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Lazy Day in Bukhara and Trouble with Tibet Permit

Today different people were up for different activities. Some of my fellow travelers, who have the ambition to see all the sights of the places we travel to, went to see more of Bukhara’s 4Ms (mosques, mausoleums, minarets and madrasahs). The more relaxed ones went to a hamam or wine tasting. They said the wine was pretty much sweet but nice. No wonder in the hot climate of the area.

Personally, I don’t fancy to go sightseeing on every single day of my 15 months journey. Especially when you travel for a long time you need to pace yourself otherwise your mind gets numb from tons of impressions and experiences. Therefore, I like to use some of my free days to relax, to communicate with family & friends, to follow up on my blog or to do arrangements for my upcoming travel.

The travel arrangement I had to deal with today was the Tibet permit which I will need for my travel from Xi’an to Kathmandu. Dragoman informed me yesterday their local China / Tibet agent advised them that Tibet tourist permits may effective immediately not be issued to all nationalities nor all travelling groups. There has been no official announcement made by the Chinese government yet which makes it kind of difficult to understand the situation and act accordingly. The clearest explanation Dragoman can gather by now is those travelling in a group with more than five other travelers of the same nationality will most likely be approved and granted a Tibetan permit. Individuals or groups with less than five people of the same nationality are likely to be denied a permit to visit Tibet. Unfortunately in the group of people I’m supposed to travel aren’t enough fellow German travelers which put me at risk of having my Tibet permit denied.

Until now I wasn’t aware there is a risk of not receiving a Tibet permit and I have already booked my flights to join the trip in Xi’an and leave it in Kathmandu. There is also only a very narrow time window in which you can travel this route since most of the year it’s simply to cold and roads are impassable due to heavy snowfall. Dragoman only offers two trips a year with the departure dates of July 1 and July 31 in 2012. Therefore, I have arranged all my travel in a way to make one of these departure dates work. I’m also very much excited to travel to Tibet since the roots of Buddhism lie here, I would like to experience the high altitude on the “Roof of the World” and wander around the Mt. Everest base camp. Not being able to travel to Tibet would be a huge disappointment for me.

In order to obtain a Tibet permit I was communicating with my friend Michael and a local visa service back home to check if there is anything they can do for me. Unfortunately they couldn’t help here since it needs a local China / Tibet agent to apply for the permit. I also was in touch with Dragoman and it turned out they booked me on the July 1 departure date while I wanted to go on the July 31one. Luckily they were able to change my booking to the other departure date and magically four more Germans appeared on this trip which I found very strange but nice. So far I haven’t traveled with any German on a Dragoman trip and suddenly there should be four of them. Well, when this helps me to get the permit I don’t mind them. So keep your fingers crossed I will finally get the permit.

In the evening some of us went to a small restaurant featuring a roof terrace overlooking Bukhara. The food here was excellent and not too pricy. The restaurant even featured a piano. Strangely it wasn’t in the dining area but in a separate room where a lady was sitting playing the piano for the guests in the restaurant. This reminded me of our driver Sam who is a passionate piano player. Sam always looks for opportunities to play the piano while travelling. Unfortunately he’s not with us but still in Iran to repair the truck or on his way through Turkmenistan to catch up with us. We haven’t heard from him since days and I hope he’s doing fine.

After dinner I went on a walk with my roommate Isabella. We mainly strolled around the main square with a fountain in the middle. Some of the buildings surrounding the square were illuminated by colorful lights which Isabella very much enjoyed and what was her main intention to ask me to go on a walk in the dark with her.

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