Symptoms tend to be worse at night and include headache, dizziness, lethargy, loss of appetite, nausea, breathlessness and irritability. Difficulty sleeping is another common symptom, and many travelers have trouble sleeping for the first few days after arrival at Lhasa.
An altitude over 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) is usually defined as high altitude. Since most places in Tibet are higher than this level. Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), also called Altitude Sickness is the biggest health risk to tourists travelling in Tibet. AMS is common at high altitudes due to the decreasing availability of oxygen. Most people will suffer differing degrees of symptoms at high elevation. The occurrence of AMS is dependent on the altitude, the ascent rate and individual physical condition. Symptoms of AMS include headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of appetite and disturbed sleep. Most people will experience one or more AMS symptoms upon their arrival in Tibet. The symptoms will usually gradually decrease in severity during acclimatization. Mild AMS usually will not interfere with mild activity.
However AMS can be very serious, with the most serious symptoms being High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE), which can be fatal. Symptoms of HAPE include weakness, shortness of breath, even at rest, impending suffocation at night, and a persistent productive cough with white, watery, or frothy fluid. Symptoms of HPCE may include headache, ataxia, weakness, hallucinations, psychotic behavior, coma and loss of memory. Both approach and strike at night and can be fatal! Immediate descent is the surest treatment.
AMS can be lessened or avoided with proper acclimatization, which will also ease and reduce AMS symptoms. A gradual ascent will allow your body to acclimatize to higher altitudes and the decreased oxygen supply. Go no higher 300 – 400 hundred meters (984 – 1,312 feet) daily and have a rest after each 1,000 meter (3280 feet) ascent. Medication also helps to prevent AMS. Mild AMS symptoms can be treated with proper medication. If medication does not relieve the symptoms, go to hospital or evacuate immediately to safe altitude! top
The following precautions may help to prevent or lessen the effects of AMS:
1. Drink plenty of fluids (3 – 4 litres daily at least) and eat carbohydrate food to keep the body properly hydrated;
2. Do not over exert and only partake in light activity immediate after your arrival
3. Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or take other depressants such as tranquilizers and sleeping pills. These will depress the respiratory drive and limit oxygen intake.
4. Avoid catching cold before you entering Tibet. top
1. Diamox (Acetazolamide) have been found helpful. It allows you to breathe faster so that you metabolize more oxygen, thereby minimizing the symptoms caused by poor oxygen supply. Since it takes a while for Diamox to have an effect, it is advisable to start taking it 24 hours before you go to altitude and continue for at least five days at higher altitude. The recommendation of the Himalayan Rescue Association Medical Clinic is 125 mg, twice a day (morning and night) but you are recommended to consult your physician for the prescription.
2. Hongjingtian Tibetan herbs are still good preventive and treatment effects for AMS. Honjingtian (Rhodiola Eoccinea) may help sleep at high altitude and thus increase oxygenation at night.
Before you go to Tibet.Get as fit and healthy as possible, both physically and psychologically. Visitors having record of heart, lung, other organ problems or anemia should consult their doctor before making the decision to visit Tibet.
Who can’t go to Tibet? Suggest who suffered from high blood pressure and severe heart disease not travel to Tibet. top
Etiquettes and Taboos
With unique culture and religion, Tibetans have different ways of behavior in many aspects. The following is about some of Etiquettes and Taboos in Tibetan.
– Presenting Hada (or Khatag) is traditional practice of respect and hospitality in Tibet, and will be appreciated by your host. If you are presenting a Hada to a statue or a high lama, raise the Hada above your shoulder and bow. When you receive a Hada, it is proper to accept with both your hands.
– Remember not to step on threshold when entering the tent or house.
– Calling somebody in name please add “la” behind the name to express respects.
– If you are asked to sit down, please cross your legs, do not stretch your legs forward and face your sole to others.
– You should accept the gift with both hands. While presenting the gift you should bend your body forward and hold the gift higher than your head with both hands. While offering tea, wine or cigarette, you should offer them by both hands and any fingers do not tough inside of the bowl.
