When we returned from Qingcheng Houshan to Cheng Du, we found a sign in Sim's lobby: Tibet is closed...again.
The Chinese government is not issuing travel permits to Tibet until Oct. 9th.
No one had to say a word, but it was the talk of the town. China was preparing for its 60th anniversary holiday. The Chinese flags were out on every flagpole, in front of every shop and flapping alongside each taxi.
It would be bad for foreigners to be in Tibet in case any Tibetans felt like protesting the fact that they have been occupied and oppressed by the Chinese for the past fifty years.
Gunther, Yong Ha, Tom and I sat and drank beer on the veranda.
"I could have stayed in Thailand for another two weeks if I had known this was going to happen?" I, unthoughtfully, said.
"How can they close a whole country?" Yong Ha asked (his English is surprisingly good on occasion).
"It's not its own country, according to the Chinese." Tom was ceaselessly flipping through the Lonely Planet for options.
"Look at those two over there. We should go to a club tonight. Ladies, ladies." Gunther mostly just smiled and sipped beer.
A German guy we had been eating with regularly had already paid for his Tibet tour would now not be allowed to go.
"This is b*llsh*t. I'm just going to fly to Kathmandu. Maybe I'll see you guys in India." he said. (He later gave me a pair of long pants that he wouldn't be needing anymore and some socks....nice guy)
Somber moments....and then...
"Up north, in Inner Mongolia, they have the fourth largest desert in the world, camel-trekking, dune buggies, microlighting, 700 meter sand dunes!" Tom had found the section of the Lonely Planet that he had been searching for.
"I'm in." I said without a thought. "We have two weeks to kill."
It didn't require much discussion to get Gunther and Yong Ha to sign on. Yet, we lost Mark...he had to return to Beijing.