Acclimatization on the Tibetan Plateau

There are a couple of ways of visiting Tibet. You can either take a direct domestic flight from Cheng Du and experience an orgasmic 3000+ metres altitude and atmospheric pressure difference like what my tour group did or board the Qinghai-Tibet railway which allow you to slowly adapt to the increasing altitude (continuous but moderate suffering).

I have such strong faith in my western altitude sickness miracle pill ‘Diamox’ which I have gotten from Watsons (Singapore) that I rejected offers of Tibetian Hong Jing Tian sold by the Cheng Du Guide. It  turns out to be the worse decision that I have ever made….

Once out of the plane, I felt a sense of light-headness and slight difficulty in breathing afterall oxygen level is only 50% of what we are used to in Singapore. Everyone was suddenly very conscious of their walking speed. I still felt pretty ok then.

The bus ride from Konggar airport to Lhasa took around 2 hours. We stopped along the way at a primative shrine with image of Nie Tang Buddha craved onto the surface of a small hill.

Nie Tang Buddha engraved on the face of a mountain
Nie Tang Buddha engraved on the face of a mountain

The beautiful lake facing Nie Tang Buddha
The beautiful lake facing Nie Tang Buddha

There was also locals selling their traditional crafts and jewelleries infront of the shrine. With my office BFF’s gifts in mind, I squatted down to take a look and that’s when I begin to experienced dizzyness and lack of energy to push myself up. Thanks goodness my friend Sandy was around to get me up on my feet!

Beautifully made local crafts and jewellery at an affordable rate
Beautifully made local crafts and jewellery at an affordable rate

I was smacked right in the face with fullblown height  altitude sickness an hour later when we reach the restuarant. I felt breathless, dizzy and nauseous. The restaurant owner and guides were experienced and immediately prepared a hot glass of saturated sugar water. It worked like a charm! I was on my feet 15 mins later and feeling pretty ok :)

I only found out later that a sudden change in altitude will cause sugar level in blood to drop drastically. Hence moving forward, everyone armed themselves with sweets, chocolate bars and kitkats. No sugarfree stuffs for me please!

We spend the afternoon resting in our hotel to get acclimatized. For the first time in my life, I felt like a dying old man. Breathing was labourous and we were told not to use the oxygen tank made available in the hotel room so that we can get used to the climate.

The 4 of us (Melvin, Rick, Sebastias and myself) sneaked out after dinner for a short walk along the streets. Unlike Singapore, the sun sets in Tibet only after 8.30pm.

A small local pub called Lucky Bar!
A small local pub called Lucky Bar!

A traditional Tibetian domestic door
A traditional Tibetian domestic door

A cute chubby baby boy! My fingers are itching to pinch his cheeks :P
A cute chubby baby boy! My fingers are itching to pinch his cheeks

Purchase of local fruits for supper
Purchase of local fruits for supper

The first day in Tibet ended officially with a mini fruit buffet at Sandy’s room. I am real lucky that Sandy and Angeline are obsessed with daily fruit consumption. If they are not around, I might have gone all 7 days without fruits. :)

You may also like to check out my posts on other exciting travel destinations here

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