RVing in China
August- Sept, 2007
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Information on our motorhome trip to Central America.
99 Days to Panama, an Exploration of Central America by Motorhome
by Dr. John & Harriet Halkyard,  is available there

by John and Harriet Halkyard

We rented an RV and toured Yunnan and Tibet from Aug. 22 to Sept. 17. 

Highlights are presented below. You can also read Harriet's  articles on this trip which  have appeared in Escapees Magazine and New Zealand  Motorhome magazine and Australia Caravan - RV magazine.

We were apparently the first foreigners to rent an RV for this trip.  The RV Club had to get permits for us to travel in Tibet.  The rental included a driver and gas! The cost was about the same as the rate in  the states without gas.  We also paid for an interpreter.

How to do this?

Dealing with altitude.

Alternate Route to Tibet (11/07).


We traveled 5000 km from Kuning in Yunnan Province to Mt. Everest in Tibet
(Map Courtesy Lonely Planet)

Day Camping Place

The first 11 days were spent in Yunnan Province.  Our RV Company planned an itinerary which would take us to the southern tropical forests of Yunnan (Xishuangbanna).  Their expectations were optimistic as the roads we planned to take were washed out in places and we had to do a lot of backtracking around Yuan Yang.  We didn't have time to do the south and  make to Tibet as well.  That will have to be another trip, maybe through Thailand as well!
1 Municipal Parking Lot in Jianshui, Yunnan
Zhu's home 214 rooms 42 courtyards; Informal Tea Ceremony

Preparing to set out from the Yunnan CenTech Rving Club, Kunming
Our interpreter, Haimen Wang, is second from left. Our driver Wen Wei is third from left.
2 Hotel Courtyard in Honghe, Yunnan
Terraced Rice Fields
We traveled with a colleague of John's, Prof. Doug Foutch, from the University of Illinois, shown here shooting pictures of the remarkable terraced rice fields near Honghe.  We were within about 50 miles of Lao Cai, VietNam where we visited in 2006 and the scenary was similar.

Nan Sha Hot Springs, Yuanyang, Yunnan
Visited Minority Village
4 Dragon Lake, Yunnan
Dai People; Met teachers from Shanghai on boat
We were invited to join a group of school teachers on a boating dinner on Dragon Lake. These Dai singers entertained us.
5 Luchong Scenic Spot, Yunnan
Hani Minority People
Luchong is a beach resort (similar to balnearios in Central America). This is the closest we came to an RV Park. We could plug in to electricity at the shop next to the RV.
6 Dali Parking Lot, Yunnan
Climbed Zhonghe Temple
7 Dali Parking Lot, Yunnan
Great Shopping and Western Food!

Dali is a  touristic and shopping Mecca for the Chinese.  Gringos congregate on "Foreigner Street" for some western food and conversation.
8 Lijiang, Yunnan
Stayed in Hotel; Attended concert on Naxi orchestra (local minority people)

9 Lijiang, Yunnan
The ideal climate of Lijiang makes it another popular tourist spot with the Chinese.  It is a place worth spending several days. Here the Naxi people dance every evening in the central  square. There is great scenary in the surrounding mountains also.
10 Lijiang, Yunnan
11 Peng Si Lan Town Main Street Passed through "Shangri-La" (near Zhongdian, Yunnan).  First glimpses of Tibeten culture.

The Chinese call this "Shangri-La", but it doesn't compare to the images conjured up by James Hilton in Lost Horizon.
12 YanJing Hotel Parking Lot Near Tibet Border
13 ManKan, Tibet
Very Rough Road.. not really recommended for the faint of heart until they finish construction.  We covered 100 km in 12 hours.

Lonely Planet refers to the Yunnan-Tibet Highway as "..one of the most dangerous and beautiful roads in the world". It fits this description well.

