Skating - Tibet - China                                                                                                                             Return

Is Tibet the safest place to Skate? - No. Easy to get to? No. Comfortable? No. Lots of places to skate? No.  There is nothing that compares to it. I would have to tell others DO NOT SKATE HERE. IT IS TOO DANGEROUS. But I loved it. It was so cool to skate here!!

This report is much more limited than we had hoped. The goal was to cover as much of the eastern part of Tibet as we could. We started from LiJiang in Yunnan province (China), and then headed NorthWest. We wanted to cover Tibet, rollerblading in every place we could. We went into Tibet the hard way, in from the Eastern side. Of course we also wanted to do lots of hiking and the like. We did quite a bit, but unfortunately due to SARS we got stuck out side of ChangDu, Tibet, and our trip was slashed way short. It seems that all the check points in Tibet (and there are a lot of them that you have to clear as you move around Tibet), had received  instructions not to let ANY tour groups Foreign or Domestic, go any further into Tibet than they already were, with suggestions that vistors head home - quickly. Also most hotels/hostels were closed down. Anyway we were told we could not go on with our trip and it was "suggested" we take our leave quickly. We drove two long days back to Yunnan, The airport in ZongDien we flew out of, we were told, was closing down that same day.

Before we got "shown the door out" we did manage to try out rollerblading in several cities (as well as quite of bit of hiking though the mountains (hitting over 18,000 feet above sea level!!)). Hopefully for all of us SARS will take its leave soon and we can try again some other day.

KunMing Aiport Hassels

I have to mention getting to LiJiang. To start you normally fly into KunMing. Then from there you head out into different directions, and parts for Yunnan. My first visits required a jeep over rock and dirt “roads”, a two day trip. But now the roads are good, or you can fly there and avoid driving. As it takes a full day to drive there, flying is a good option, EXCEPT for getting through the Kunming domestic airport. The new airport building is nice, but the staffing and procedures are not better than it was in the old. I have seen friends of the security staff sneaked out of line and around security so they would not have to wait with the rest of us. (of course besides not having to wait they were also not checked either). You get off a international flight, go over to the domestic section of the airport to check in and (if you have more than 25k of luggage) then you have to dump some of it, but you can not hand carry it, because the hand carry restrictions are much smaller than on the flight you just came in on. If you argue a lot, and the line builds up behind you, they will most likely let you pay a surcharge for the overage, but maybe not.

Then through security you best be carrying not much at all, because it is likely they will tell you, you can not carry what you have with you onto the plane. (like that bottle of wine I purchased and had carried on two plane changes before I got to Yunnan). What you are supposed to do with it, they could not care less. When you ask what you should do, the staff in Chinese, will say “not my problem” You can not put it in your check-on bag, as that is already on the plane (getting to security can be a long wait), they will not let you carry it. Also if your carry on is too big (and that is not very big at all) expect problems. (I had to explain at great length why checking in my laptop computer was a bad idea.) Frankly the hassles of this airport, if you are not prepared, can spoil a large part of the trip. You have to travel light and carry not much at all on the plane.


The last time I was in LiJiang was years ago, a week after the earthquake had leveled most of it. So I was not ready for the change. LiJiang had changed in 6 years or so, from a quiet town with a reasonable amount of visitors coming to see the mountains, to a modern tourist meccah. The first time I was there 12-14 years ago, there was only one "hotel" that had any rooms with a private toilet, and only two of their rooms had that. Now LiJiang has 4 star hotels - with in-room toilets, Diet Coke and DVD shops everywhere.

Lijiang is a the gateway to the Northwest Yunnan Plateau, neighbouring the southeast side of the Tibentan Plateau. It covers an area of 20,600 square kilometers with a population of 1,030 ,000. The whole district is comprised of four counties: Lijiang, Yongsheng, Huaping and Ninglang. LiJiang's weather is remarkably pleasant. Spring weather there can lasts as long as 241 days a year. Lijiang is 603 kilometers away from Kunming. The airport in LiJiang was opened in 1994. (

Lijiang boasts of nearby sights such as Jade DragonSnow Mountain (Yulong Xueshan) and its modern maritime glacier; Tiger Leaping Gorge ( Hutiaoxia ); the world - famous grand canyon; Lugu Lake, and the "Matriarchy" of the Yongning Mosuo people in Ninglang; the Old Town of Dayan Lijiang

The ancient city of Lijiang is found in Dayan Town, a largely Naxi settlement first built during the Southern Song Dynasty some eight centuries ago. In December 1986, the State Council designated the place as a famous ancient historical and cultural city of a national caliber. In 1997, the UNESCO put Lijiang on a list of the world's major cultural heritages.

