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January 15, 2012

SkyTrain to Heaven


If you are relatively healthy, have the time and money, why don’t you hitch a ride on the Qinghai–Tibet Railway to the city of Lhasa, which is the famous administrative capital of Tibet? I know this is going onto my to-do wish list; for sure.

This railway finally came online to passenger traffic in 2007. And it is an engineering railroad marvel, which attests to Chinese technical prowess. At some point this train reaches its highest altitude of 16,640 ft or 5,072 meters at the Tanggula Pass. To give you an idea how high that is, aviation law in the United States says:  “At cabin pressure altitudes above 14,000 feet (MSL), the crew must use oxygen continuously.”

“Supplemental oxygen is provided for all passengers and there is a physician on board.”

It cost almost 4 billion dollars to build and there were a lot of engineering hurdles to overcome. Two of which had to deal with minimizing the environmental impact to the region; and of course, building the railway on top of several hundred miles of permafrost soil was one of them.

It seems that the railway will be extended to reach Nepal. This would increase economic trade between China and Nepal. There has also been talk of connecting India and Bangladesh, but this would be far into the future.

Finally, I can imagine that coming into the city of Lhasa has got to be quite breathtaking and it is possible that you know you’ve arrived because of the majestic view of the Potala Palace. This trip not only promises some outstanding vistas of the Himalayas but this region is also impregnated with millenarian spirituality.

I added a couple of videos for your enjoyment.


From Beijing to Lhasa






From Lhasa to Beijing



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