The road has only been open to foreigners  since 2006 and it is still under construction.  Here we have a landslide and a 2000 ft dropoff to the left.
14 Baxoi   
We are trapped in a landslide next to a raging river between Baxoi and Bomi, Tibet. The bus is also trapped.  It is a sleeper bus making the trip from Lhasa to Chengdu in Schezuan Province. We paid a truck to pull us out.
15 Bomi Town Hotel  
12 hours before we arrived in Bomi a mountain slide buried the road and a bus.  We waited for a temporary road to be completed.  The army maintains the roads in China.  Land slides were everywhere.
16 Bayi Town  
17 Lhasa
 Stayed in Hotel

18 Lhasa
Barkhor Square; Jokhang Temple
19 Lhasa
Potala Palace
The Potala Palace in Lhasa was the home of the Dalai Lama until 1959. It is well worth a visit as is the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, the spiritual center for Tibetan Buddhism
20 Lhasa (Stayed in parking lot of our interpreters apartment!) Nam Tso Lake
You can ride a yak and camp at Sacred Nam Tso Lake at 4718 m (15479 ft) elevation.  This is higher than  the top of Mt. Whitney and Mt. Blanc.
21 Shigatze Hotel Parking Lot  
Lhasa to Kathmandu, Nepal is one of the great bicycle rides in the world. We met this Kiwi and Danish girl at our hotel in Lhasa. When we met them on the  road to Mt. Everest we  treated them to some American Coffee in the RV!  They were grateful.

Tingri / Everest  
Our favorite camp site had a clear view of Mt. Eversest (on left) and Chu Yu (fourth highest peak more prominent on right). Our RV couldn't navigate the 30-mile road in to the Everest base camp from here. Four wheel drive land cruisers were required.  As of October, 2007, a road suitable for all vehicles is open.  The Olympic Torch will be carried to Everest.
23 Lhaze Hotel Courtyard Visit Monestary, tough climb
24 Shigatze Hotel Parking Lot Visit Sakya; Tashihunpo Monestary in Shigatze
Sakya is a Tibetan town with little Chinese influence. This women was planting a crop when we stopped to offer her some seeds from America.
25 Gyangze Behind Hotel Pelkhor Chode Monastery & Kumbum Chorten (108 chapels)
Kumbum Chorten in Gyangze
26 Lhasa Airport (Hotel) Nice but long drive; Yamdrock-Tso Lake
We parted with our driver (Wen Wei on left) and Tibeten interpreter (Dorjee on right) at the Lhasa airport. Wen Wei was a miracle worker, keeping us safe and fixing all the things that went wrong with the RV on the way. And he always smiled!

How to arrange a trip....

If you are interested in renting an RV contact Zhang Hong at the Yunnan CenTech RVing Club.
Web site: www.ynrv.cn
Email: zhanghong02910@163.com
Phone: +86 (0871) 531-7666 X 11

Be prepared to wait (if you don't correspond in Chinese) as they need to have someone translate the correspondence. They do not speak English.

For help in English, our interpreter has offered to help organize a trip through the  RV Club.  Contact  Wang Haimen:
Email (English ok): qwerr4534@yahoo.com.cn

She can also arrange four wheel drive trips if you prefer (staying in hotels).  Travel by four wheel drive is much easier and faster in Tibet.

Acute Mountain Sickness (ACM)

Many travelers to Tibet experience ACM or a milder form of altitude sickness.  The  average elevation in Tibet is over 12,000 ft and there are several passes to 17,000 ft. If you camp at Nam Tso Lake or Everest you will be at 16,000 - 17,000 ft.  We had no symptoms of ACM but our trip took several days from Kunming (6000 ft) until we reached elevations as high as 12,000 ft.  The gradual acclimatization is important.   We also drank 3-4 liters of water a day and took  medication (Acetazolamide 250 mg) prescribed by a doctor. 

Alternate Route

Wang Haimen has suggested this alternate route to Tibet from Yunnan through some very scenic territory (posted 11/07)

Day3:Bingzhongluo-zhongding village-Chawalong village(vehicle road terminal)
Day4:(hiking and riding)Chawalong—Zhana—minhong(village)... about 6 hours   
Day5:Minhong village—Nuola Mt. below.     Camping in night
Day6:Nuola Mt. below—Ridong ...   Cross Qimala pass ,4700M。
Day7:Ridong Village-Zelong rangeland...   Camping
Day8 Zeling rangeland -Yixiula Mt. below...   stay in village
Day9 Yixiula Mt.below-Sangjiu(hiking end,vehicle road emerge)-Chayu Town 
Day10 Chayu-bomi
Day11: Bomi-Bayi
Day12: Bayi-Lhasa

The following website has related photos:

Contact Haimen at qwerr4534@yahoo.com.cn for more info.

© Copyright 2007  John and Harriet Halkyard