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The Chinese may be cracking down on rioters in Lhasa, but interest in Tibet is only surging says The New York Times. As access to the region has improved, more and more people are making trips there, to the tune of 5 million people a year. (Could Olympic Torch protests be helping hype Tibet, too?)
And unlike what happened after the junta in Myanmar killed a bunch of people, a sense of danger and a sense of guilt aren't affecting Tibet tourism. Says one travel agent:
Travelers were very frightened about heading to Burma while the protests and crackdowns were occurring...People who were scheduled to go to Tibet still very much want to go and do not seem concerned about the situation.
Obviously, we have to redirect them elsewhere because nobody can get entry permits for Tibet, but I do think it's interesting that the current events seem to have actually stimulated interest in the destination rather than discouraged it.
And therein lies the rub. Even if you want to go to the region, China has stopped issuing travel permits for Tibet. The routes up to Mount Everest, you've probably heard, are also closed.
Tourism providers like Globus, Mountain Travel Sobek and Collette Vacations have decided to cancel their trips for the spring. But maybe it's a good sign that they've yet to postpone their summer and fall excursions?
First the tourists, now the journalists. In the wake of the Tibet riots, China has been revving its propaganda machine, calling Western media coverage biased, preventing reporters from entering Lhasa and blocking access to YouTube. (Luckily, they didn't knock it out worldwide.)
On the other side of the world, several members of Reporters Without Borders broke through security to make a scene at the Olympic torch-lighting ceremony in Athens on Monday. One guy was able to unfurl a protest banner behind a Chinese speaker before being dragged off by police.
Amid all this, it's looking like the Olympic Games have slim chance of going without disruption. The whole debacle is disappointing; for all its facelifts and crazy stadiums, China still doesn't know how to run an open society.
· China Reproaches Foreign Media [IHT]
· China Travel coverage [Jaunted]
· 2008 Olympics coverage [Jaunted]
After crackdowns on protests in Tibet last week, tourism in the region might be in trouble. At least that's what the Chinese state media is saying, quoting a cab driver and a hotel manager.
More reliable news sources have it that now may not be the best time to stop by, as anti-Chinese sentiment simmers. The US State Department has issued a travel alert:
American citizens in Tibet and especially in Lhasa are advised to avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place. US citizens in Lhasa should seek safe havens in hotels and other buildings and remain indoors to the extent possible. Americans are advised to defer travel to Tibet at this time.
Meanwhile, you won't be able to climb Mount Everest until at least May 10. China's shut down access to the mountain because of "environmental pressures" though the timing of the decision couldn't be more suspicious.
· Department of State Travel Alert: China [Official Site]
· Tibet Tourism to Suffer after Protests [AP, via Houston Chronicle]
· Riots Dampen Tibet Tourism [Xinhua]
· Mount Everest Closed [Perrin Post]
· Tourist Video Shows Riot, Flames in Lhasa [CNN]
Train Travel / Trains / Siberia / Tibet / → All Tags
The end of the year seems to have come early in Britain with the UK's Times newspaper running a series of "best of the last 12 months" wrap-ups on all kinds of travel topics. The pick of the bunch was a round up of the top ten train trips around the world.
We love a bit of clickety-clackity train action, and heartily agree with most of their picks, especially the train to Tibet and the Ghan up the middle of Australia. A couple of the more unusual entries on the list include the 1,000km El Transcantábrico in northern Spain and the should-be-traveled-more route between Bangkok and Singapore.
In trying not to be predictable, however, the Times left off the grandest train journey of them all, the unmissable Trans-Siberian. If you're going to take a long train journey, the best place for it is really one where there's plenty of vodka to numb the pain of being trapped in a train cabin for hours or days on end.
Statues / China / Tibet / Politics / → All Tags
Talk about white elephants. Or llamas. Wait, maybe it's lamas. Anyway, as if it wasn't enough to be ruled by China, Tibet will now have a 35-ton, 24-foot tall statue of Mao Zedong to remind them of that fact.
The money for the statue, a first for Tibet, was given by the people in Mao's hometown of Changsha, in the Hunan province as part of aid money for the country. How generous of them. Maybe they could just build a giant jackboot instead?
· Giant Mao statue erected in Tibet [BBC]
· Huge statue of Mao Zedong stands in Tibet county [Xinhua]