– Do not touch, walk over or sit on any religious texts, objects or prayer flags in monasteries.
– When the host presents you a cup of wine, you should dip your ring finger in the wine and flick the wine into the sky, in the air and to the ground respectively to express your respects to the heaven, the earth and the ancestors before sipping the wine. The host will fill the cup, and you take a sip of the wine again. After the host fills your cup again, you have to bottom it up.
– Tibetan people do not eat horse, dog and donkey meat and also do not eat fish in some areas, so please respect their diet habits.
– It is not polite to clap your palms and spit behind the Tibetan people.
– Tibetan people stretch out their tongue to say hello to you. Also it is a courtesy to put their hands palm in front of breast. – Do not smoke in monasteries. Also it is banned to touch the statue of Buddha and religious articles and take pictures of them. In addition, all should walk clockwise (not in the Bon temples).
– Seeing any dagobas, monasteries or Mani piles, please go around them clockwise (not of the Bon), do not cross them.
– Eagles are the sacred birds in the eyes of the Tibetan people. You should not drive them away or injure them. On the outskirts, you could not drive or disturb the sheep or cows with red, green or yellow cloth strips on.
– Don’t wear shorts, especially go to visit monasteries, temples.
Since more and more tourists are going to Tibet, more and more Tibetan people get used of seeing the ‘Big Noses’ (western people) with jeans, sun glasses and some of them with shorts. The above rules are not obeyed so strictly as before. But we still suggest you take the above advices and travel to behave well. top
What to Pack
Pack the minimum wherever you travel! Planing a trip to Tibet is just the same as in any other places. But remember Tibet is on the roof of the world and most part of it is remote area. The things to pack should be in your consideration beforehand.
Bags: A large backpack and a smaller one. The smaller one can be used for daily activities and can also be put into the big one when necessary. And a waist pack to put property and important documents.
Cold-proof clothes: The temperatures change greatly on the altiplano. In the north part of Tibet, people wear thick coats all year round (including July and August which are the hottest months in most of the areas in China). The highest temperature is 4-5 degrees centigrade in northern Tibet. It also snows in July and August. In Lhasa, the temperature in July arrives at 30 degrees centigrade at daytime, but falls to 10 degrees centigrade at night. Sometimes it will snow or sleet at night, so you’d better take some down garments (those with hats will better), woolen sweaters, warm gloves, warm and wind-proof shoes and socks. Wearing several layers of clothing that can be easily added or removed is the wise choice since temperatures may vary greatly within a single day. A down coat is necessary for those who are traveling beyond Lhasa and Shigatse into more remote areas such as the Everest Camp. A windbreaker plus a sweater will work nicely for strolling around Lhasa in summer. During the peak tourism season, frequent rainfall makes waterproof clothing and raingear absolute necessities. Other essentials to pack include four or five pairs of cotton or woolen underwear, four or five pairs of woolen socks, long sleeve cotton or lightweight wool shirts and T-shirts. Women should avoid skirts or dresses.
Shoes: It is very important to have a strong comfortable pair of boots. Lightweight boots are fine, but Tibet can be wet and we will do extensive walking, so make sure your shoes fit well and are suitable for cold and puddles. You should also have a pair of comfortable and tough sandals.
Protection against sunburn light: As the sunshine is really strong, you’d better take the sunglasses, sunhat and suntan lotion etc. Ladies should take the high SPF sun-cream.
Medicine: Take an adequate supply of any prescription medication you use regularly, including inhalers for asthma. Most over-the-counter medicines, such as aspirin and anti-diarrheal pills, are available in Lhasa, but are more difficult to obtain outside of urban areas. If you wear contact lenses, be sure to bring enough cleaning solution for the term, since this is hard to find, and expensive. Bring diamox pills which is believed to prevent the altitude sickness. Please consult your doctor prior to your travel to Tibet.
