Friday, February 5, 2010

Cheng Du: Take 2 (part two)

We walked to the reception desk armed with our money, passports, smiles, and eagerness to get our Tibetan permit process underway.

Abby, a short, cute, and inherently sweet Chinese girl set it all up for us. She asked us for our documents. Then it happened...sudden and painful. I noticed that my visa was set to expire during our trip across Tibet. For some reason, throughout all that I had learned during my time in China, I still thought of Tibet as a separate country. Abby informed me that if I wanted to get a visa extension in Cheng Du, it would take five days. It takes five days to process the Tibet permit. This would make it another ten days before we would be able get on the train. My face must have shown my severe frustration and utter disbelief. Abby quickly suggested that I go to Leshan, a two hour bus ride away, and that the immigration office there could process a visa extension overnight.


Team meeting! Mihail and Kiril both said they were willing to wait while I went to Leshan, got my extension and came back to start the permit process.


I told Thomas that I was totally capable of going alone, but being the more-than-awesome-travel-companion Thomas is, Thomas insisted that we go together. However, we had to get a move on.


We got the first bus the next morning, went to Leshan, found the immigration office, dropped off my passport, and killed the rest of the day and night. The next morning we picked up my passport, complete with renewed visa, and caught the first available bus back to Cheng Du.


Upon returning to Cheng Du, the permit suspension had been pushed back a couple of days, yet again, so we were still able to get our applications in at the earliest possible time.


Thomas and I had five days to kill in Cheng Du. We'd already seen the city and all the sites, so we sat on a couch in the DVD room at the guesthouse and watched all ten episodes of Band of Brothers, ate pizza, drank beer and recovered all of our must-tested-patience.

It was a good few days. We met a ton of other travelers that were doing exactly what we were doing. They are too numerable to name them all here, but the stand-outs were:

Ross Dickinson - A British schoolteacher "on holiday"
Luke Tucker - A British wild man on his tour of the world
Martin Kuenzle - A Swiss man with a lovely American girlfriend
Kat - Martin's girl
Donna and Soren - An Irish girl and her Dutch boyfriend (who met and fell in love on one morning when they were both drunk in Australia - three years prior - great story!)

Those days passed pretty quickly.

The night before our train departure for Lhasa was my biggest party night during my entire time in China. We had all put up with a lot of waiting. We were all so excited to be finally going. It was palpable, yet not ever directly spoken. That night was electric. A night when you feel like you bond with people. A night when the beer and hours don't seem to matter. It is all about the energy, excitement, anticipation, and life, and laughter. All of the tribulations, red tape, uncertainty, sense of dormancy, ALL OF IT, was dispensed with our early morning, incoherent shouting. It was cathartic. For all of us, Tibet meant something special.

The next day would find most of us on our way to a place we would only visit once in our lifetime. I think that was what was inherently felt and yet never truly acknowledged. We told dirty stories, jokes, and of course, punchlines about Chuck Norris.

Good people. Good night.


  1. I think it is terrific the stories on "the blog" have resumed. Keep the stories and events of traveling through Tibet coming!

  2. Can't wait to hear about Tibet!