With Sifang Street at the core, the entire city spreads out in all direction, and is crisscrossed by a labyrinth of flagged streets and alleyways. Most of the dwellings, scattered at the foot of a mountain or by the rivers which flow through every nook and corner of the city, are brick-and-tile structures with carved doors and painted windows. Traffic across the rivers is facilitated by a large number of tiny stone bridges. The entire city is evocative of a town south of the Yangtze River.

Now for the good news, for rollerblading LiJiang is great, wide streets, many of them have side sections for bicycles, and are perfect for us.  The main roads are like a large rectangle that go around the city, all good for rollerblading, with several cross streets. The background is mountains, snow capped. The city is large enough to provide a good day of rollerblading, and there are lots of side areas that are fun to skate in and fun to see, such as the markets). Some of the roads leading away from the main rectangle can be a bit rough and covered with gravel, so keep your focus and stay flexed. About the only part of the town you can not rollerblade in is the old town, the walkways are stone and (sometimes) dirt, so carry a set of sandals to wear.

As always we skate politely and the police were equally polite.

LiJiang is a cool place to skate. Worth bringing your blades for.

LiJiang Photo Gallery


A few years back many countries in Asia were telling the world they had the true Shangri-la. China renamed ZhongDian, built it up from a town with one lousy hotel and one main dusty street, to a reasonably nice city with a couple of nice hotels and good restaurants.

What is funny is according to an official China web site that claims to this being “the true” Shangri-la is:

“According to the record in history, in 1944, indeed was an American transport plane crashed in Zhongdian of Yunnan Province while flying over the Sino-Indo air route.  By careful study and investigation, it has been found out that the beautiful "Shangri-la" describe in The Lost Horizon is Zhongdian area of Deqen Tibentan Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan Province”

Well the movie Lost Horizon was made in 1937 and the original book by James Hilton was published in 1933. All a few years before 1944. Even with the lack of research the city of ZhongDian has now been officially renamed to Shangri-la, I guess just to remove any doubt where the real Shangri-la was, I mean, now is.

Whatever, the recent upgrading of the city means new roads - all just perfect for us to do some skating. Not as large a city as LiJiang, it still can provide a day’s skating fun. It has two main streets that run parallel, and several cross streets. All the streets we tried that lead away from the city ended up as broken bits or concrete or just plain dirt roads in short order. But the main streets stayed good quite a ways out of the main part of town. There are a couple of “cafes” where you can stop and have a drink before taking off again. If you are passing through, it is well worth a few hours of skating through and around. A note of caution, the altitude here is starting to get a bit high, 14,400 feet above sea level, so you may need to take it easy until you get used to it.

Zhong Dian Photo Gallery


DeQin is the last large, relatively speaking, town before going into Tibet. Though I have been coming here, well passing through here, for many years now, I am not a fan of DeQin. Basically it is just a place to stop over before heading on. I guess to me it is just a reminder of how long and uncomfortable the road is, and how bureaucratic China can be.

DeQin, at around 16000 feet above sea level,  is  built on the side of a mountain. It has almost no flat streets, most all the streets are very steep. We skated a bit, but I did not enjoy it. You are either going up a steep hill (which at this altitude is a bit of a chore), or you are going down a steep street.

This is the part I did not like. We had to do T-stops to keep our speed under control. Even though we were on the street there is no room for any other stopping techniques, the street is used for everything from cars, motorcycles, people walking, cows, donkeys, tractors, and trucks. So besides just keeping your speed under control you are often forced to come to complete and unexpected stops. The road surface is slick, and covered with small bits of gravel, so not only do you have to keep pressure on, but often it is not enough to slow you down. With all the gravel there, you just keep on sliding downhill.

After just 30 minutes of skating, stopping skating, I had ground my right skate wheels to a knife point.

