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The 4 Best Reasons to Tour Tibet in Winter

Perched high on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Tibet boasts awe-inspiring Himalayan mountain vistas, mysterious Tibetan Buddhist culture, and captivating local customs. With blinding sunlight and clear, deep blue skies, all visitors need to go through the phase of acclimatization to the high altitude on the plateau as they tour Tibet.

With its incredible alpine scenery and inhospitable natural environment, Tibet has many natural features worth seeing during a Tibet tour. But first, we want to clear up some misconceptions about Tibet travel, particularly about visiting Tibet in the winter.

Insider Tip: Tibet has an average altitude of more than 4000m (13000 feet), and the oxygen content in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, is one third less than that of Beijing. Tibet tourism reaches its high season from early April to Oct. From mid-Oct. to early Feb the next year, it’s the off season. During mid-Feb and March, Tibet has a recess and is completely unavailable to visit by international tourists.

Here are the 4 Biggest Misconceptions about touring Tibet in winter:

 1. The winter weather in Tibet is unbearable.

Undoubtedly, this is one of the biggest misunderstandings of Tibet. True, the weather on the lofty plateaus does get bitter cold. In reality, the weather is quite temperate from season to season and Tibetan winters are not as cold as one expects.

Take Lhasa (3658m), the capital of Tibet for example, the average annual temperatures are: Spring ( -2℃ to 12℃); Summer (9℃ to 22℃); Autumn (7℃ to 19℃) and Winter (-7℃ to 9℃).  There is not a huge difference between winter and the other three seasons. There is a proverb in some places that one can experience four seasons in just one day. In Tibet, it can be hard to tell the difference of the four seasons in a single year. The unique climate of Tibet is largely due to the ample sunlight and strong solar radiation. As long as there is sunlight, you won’t feel cold at all. Besides, heavy snow normally occurs in mountains areas, while the Lhasa valley is spared most of the time.

Insider Tip: Whenever you come to Tibet you will experience the dramatic temperature change between day and night. Be prepared for the chilly winds on the plateau and use a sunhat, sun glasses, and sun screen to protect you from strong UV light. Don’t forget to drink lots of water as the mountain air is very dry.

2. The Oxygen Content Is Extremely Low in Winter

Many people assume that the heavy snow and lack of vegetation in winter would further intensify the low oxygen content. In fact, according to the statistics from the China meteorological bureau, the oxygen content of Lhasa in summer is around 66% of that of the plain regions, while in winter the figure falls only 3 points to 63%. The subtle difference feels negligible to the body.

All people travelling to Tibet will have some mild altitude sickness symptoms in one way or another. It’s highly advisable to stay in Lhasa for a couple of days for acclimatization purposes.

Insider Tip: After your arrival in Lhasa, never hurry to tour attractions inside Lhasa or other areas. Instead, you’d be better served to have a sleep at your hotel. If you have shortness of breath, try to avoid smoking, drinking too much alcohol, or eating too much food because they will only exacerbate the situation. Also, try not to overexert yourself, otherwise you might suffer acute altitude sickness.

3.  Most of the Attractions Can’t Be Seen in Winter

Another common misnomer about touring Tibet in winter is the belief that many attractions and shops will be closed due to the heavy snow and subsequent fewer numbers of tourists. In fact, the attractions in Lhasa and surrounding areas are readily available for tourists year round (except from mid-Feb to March). The temperature does get cold in mountains areas. However, as long as the road is not completely blocked by a blizzard, all attractions still remain available.

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The frozen Namtso Lake(4718m) will take your breath away instantly, with its surface exquisitely embedded into the lofty Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains. October is also one of the best seasons to visit Mt. Everest (8844.43m) at EBC in Tringri, Tibet.

Instead of closing souvenir shops, most of the businessmen inside Lhasa offer more products that cater to local Tibetans. In winter, Tibetan farmers and nomads have more time to go on a pilgrimage in this holy city. The few tourists and more Tibetan pilgrims allow you to enjoy the most intense religious atmosphere in Lhasa. You can explore more local customs than in high seasons of tourism.

