all for now. Greg and I will catch up with you again in a few days from Tibet 🙂


August 23, 2007 - Posted by | Chengdu, China, Tibet, Travel


  1. you bringing back a lhasa apso?

    Comment by kim mccrea | August 23, 2007 | Reply

  2. If you can get a back issue of the New Yorker, the train and its implications are explored in this article by Pankaj Mishra:
    “The Train to Tibet,” The New Yorker, April 16, 2007, p. 82

    Comment by Father of Francie | August 24, 2007 | Reply

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