Interspersed with those are memories of my family hit hard by altitude sickness. The image of my 8-year-old daughter so lethargic that she spent most of her time flat out on the bed or carried in the arms of her dad. The picture of my bacon-loving son turning down a plate of crispy strips — so hard to find in Malaysia — because of loss of appetite. My throbbing headache and cotton-filled brain where coherent thoughts weakly struggled to swim up to the surface. The way my lungs begged for air, and my heart raced as if I had just sprinted a mile even though all I had done was walk slowly, oh so slowly, from the hotel room to the lobby. Tibet was literally breathtaking.
On our second day, we took hits off the canisters of oxygen in the mini-bar. To think that I had found them so amusing when I saw them for sale in the airport baggage claim area. I assumed it was for Everest expeditions, not mere sightseeing excursions. It was so strange to teach the kids to press the button, inhale deeply, and then hold their breath for a moment before exhaling. Finally, those After School Specials about huffing have finally come in handy. If we had planned on spending more than three nights there, I would have cut the trip short and flown out earlier.
|Straight Up Oxygen (and the stink eye)|
Then, there was my teen who hovered in the sweet spot of being both old enough and young enough so that the altitude did not affect him as much as the rest of us. He would bound down the hallway, barely stopping to wait for the rest of us to catch up.
Riding around in the car was some of the best sightseeing for us. It was passive enough that our sorry physical state was not too much of a hindrance. Watching Tibet whiz by the window, it struck me how it was simultaneously exactly what I expected but, on the other hand, much more modern than I anticipated.
Come along for the ride.
|Lhasa River plain between the mountains|
|Prayer flags on bridges|
|Wide, orderly boulevards in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet|
|A public bus passes bicycles carrying goods throughout town.|
|A woman transports her shopping in a pedicab while a policeman speaks with a man on a bike.|
Notice the green street sign at the top with the information shown in
Tibetan, Chinese, and phonetically spelled out Mandarin.
|Schoolgirls walking home after school.|
|A pedestrian street with architecture typical to the city.|
|A cluster of buildings on the outskirts of Lhasa|
|Farmhouses at the base of the mountain road leading up to Ganden Monastery|
|Cattle crossing in the middle of town|
One of the major things that I don't show is the military presence in Tibet. The Lhasa Riots and Tibetan Uprising a few months before the 2008 Beijing Olympics signaled an uptick in dissent in the region. Soldiers are stationed throughout Lhasa to serve as a reminder of China's power over them, and we passed through numerous checkpoints when driving to outlying areas. Apparently, I would make a horrible photojournalist as my fear of disappearing into a Chinese prison is enough to keep me from sneaking photos.
By the time we were there for 48 hours, the symptoms started abating. My girl roused herself enough to eat what she has deemed to be the "The Best Hamburger in Asia." We boarded the plane still feeling a bit woozy and immediately improved the moment they closed the doors and pressurized the cabin. By the time we landed in Xi'an, we were feeling fine and ready to take on the world.
Have you ever suffered from altitude sickness?
This post is part of the following Link Ups. Check them out for more around-the-world travel inspiration.