Insider Tip: In addition to being less crowded, it takes less time for you to get your Tibet Permit in winter. You can enjoy more tourism promotion events in Lhasa and Shigatse, and the cost for hotels, transportation, and attraction tickets can also be much cheaper. In addition, the grandest celebration, Losar (Tibetan New Year), is also celebrated in winter. The various performances and distinct local dishes can only be seen and tasted during this particular time.

4.  All You Can See Is the Lifeless Mountain Scenery

Many falsely believe that the scenery in winter of Tibet is little more than monotonous, cragged mountains and valleys. But in fact, even in winter, Tibet is full of surprises. In Nyingchi (3100m), in eastern Tibet, the evergreen pristine forest and enchanting landscape will awe your senses.

Tour Tibet

Due to the influence of the warm air currents in Yarlung Tsangpo River, the typical “Swiss-Alps” scenery in Nyingchi remains unchanged. Why not enjoy the ride either on the tour bus or bicycle along the charming Nyang River, or explore in the renowned Lulang Forest? Nyingchi is the only place with dense forest coverage and lower altitude, so there is no need to worry about altitude sickness there.

Insider Tip: In winter, a large number of migratory birds will fly all the way from other provinces to spend the winter in Tibet. Never miss the rare chance to see a large number of black-necked cranes in the suburbs of Lhasa.

Best Travel Routes for Winter Tibet Tour

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Different regions of Tibet

Lhasa—Gyantse—Shigatse—EBC
Lhasa— Namtso (Nagqu)
Lhasa—Nyingchi

Overall, for international tourists, the excitement of a Tibet tour in winter definitely surpasses all expectations.

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Travel Stories through Pictures

5 Creative Ways to Tell Your Travel Stories Through Photos

 

Traveling requires funding and a lot of planning, which is why every traveler is blessed with the opportunity to explore the world one place at a time. Taking photos is a must-do for every traveler, and if you want to share your experiences with everyone, you’d better take a lot of them.

Photos are a visual way to tell stories of the moment you step out of your comfort zone and decide to see what the rest of the world can offer. In fact, travel photography is much better at telling stories than telling the story yourself. Pictures stimulate the mind and imagination better than spoken words (a picture is worth a thousand words, right?). That’s why it’s important that you take better travel photos.

To share your stories interestingly and effectively with other people, you have to be precise and avoid taking photos solely for the sake of remembrance. If you’re planning to create travel photo books that can last a lifetime, here are some ways to make sure your travel stories get through your photos:

1.  Envision Your Story

Before you start taking photos, think of a theme that will suit the culture of the place you’re going to visit. From there, list iconic places any tourist shouldn’t miss: historical buildings, iconic landmarks, must-try exotic local cuisines, and many more.

Planning can clear your head from having too many ideas and getting overwhelmed. It can help you in organizing and making your travel photography smooth sailing without going away from your desired theme.

2.  Get Posey

Of course, you’re essentially a tourist and you’re entitled to act like one. It’s okay to pose with a subject or set up a tripod and snap a photo with a breathtaking view as your background. It’s part of your travels and should always highlight every story because you’re finally visiting a place you previously see only through its photos on the internet.

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It will show how much happiness traveling can bring you and eventually, encourage your viewers to take a leap of faith and discover the world with their very own eyes.

3.  Go Candid

Candid photos are honest photos of subjects who don’t normally smile, pose, or project for the camera. Undirected photos show activities and reveal the underlying stories of every subject, which gives the viewer the gist of the way of life in that certain place.

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What’s great about photos is that they unravel the true emotions of a person, especially if they’re taken candidly. The next time you travel, make sure to take photos of people doing their daily routine.

While this is perfect for portrait photography, you can also capture the story of a place by snapping iconic monuments or the unique views that only the place or country can offer.

4.  Capture Every Detail

Every single detail is important and necessary when telling a story. Even the simplest things like riding trains and buying tickets play a big role in your travel narrative. Make sure to cover everything from the moment you step outside of your house until to your flight home.

5.  Accept Technical Imperfections

Yes, the spontaneous taking of photos can result in overexposed and blurry pictures. But that’s okay! Don’t delete them because certain precious moments happen rarely, and you might not take a photo of them again. Besides, you can always enhance low-quality photos using a photo editing software.