I think the thing I have always disliked about DeQin is the arrogance of the place. This is the last stop before Tibet and the entrance to Tibet is tightly controlled. Because they control access, and because they are bureaucrats, frequently they will just make you wait, just to make you wait, with the see I am important look on their face.

Maybe because of its position on the edge of Tibet, there are a lot of police in the town, and because of their bureaucratic nature, they are not very polite. This is the only small town in China we had problems skating. The problems were not big, funny in fact, just being bureaucrats, seeing us skating they had to order us to do something, move here, or there. Just to show they had the power, but we ignored them anyway.

For Skating, I suggest giving this place a miss, anyway we had some real fun just around the corner.

DeQin Photo Gallery

DeQin - Tibet Highway

This is a dangerous place to skate. Stay away. Bad.

Many years ago I would travel days over rough roads, and hike over trails to get to the temple at the glacier at MeiLi Snow mountain. But now there is a great road from DeQin to a "hotel" at the base of the mountain.

Skating here is a bad idea. Smooth paved road going around, up and down, mountains. No guard rails. Sheer drops of thousands of feet. Big trucks coming around sharp corners on the one lane road.

This was just the most fun. Great newly made road, very smooth surface, mountains on all sides, requiring complete focus.

Skating here was great. Up and down, around the corners. Having to keep an ear out for cars and trucks coming that you can not see. And not getting to close to the edge. We had lots of fun. Fortunately we got tired before we were hit by a truck, or fell off the edge.

Where the road splits to MeiLi Snow Mountain, the road that goes to Tibet returns to rock and dirt.

DeQin - Tibet Highway Photo Gallery

MeiLi Snow Mountain Base

At the base of Meili Snow Mountain there are two villages. Originally to get to the temple of Meili Snow mountain I stayed in the village down the right lane , in whatever hut I could find. But now there the village down the left road has a nice paved road to it, and a hotel. And a couple of the rooms in the hotel have bathrooms in them. (not all just a couple). But even more important is the paved road out front of the hotel, perfect for skating. Well almost perfect, there is a lot of gravel on the road. But also there is some cool traffic on the road, a great view of the countryside, and the surface is reasonable. Also the road has a nice downhill. Although it requires some care, with all the gravel on the road. Thankfully I was focused and properly flexed, so when the gravel was trapped in my wheels, I was able to pull out of it and not crash down the hill. Tractors going uphill were easy to catch and hang on to for a free ride. Now there is only the one road, but as we were already there, with skates, well then there you go.

MeiLi Snow Mountain Photo Gallery


ManKang is a small Tibet town on the way from DeQin to Changdu. A small place, but with a smooth road good for skating through. A bit high on the elevation, so do not be surprised if you run out of breath. It has one main street with a few cross streets. Interesting town to skate through. The main street goes quite a ways out of town, so you can go quite far on it. Going through the eastern part of Tibet it is required to stop and have papers checked here before going on further. This is also a town for lunch or stopping over at night, either way stopping here for a slow paper check it is good for a few hours skating.

ManKang Photo Gallery


Imagine a small dirty place, built solely for the purpose of Truck Drivers to stop overnight on the Tibetan route. It has a street.

ZuoGong Photo Gallery

Yunnan-Tibet non Skating Photo Gallery



Category Description



Road Surface

Describes road surface conditions


The road surfaces here we experienced were very varied in quality. Most of the roads we skated the surface was very bad. Pretty much what you would expect. They went from bad to where they could not be skated. At all. However parts of the roads and highway was brand new, and was easy to skate. But the highway is still dangerous. Most of the highway could not be skated, but the new sections where smooth, but no siderails, and a drop of a few thousand feet. avi  The small towns all had a main street through town that you could skate. Some had side streets, some did not.

Road Conditions

Is there enough room for skating on the road? Are intersections crossable?


Dangerous. Is the only way to describe every part of skating here. from the highway with its drop offs (If you don't  stop you fly.) To the towns where a cow (bull?) may chase after you, to piles of stuff on the road that will smell bad and make you crash.

Traffic Conditions

Describes level and condition of traffic. Is the traffic heavy, fast or erratic.

Traffic was not heavy, but they have never seen skaters here, so they may be distracted enough to not pay attention to the road, and you will have to dodge what is dodging them.

