We had no choice in how to leave Nepal-the land border to China was closed and we didn’t wish to go back through India, Myanmar, Thailand and Laos as we had come. It turned out to be a beautiful experience because we crossed so many snowy mountains. We flew to Lhasa, Tibet, then Chengdo, China then Xi’an. The twins, who had never been in an airplane, now had three flights under their belts. DH and I realized we hadn’t flown together since around 2002.
We were six in a row on the first flight!
We crossed over the mighty Himalayas first. They were as beautiful and majestic as I would hope. We saw one peak sticking out through the clouds before we saw a clearing in the clouds with many peaks.
We landed in Lhasa among the velvety brown mountains and went through customs smoothly. Well, there was the kind of tiresome part when Cleverly had to empty her enormous collection of books and art supplies to surrender a lone pair of children’s scissors in her backpack that would not be joining us. But the inspection area was quiet and the staff were friendly so it really wasn’t that bad. I am just impressed that we managed to hold on to our hard-won, 10-year, multiple-entry Chinese visas since getting them back in July. Not getting a new visa for this border crossing was a pleasure.
What really surprised us on the flight was the vast sea of snowy peaks between Lhasa and Chengdu, kind of visible above. I did not know the name of this mountain range, but it differed so much from the thin band of snowy Himalayas. I looked it up and I think it is the Mahabarata Range in parts of Nepal, Tibet, China and Bhutan. It was beautiful. Since we had to fly, I’m glad we were able to see such gorgeous mountains from above.
The plane was clean and quiet. No squattie potties, but rather western-style toilets with toilet paper, yes! We had a meal and snacks, some mysterious items but we ate most things. There were videos of a show with practical jokes that were all visual and fairly entertaining. At the end of each flight was a ‘relaxation excercise’ video where we massaged our head meridian and stretched our arms. After the third flight, we were in Xi’an in a sleepy airport. We were all struck by how new and shiny everything looked, and how quiet and deserted it seemed. We had gotten used to train stations in India with monkeys, dogs, and farm animals, many sounds and smells, and this was so different in comparison.
It was nearly midnight when we got to Xi’an, but to us on Nepal time it felt two hours earlier. We wandered a little, hoping for a nearby hotel, and thought about a taxi to town. The girls had a great time with the luggage dollies. In the end, we took a remarkably smooth, clean bus (no bumpy roads or beat-up minivans like in Kathmandu) an hour to the downtown and slept in a business hotel. It was 2am local time and we slept almost until checkout time at noon. Kind of a tough entry but we were in China after it all.
Cleverly the diva waves to the late-night Xi’an airport crowd as her minions push her chariot.
And, yes, that is a stick (near the kids’ feet) DH emancipated from the Himalayas.