Trekking equipments: Some trekking supplies (down and fleece jackets, boots, bags, etc.) are available in Lhasa, but it is better to be prepared before departing since supplies are unpredictable.
Water: Water purification equipment, such as hand pump filters, is not necessary, as bottled mineral water and thermoses of boiled water are available everywhere throughout Tibet. Water purification tablets can be useful during trekking.
Electrical current: The electrical current in Tibet is 220v, AC 50 Hz. There are numerous different plug types used in Tibet , so it might be easier to purchase an adapter once you get there. What to buy in Tibet top
Less affected by other costume cultures, Tibetan costumes remain in their original style. Both the style and the color combinations are very exotic. A piece of clothing, a small hat or even a piece of pulu will win the admiration of friends who have not been to Tibet. Click Tibetan Costume to learn more about Tibetan costumes and pulu. top
With a history of over 1,000 years, thangkas are Tibetan-style scrolls usually painted with figures of the Buddha or the Avalokitesvara.
A brief introduction
A thangka is an exquisite scroll painting consisting of a picture panel either painted or embroidered, a textile mounted together with some ornamental and functional accessories. Thangkas show themselves in upright rectangular form with a few in horizontal oblong banners. The former one is the most common type found in monasteries and family alters, which is usually 75 centimeters (30 inches) long and 50 centimeters (20 inches) wide. However a thangka which is 55.80 meters (183 feet) high and 46.81 meters (154 feet) wide can be found in Potala Palace . Thangkas are used for conveying religious doctrines and for decorating monasteries etc.
The history and development
Thangka plays a very important role in the history and development of Tibetan paintings. According to historical materials, the origin and development of thangka painting accompanied the evolution of Buddhism in Tibet. It is said that the first thangka appeared as early as 1,000 years ago. The painting which is convenient for carrying and collecting came into shape then, and was very popular among the nomadic people. At the end of the tenth century, Buddhism experienced a thriving era again after a period of time when Buddhism was in the doldrums. Since then thangka’s have taken big strides in their development and come into a prosperous era. Painters with superb techniques have enjoyed great popularity which enabled the thangka to reach its peak during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and consequently different genres with distinctive painting styles appeared
The creation of thangkas
Being a unique art genre only found in Tibet, the creation of thangkas is quite complicated, subtle and also requires different techniques and training skills. The process of making a thangka follows a precise set of rules that are considered sacred. After a proper cotton canvas is selected, each side of the cloth is stitched onto a wooden stick. Then the cloth is stretched over a wooden frame in order to create a smooth and flat surface. After setting up the cloth, a mixture made of glue and talcum powder is brushed evenly on both the front and back of the cloth. Then the cloth is removed to a flat position where it is thoroughly dried. Then using a shell or a round stone burnish on the both sides until the lines of the cloth are indescribable and the cloth looks and feels smooth and lustrous. top
Tsa-tsas are mainly used as holy oblation in Tibetan Buddhism, and certain small ones can be used as amulets. Tibetan people believe that making tsa-tsas is a process of accumulating merits and virtues. Tsa-tsas are believed to have the power to prevent disasters, cure illness, and provide atonement. After being empowered by a dignitary, they can be holy objects. These holy objects are always put in places that are believed to have a nimbus. Thus many tsa-tsas can be found inside stupas, Buddha statues, monastery altars, holy caves or beside holy mountains, holy lakes and other holy sites.
Tsa-tsas can be divided into several categories according to different ingredients that are added. The commonly seen and widespread ones are ordinary, made with clay without any special ingredients added. These tsa-tsas are always engraved with Tibetan barley or other symbols to express the maker’s piety or blessing for a beautiful life. Ash tsa-tsas have ashes of late dignitaries added to the clay. Medicine tsa-tsas, which can be used as healing amulets when sick, have many rare and precious medicinal materials added, including pearl, carnelian and saffron, etc. They appear the same as other tsa-tsas except for their color. Another kind of tsa-tsa contains the liquid produced in the mummifying process of late high lamas. These tsa-tsas are the most precious, are mainly used as amulets, and only the nobles and relatives of high lamas can get them. Tsa-tsas made by high lamas themselves have the lamas’ fingerprints on the backside, indicating a supernatural power was infused. These delicate tsa-tsas are finished with advanced techniques, which also makes them very precious.