Driver Attitudes

Describes how drivers react to and treat skaters


They overreact. This can be dangerous.

Danger Level

Describes overall danger of skating in this location. Everyplace is dangerous to street skate. Street skating means crumbling roads, bad drivers (or worse), air pollution and even nature. But some places are more dangerous than others

Very. Bad roads, erratic drivers. Big and small animals on the roads. Dogs and cows will chase you. Goats too. Smelly stuff all over the road. BIG trucks on small roads.

Criminal Factor

How serious is crime in this location.


 Did not see, or hear of any crime.

Cool Factor

Is this a cool place to skate.


Yes this is a cool place to skate. The coolest. Tibetian monks coming over to you. People wanting to meet you. Skating with the bicycles.Skating in the Tibetian mountains at 18000 feet!! (That is cool - tough too!)

Fun Factor

Is this a fun place to skate.


Big time fun. Easy to run out of breath though.


Are there sidewalks, and if there are what are they like? Often having sidewalks can be worse than not having them. With a bad sidewalk drivers may assume you should be using it - no matter how dangerous it is to use, and react very badly when they see you on the road instead of the sidewalk.

What is a sidewalk?


Any other conditions or issues that were found while skating here

Getting here is not easy. Places to stay smell bad. Animal poop everywhere. Food is pretty poor. But I still love it here!!


A summarization of the skating experience at this location.

There is nothing like it. I would have to tell others DO NOT SKATE HERE. IT IS TOO DANGEROUS. But I loved it.

Desire to Return - Overall Rating

The bottom line. Is the place good enough that we want to return here to skate it more. With all the above taken into consideration how much are we looking forward return and skate this location further.


If I can find the time (and energy) to make the LONG trip, you bet. Skating Tibet is the chance of a lifetime, so I want to do it again, and BETTER.

LiJiang Photo Gallery  Zhong Dian Photo Gallery  DeQin Photo Gallery  DeQin - Tibet Highway Photo Gallery  MeiLi Snow Mountain Photo Gallery ManKang Photo Gallery ZuoGong Photo Gallery  Yunnan-Tibet non Skating Photo Gallery




 Country Information


Airport Pick Up

Please arrange car pick up to and from airport.

Airport Tax

Airport tax is RMB90.

Business Hours

Offices in Beijing generally open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a lunch break of about an hour. Government-stipulated work days are from Monday to Friday. Banking hours and days vary from bank to bank in Beijing. However, most Chinese banks are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 5 p.m., and have branches that are open on Saturdays and Sundays. Shops generally open at 9 a.m. and close between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., and are open on Sundays.


Normal Western business attire is considered appropriate for doing business in China.


CNY/RNB (Chinese Renminbi)

Entry Requirements

L-visas for single or multiple entry for tourists are valid for 30 to 60 days. F-visas for business travel can be valid up to 6 months but may require the visitor to leave every 30 days. They are good for single, double or multiple entry. Those seeking business visas must obtain official invitation from a government office or a company authorized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Health Risks

Potable water is available only at top hotels, so visitors should always ask to make sure. Prior to your trip, consult your doctor on immunizations you might need (e.g. tetanus, typhoid, cholera and hepatitis A and B) and about malaria suppressants if you're planning to go to rural areas. Bring all prescription and over-the-counter medicine you might require.


The official language is Mandarin (or Putonghua, based on the Beijing dialect). Most tourist hotels have staff who are fluent in foreign languages.

Local Climate

Extremely diverse, from tropical in the south to sub-arctic in the north. Beijing has a continental monsoon climate with clear-cut seasons. Spring is dry and windy. Summer is hot and humid. Autumn offers the best weather, with generous sunshine. In winter, the city is severely affected by freezing winds from Siberia


Visitors to China should note that there are severe penalties for drug offences, including in some cases the death penalty.

Name of Airport

Beijing International Airport

Phone adaptors

Power adaptors


Tipping is generally not expected in mainland China

Useful Links

Governments on the WWW: China (People's Republic)
Laws and Regulations of the People's Republic of China

Useful Numbers

Police: 110 Fire Department: 119
Ambulance: 120
Tourist Hotline: 6513-0828
Local directory assistance: 114 (Chinese); 2689-0114 (English)






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