TWRT-20121020-P2 Jim and Colin
Thanks for your well wishes. We have electricity back in our home, but the effects of the typhoon around New York City are still being felt. Coincidentally, the typhoon also hit our home in the Bahamas (the Caribbean island Colin comes from) before it made its way to New York. But altogether we have been fortunate.
As you know, we also feel very lucky to have been able to visit Tibet during this period of permit restrictions. We realize that we would not have gotten the permits if we had used a different travel agent, and we are very thankful for your efforts. I hope that you are having similar fortune with other travelers and that the permit restrictions will be lifted and you will have more foreign tourists again.
Samdup was a terrific guide. As you know, we were upset on the second day of the tour when it seemed he had forgotten about us, but the rest of the tour went well, and we’re glad that we had the opportunity to see Tibet with him. The sight and sound of Sam saying prayers and mantras throughout the trip helped us to understand the depth of religious feeling in Tibet, particularly since he did not otherwise seem particularly “traditional”.
Visiting Tibet was a dream come true for us, and particularly for Colin, who has wanted to visit the Potala Palace since he was a child. We’ve been to other Buddhist countries and regions — Sikkim, Nepal, and all over Southeast Asia — but Tibet seems particularly remote and starkly beautiful. We don’t know anyone else who has been to Tibet.
In terms of feedback, we wanted to mention to you that the remoteness of Tibet, to a Western traveller, causes some anxiety. We were uncertain and worried about many things: the permit (getting approved and receiving the documents in Beijing), the domestic flights, the numerous police stops, the relative lack of English, the unknown ingredients and dishes on the menus, the cold weather. In the end, everything worked out. We never knew what we were ordering in the restaurants, but almost every dish was fabulous. The Shamballa Palace was freezing when we arrived, but it was charming and we were glad we had not stayed at the St Regis the whole time, or another Western hotel.
But because of the anxiety, it would be helpful if the guide could always tell the tourists exactly what the agenda will be for the day, what they need to do to prepare, and what options they have. For example, on the day that we visited the Potala Palace, we did not know that we would need to have passports. Fortunately, I had brought them rather than leave them at the hotel; but that’s the sort of thing that the tourists should be advised the night before. It might also be useful if you added something to your handout about preparing for Tibet that describes some of the typical dishes and ingredients that are found in most restaurant menus.
I hope that’s helpful. Again, we had a great trip, and we will certainly recommend you, Sam, and Explore Tibet to our friends.
From Jim and Colin