Tsa-tsa refers to clay-made figures of the Buddha enshrined by Tibetans to ask for the blessings of the Buddha. They are treasures of Tibetan art. Tibetan Handicrafts will give you more information
Barkhor Street may be the busiest street in Tibet. It is not only a street of Tibetan culture, but also a business street. A wide variety of handicrafts, relic replicas, precious porcelain and delicate accessories are sold in the shops and stalls along the street, including most of the items mentioned above. Dazzled by arrays of goods, you may feel lost and wonder what to buy. These recommendations may help. top
Besides their practical functions, Tibetan knives can also be used as a kind of accessory. Carved with various pictures on the sheath and adorned with shining jewels, they may outshine any item in your collection.
In addition to the items above, tourists can get Tibetan carpets, Tibetan paper, wooden bowls, embroideries and bone carvings, etc. Tibetan Medicine is also a good choice, but you’d better buy it in state-owned pharmacies. top
Food & Drink in Tibet
The special geographic features of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau nurture the flavorful Tibetan cuisine. However, it is also largely influenced by the flavors of Indian cuisine, Nepali cuisine, and other cuisines in China. These flavors mix together, making Tibetan food exquisite. While admiring the fascinating scenery of Tibet, seize the chance to have a taste of Tibetan food.
Tibetans have rice, wheat and barley as staple foods, and usually they eat food made of barley, such as Tsamba. The so-called tsamba is actually stir-fried barley. Different from the process of dealing with wheat among the Han people, barley is first stir-fried, and then milled into powder without being peeled. Tsamba is often accompanied with yak butter tea. Pour out half a bowl of yak butter tea, then add tsamba into the tea, stir it with your fingers, crush it up and it is ready to eat. During festivals, Tibetans throw tsamba into the air to pray for a good luck.
Tibetans like eating meat to fight the cold. The meat of yaks and sheep is the most favored. The meat of goats is disliked, while that of dogs, horses, and donkeys is taboo. In some areas, people do not eat fish for they regard fish as the incarnation of the god of water. Other people do not eat chicken or even eggs. Food Taboos differ from area to area. Tibetans are used to eating raw meat. In winter, they cut the meat into slices and hang them high up. The meat will keep fresh in the coldness and gradually dry. In the next spring they can either eat the air-dried meat as it is or cook it.
Sweet tea and yogurt are the other two common drinks. Sweet tea is what you get when you add milk and sugar to boiling tea. It is very popular to propose a toast of tea when seeing somebody off. Yogurt is more popular in pastoral areas.
Tibetans do not eat vegetables very often. In recent years, the situation has changed a lot, but vegetables are still much more expensive than those in mainland China.
Chang is a kind of low-alcohol liquor that is brewed using fermented barley. It is enjoyed by all Tibetans, men and women, children and elders. It is also a necessity for festivals and religious ceremonies. These days, Tibetans dance freely and drink sweet chang to their content on the grasslands.
