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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. (
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
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.
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.
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.
always we skate politely and the police were equally polite.
is a cool place to skate. Worth bringing your blades for.
few years back many countries in Asia were telling the world they had the true Shangri-la.
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.
is funny is according to an official China web site that claims to this being “the true” Shangri-la
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”
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.
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
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
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.
- Tibet Highway
This is a dangerous place to skate. Stay
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
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.
the road splits to MeiLi Snow Mountain, the road that goes to Tibet returns
to rock and dirt.
- Tibet Highway Photo Gallery
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
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.
Imagine a small dirty place,
built solely for the purpose of Truck Drivers to stop overnight on the Tibetan
route. It has a street.
non Skating Photo Gallery
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.
Is there enough room for skating
on the road? Are intersections crossable?
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
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.
Describes how drivers react to
and treat skaters
overreact. This can be dangerous.
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.
How serious is crime in this
Did not see,
or hear of any crime.
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.
the bicycles.Skating in the Tibetian mountains at 18000 feet!! (That is cool
- tough too!)
Is this a fun place to skate.
time fun. Easy to run out of breath
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.
is nothing like it. I would have
to tell others DO NOT SKATE HERE.
IT IS TOO DANGEROUS. But I loved
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.
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