You can also try shooting in black and white, as it helps develop your photographic eye for good lighting and composition as well as highlights your subject’s emotions without the distraction of colors. Also, black-and-white photos look timeless and classic!

You don’t have to always abide by travel photography rules and compositions. As long as it’s your own style, do it!

Telling the story of your trips through photos is not hard if you just know exactly what message you want to convey to your audience. With a clear mind and organized way of taking photographs, you’ll definitely have no problem in sharing your experiences with people.

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Road Trips Best Done by Bike

Three U.S. Road Trips Best Done by Bike

Most people dread the driving aspect of a road trip, especially if you’re riding solo. But that completely changes when you’re taking the road via motorcycle. The adventure hones in on the ride itself, and the destination becomes an afterthought.

We’re reminded of this fantastic quote in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, one of our favorite books about travel and philosophy:

“In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.  On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”

Here are three road trips best done by bike:

Tail of the Dragon

Some of the greatest adventures on the open road can be found in the United States. First and foremost, we must talk about the Tail of the Dragon. The name in itself is enough to offer a great deal of excitement and anticipation. This road is more than an enticing name, though. The Tail of the Dragon offers 318 curves over 11 miles of Robbinsville, North Carolina. While this road is a great sight and perfectly suited for an adventure on the back of your bike, it is not for the faint of heart. Even advanced riders should prepare themselves with reliable motorcycle gear and accessories. That being said, If you’re up for a challenge, then this is the route for you.

San Juan Mountain Skyway

Next up we head to Colorado, specifically the San Juan Mountain Skyway. One of the most interesting things about this route is that it is a loop. This is a road equipped perfectly for the biker seeking to take in beautiful scenery and simply enjoy the ride. Because of the loop shape, you can technically hop onto this route anywhere, head either direction, and end up where you started again! Of course, it wouldn’t be Colorado if you didn’t spot some of the nation’s most breathtaking mountains throughout this amazing 225 mile ride.

Highway 1

Lastly, we go back to the beach. The world-renowned Pacific Coast Highway nestled in beautiful and sunny California. The beauty of the Pacific Coast Cruise is not only in its physical scenery and views, but also in its simplicity. It is one road that stretches all the way up and down the coast and overlooks beautiful oceans from southern to northern California.  It stretches from the beautiful beaches of Malibu to the foggy hills of Big Sur to the spectacular Redwoods of Humboldt Redwoods State Park. What a phenomenal way to spend a summer day!

These road trips all provide bucket-list views that prove the adventure is in the journey itself. If you’ve been inspired to hop on the back of a bike, we’d love to hear about your adventures and tips you may have for other riders.

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Plane in Flight

The Secret to Surviving Long Flights

I’ve never known anyone who was a fan of long flights. Sure, there are people who don’t mind flying or who see it for exactly what it is: a necessary part of travel and maybe even, on a good day, the doorway to a new adventure. But even those people wouldn’t be caught exclaiming, “I just LOVE long flights. Everything about them lights me up. The crowded planes, endless sitting, and mediocre meals are just a few of my favorite things!” Even if you travel in the lap of luxury, you don’t do it for the flights. Amirite?

Tips for Surviving Long Flights

That said, there are a number of ways to make surviving long flights possible. In some cases, they may be more tolerable and even, dare I say, moderately enjoyable. Like bringing a fully stocked library of books, movies, and music, for example. Hear me when I say that entertainment is KEY, people. If you’re going to be crammed next to a couple of strangers for more than five hours at a time, the least you could do is make a solid effort to distract yourself.

Books for Surviving Long Flights

If you’re anything like me, you’ll also want to bring snacks. Because nothing says misery like being hangry, and nothing screams misery like paying $10 for in-flight snacks only to be disappointed. I think, because of the liquid limitations for flights, many people think they can’t bring food either. I’m here to tell you that you most certainly can. Better yet, you can bring as much as you want: fruit, chips, sandwiches, gummies, cookies – literally whatever you need to survive.