Yak butter tea is a daily drink in Tibet and a drink to greet guests as well. Almost every Tibetan family keeps a lot of yak butter in storage. When they make yak butter tea, they put yak butter into a bowl of tea, and after it is thawed, heat it up in the cooking pot. It is very convenient and rich in calories.Tibetan cuisine tastes very light, while aromatic, sweet and crisp food is a local favorite. Most food is boiled, deep-fried or steamed, because it is not easy to stir-fry food on the plateau. Generally speaking, a Tibetan meal consists of a staple food, meat, drinks and vegetables. top
Tibetan is the language chiefly used in Tibet. Linguists hold different opinions on its origin, but most believe that it was created according to Sanskrit in the early 7 th century under the rule of Songtsen Gampo, a king of Tibet who married a princess of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and introduced Buddhism into Tibet. In China, the number of papers and documents recorded in Tibetan is only second to that of those written in Chinese. These documents contribute enormously to the record of Tibetan history and the spread of Tibetan culture.Tibetan falls into the Tibetan-Berman group of the Sino-Tibetan Language Family. As a language with alphabetic writing, it consists of 30 consonants and 4 vowels. Like many other languages, it has a large vocabulary and a well-formed system of word classes, senses, grammar, sentence structures, and tones. Nevertheless, with centuries of development, spoken Tibetan is not totally consistent with written Tibetan.
Tibetan is a language abundant in dialects. Some of these dialects are similar, but some are so different that a Tibetan speaker may be confused when speaking with a Tibetan from another region. To reduce the difficulty in communication, some scholars are calling for the standardization of Tibetan. They are making efforts toward this purpose and have gained a series of achievements
As in all languages, Tibetan never stops developing. It assimilates new words continuously and adds new expressions from other languages, becoming more and more vivid and expressive. Now it is not only used by 90% of Tibetans, but is also adopted by many other ethnic groups. Today there are newspapers, magazines and even websites in Tibetan. In recent years, scientists have also developed a kind of typing software to input Tibetan into the computer. This helps greatly with the spread of the language In addition to Tibetan, there are many other languages in Tibet. In fact, in some places in Tibet, many local people can speak more than one language. Besides Tibetan, they also know Mandarin, English, or Nepali. There is not too much difficulty for tourists to understand them or to be understood. top
With the continuous efforts of Tibetan people and the financial and material help of other Chinese people, conditions of health facilities in Tibet have considerably improved in recent years. A complete network of hospitals, public health centers, clinics and other medical institutions at levels of province, city, county and township have long been well established. The population of doctors, dentists, nurses per 1,000 persons has grown to even larger than that of some other provinces in China. The professional quality of hospital personnel is also on the rise. Many of them have produced remarkable achievements in their fields. Medical equipment has developed greatly; some of it further advanced compared with many other places in the world. More medical infrastructures are provided to satisfy the needs of patients.
Like other hospitals, hospitals in Tibet are divided into several departments, such as Medical Department, Surgical Department, Dental Department, Dermatology Department, and Department of Gynecology. Some hospitals mix Tibetan Medicine, Chinese Herbal Medicine and Western Medicine together with surprisingly good outcomes. Some hospitals feature in research on the unique functions of Tibetan Medicine.
Presently, in Lhasa hospital facilities include the People’s Hospital of TAR (Tibet Autonomous Region), the Second People’s Hospital of TAR, the People’s Hospital of Lhasa, and the General Hospital of Tibetan Military Region. Patients receive a warm reception and careful treatment in these hospitals. Hospital conditions in remote counties may not as good as those of Tibet and in mountainous areas; one may not access any medical service. Accordingly, tourists should take with them necessary medicines. Click Lhasa Travel Tips, Shigatse Travel Tips, Chamdo Travel Tips, Nakchu Travel Tips, and Shannan Travel Tips to get more information on hospitals in these places. top
Useful Numbers in Tibet
Local Phone Number Inquiries: 114 Long-distance Phone Number Inquiries: 113
Police: 110 Fire: 119 Ambulance: 120 Weather Broadcast: 121
Consumer Complain: 12315 Tourist complaint Center: 0891-6833476
Lhasa: 0891 Shigatse: 0892 Shannan: 0893 Nyingchi: 0894
Chamdo: 0895 Nakchu: 0896 Ngari: 0897
Gonggar Airport Information Desk: 0891-6182220
Airplane Ticket Offices: 0891-6833446/6322417
Bus Station of TAR: 0891-6824469
People’s Hospital of TAR: 0891-6332462 Lhasa People’s Hospital Emergency Center: 0891-98120 top