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Across the Roof of the World to Tibet

21 April 2016

My journey started with a few days in Beijing and the opportunity to take in all of the city's great landmarks - in particular Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden Palace, and of course, the Great Wall, where the views are truly special. With free time to simply enjoy the city, I took advantage of one of the numerous restaurants available, and can now say without a doubt that Peking duck tastes better in China.

After Beijing, I travelled by high-speed train across to Xi'an, an incredible city that was once China's ancient capital. Here, I took the chance to see the amazing Terracotta Warriors, which were discovered a short distance from the city. The statues are housed in three huge buildings and as you wander around the sheer scale of what is there is hard to comprehend. Unbelievably, the Warriors are still being recovered and restored, and along the way you see people hard at work, as the site just grows and gets more complete with every year that passes. Whilst I would have appreciated more time in the city to explore the ancient walls and the Grand Mosque, my tight schedule only allowed for a one-night stay, after which it was time to join the train and head off to enchanting Tibet.

Travelling from the very heart of mainland China right up over the Tibetan Plateau, the route across to Tibet is mesmerising. As the journey unfolded, the train passed from the fields of Xi'an, and after a night's rest, I awoke on the Tibetan Plateau. As I peered out of the window, I saw my first glimpse of yaks led by local herdsmen, Tibetan farms and prayer flags fluttering in the wind, all set against the incredible mountainous backdrop of the Plateau itself.  Eventually the train began to descend, and Lhasa, dominated by the iconic Potala Palace, emerged. From my own experience, I would say this has to be counted as one of the most epic train journeys in the world.

My exploration of Lhasa lasted two days. A particular highlight was a visit to the Jokhang Temple and exploring the narrow streets surrounding it. At 1300 years old, the Temple is an icon of Tibet, and is considered the country's most sacred place. Topped with a golden roof, this awe-inspiring temple is spread over almost six acres, having grown through centuries of renovations and renewal into the magnificent complex that stands today. A haven for tourists and pilgrims alike, this was definitely an unmissable sight, and a truly fascinating part of my Tibetan adventure.

Despite my short stay, the relaxed pace and unique appearance of Tibet, a striking contrast to the busy cities and rapid pace of China. However, what will always stand out for me was the incredible journey across the 'Roof of the World' to Tibet; a truly unforgettable rail experience that was incomparable to many I have taken.  

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