Choosing your seat wisely is also a strong move, if you plan far enough in advance. At the very least, aim for an aisle, where you can let your legs linger in between the drinks and meal services. From there, you can try to get an exit row, where space is sacred, or even the bulkhead so no one can lean back into your lap. Or, if you like a little risk, you can choose something in the back row, which is usually reserved for attendants who don’t always use their seats, and spread out.

Putting comfy clothes to good use

If any of these options, in your humble opinion, sounds like more effort than they might be worth, then I offer only one last refuge. Listen closely. Ready? COMFORT. It is actually the only necessity for surviving long flights. Justin and I recently shared our favorite clothes for lengthy trips with GoEuro, and the common denominator was being comfortable. (Obviously we want to look decent as well, but that ranks much lower on the list of priorities. Now you know!)

No amount of food, space, or entertainment will do any good if you can’t relax in your small space. So get yourself a comfy pair of pants, and get on the road! Also, tell us what your must-haves are for long trips. We want to know!

 

 

 

 

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Baja Camping at Playa Saldamando

Baja Camping on the Coast: Playa Saldamando

It’s not often that we write posts about the places we call home. As travel bloggers, we’re always writing instead about the faraway places that stole our hearts or are sure to steal yours. It’s easy to forget that travel, exploration, and adventure are not limited to international flights or cross-country road trips, or that adventure doesn’t need to be extravagant to change your perspective. In fact, and especially as California residents, we’re as inclined to explore as much nearby – like Baja camping – as we are anywhere else simply because there’s so much to see.

I probably don’t need to tell you this, but I’m going to anyway: One of the best things about living in California, and San Diego in particular, is the access to all kinds of nature. Not just any nature. Like, ALL nature. This great state is widely known for its giant sequoia forests, its massive snow-capped mountains, its pristine beaches, and, yes, even its sprawling, dry desert. When nature junkies want it all within reach, California answers the call.

Blue at Playa Saldamando

While the climate is usually quite moderate, the temperature rises slightly in the summer months and the streets overflow with visiting tourists. We head fast for the van, but during these months, the nearby desert camping can be less appealing. It’s just too hot for anyone’s general enjoyment during the day. Instead, we recently planned a three-day trip down California for a little Baja camping, where the conditions are blissful and the Mexican food is even better (and cheaper).

Baja Camping

After a bit of quick research on Baja camping, we landed on Playa Saldamando, a privately owned campground just 10 minutes north of Ensenada that proved to be the perfect choice. We were able to make a reservation with the owner, George, in advance over the phone. When we arrived, despite unusual traffic into Mexico (side note: If you drive, make sure to get Mexican car insurance), we found our site roped off and awaiting our arrival.

The Hammock at the Playa

We wound up right on the bluffs overlooking the water, with enough space to accommodate our group of six, and plenty of distance from the neighboring sites to maintain privacy. In addition, each site came with a shade, a garbage can, fire pit, and a small table. Yet we had room enough to park the van, hang our hammock, set up a tent, two tables, four chairs, and play Kubb. It was pure perfection.

Bathrooms at the Playa

Though the grounds had a handful single-stall toilets only a short walk from each site, there weren’t any showers. Luckily we were wise enough to bring our Epic Wipes, which are basically full-sized, personal wet wipes, to wash with. We don’t often miss showering for a few days, but the Mexican sun and the sand require exception, and the Epic Wipes handled the job with grace. By day two, we were refreshed enough to head into Ensenada for more ice (and more beer).

Futball at Playa Saldamando

We spent the day watching other campers play on the soccer pitch, laying on the beach, and watching dolphins frolic in large pods just offshore. Mind you, I’m not kidding when I say the sun is stronger in Mexico, and protective eyewear is essential. Justin and I each have a polarized pair from Vision Direct, and they come in especially handy for trips like this because they’re sturdy and they provide just enough share to see the beautiful views more clearly.

Dolphins During Baja Camping

All in all we got good (and safe!) sun, played in the sand, and still managed to keep clean. Though maybe the best part was on the way home, when we stopped in Puerto Nuevo for fresh-caught rock lobster and one last Mexican coke. It was almost enough to make the hours-long wait at the border worthwhile. Though I’ve no doubt that we’ll return to Playa Saldamando, sunnies in hand, as soon as we can anyway.

Walking to the Playa

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