Posts Tagged ‘Tibet’

Love from Lhasa!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Call it Tibet or be politically correct and call it China, I loved my visit to Lhasa. I was looking at some of our photos of our travels and realized I hadn’t talked about Lhasa in a long time.

Lhasa is over 11,000 feet above sea level, so get some altitude sickness medicine and begin taking it a couple of days before you arrive. In many ways I felt Lhasa was frozen in time a la Lost Horizon, a true Shangri-La, steeped in bright colors, lots of incense, interesting architecture, and charming clothing. Food is not why you go to Lhasa – lots of yak dishes and lots of yak butter. It’s all about the experience – the palpable spirituality.

We picnicked outside a monastery; visited monks learning to debate and participated in meditation with the monks;  we visited sacred shrines and palaces, and lunched outside Norbulingka, once the Dalai Lama’s summer residence, with a monk who, through an interpreter, answered our questions about his life. Enough words – time for some pictures! Enjoy!

Email me, Barbara, for more memories of Lhasa or info on the logistics of visiting this exotic destination.

Lots to see in Lhasa!


In September 2011 we had the opportunity to join Guy Rubin, Managing Partner of the award-winning Imperial Tours, on a visit to Lhasa, Tibet. Our home for 3 nights in Lhasa, St. Regis Lhasa, now ranks as one of our favorite hotels in the world! Did we love it? Lhasa-Apsolutely!

Arrival in Marrakech: Am I being deported?

09-angry_woman

When I was in Tibet, I learned that tourism can be affected  by the whims of the “government”, a word used to describe any form of regulatory body from local to national. We were supposed to picnic in one area and the “government” forbade it, so we dined elsewhere in a lovely spot  under the shade of a tree. I shrugged off the experience as insignificant.Fast forward six weeks—When planning our flights to attend PURE, Michael and I chose to fly Easyjet from Gatwick to Marrakech. Easyjet, known for its pared down service and it’s menu of service fees, has garnered a loyal following. I see a place for this type of offering for a short haul, but not for a flight over 1 1/2 hours. All coach and minimal legroom are doable, but seats that don’t recline at all are the deal killer for me.We arrived in Marrakech, enduring 3+ hours of sitting “at attention”, and looked for our airport butler, a service offered in some countries to help newly arrived visitors through the immigration lines and passport control. Not spotting our name on any placard, we darted o the shortest line. We waited obediently behind the designated line and, when our turn to be submit our passports came, we promptly stepped forward.”No!” admonished the clerk sternly while straightening her uniform, “One!” Michael stepped back and left me to fend for myself with this impersonator of Attilla the Hun. I offered my best “suck-up” smile and hoped for the best. “Flight?” barked the Grand Inquisatrix. Oh my God, I forgot to write the flight number and fear coursed through my veins. A young woman a couple of people behind Michael volunteered the number. “8855,” I told the wicked Witch of Morocco. She glared at me and shoved the form and a pen towards me. I scribbled the digits where instructed and after a moment more of glaring and a loud pounding of official stamps, I was allowed entry into Marrakech. She must have found Michael more to her liking because she processed his entry card quickly.

We were about to exit the area when a man, dressed in a suit, stopped us. I panicked-had Miss Congeniality alerted the “muscle” to teach me a lesson? “One moment, please” he said. He said “please,” which I hoped was a good sign. He motioned to another government-issue suited gentleman. The man joined our little conversation. “Mrs. King?” he inquired. “Yes,” I whispered. “Follow me!” He grabbed my carryon and headed off at a rapid clip. He stopped in front of a baggage carousel piled with luggage recently unloaded from Paris. “Stay here.” Giving me back my carryon, a better sign than the “please” of the other suit, he once again scurried off. A few moments later he reappeared carrying a luggage cart. I breathed a sigh of relief—we just met our airport butler! He quickly went in search of our luggage, definitely a challenge considering we were standing by the off-loaded Parisian bags. Emboldened by my realization of freedom from deportation, I moved our cart to the right carousel and quickly found our luggage. Our butler wheeled us and our cart out the door and into the waiting arms of our driver, who pleasantly drove us to the Four Seasons Marrakech.

Joel Zack, president and CEO of Heritage Tours Private Travel, our host for this brief 3 day introduction to Marrakech, asked us how our airport butler arrival was. Answering his question with a question, I asked if the person ever greeted people as they disembarked from the aircraft. “Well, they can’t walk on the tarmac, of course, but are always at the top of the entranceway to the terminal,” he responded, still waiting for my assessment of the butler, then added, “Where were you met?” We laughingly described our entry past Her Highness, the Growling Passport Agent, and Joel smiled. “Welcome to Morocco! This airport greeting service is fairly new here and sometimes these services are subject to those hiccups that are so distinctly Morocco.” I shared with Joel the way the government in China may change tourism rules without notice. Joel explained that the Moroccan version, “It might be that a mid-level airport official had a fight with his wife, maybe a lousy night’s sleep and, for a moment, procedures change.”

Heritage Tours Private Travel’s documents, as extensive as those offered by our favorite Chinese company, Imperial Tours, highly suggest in the paragraph about life in Morocco, “a sense of humor, a bit of patience and a smile go a long way.” How right they are and not just in Morocco! Wouldn’t we all be happier if we wore life like a loose garment?

Blogger’s note: any exaggeration of the situation is purely coincidental and does not, in any way, reflect on the charming, thin-lipped Passport Control agent above (in case she reads this!).

Lhasa Apso-lutely a must visit!

Dsc_0178

Must see TV has nothing on Lhasa! Go, visit, experience, absorb, feast, feel the spirituality! Watch our slides of our recent journey to Lhasa and give Michael and Barbara a call to find out the details of our experience, hosted by Imperial Tours. You will call us, right? 800 546 TRIP (8747)!

This is my final answer: My picks of China hotels from our recent journey

St_regis_lhasa

 

Imag0180

 

Imag0178

 

Peninsula_shanghai

 

St Regis Lhasa                                                     Waldorf Astoria on the Bund                                         The Peninsula Shanghai

I didn’t need to call a friend or poll the audience! After much thought and consideration, here are my favorite hotels from our recent journey to China. Last week, I offered a list of the perfect hotel room. Now that I’ve had several more experiences in Shanghai, Chengdu, Huangshan, Hangzhou, and Lhasa, I have a new order of favorites and I proudly share them below:

St. Regis Lhasa-I wasn’t sure how I’d react to plush luxe in Lhasa. It seemed like an oxymoron, but it works. It really does. The use of native materials, granite, stone and wood; the decor, a mixture of muted colors accessories of tactile native crafts and religious items, and amazing photographs and paintings; the service is impeccable (attention Chinese hotels that complain how difficult it is to train their staff to Western standards, maybe Magdy Anis will allow you to sit in on his training classes); the butlers were a silly affectation (it’s a St. Regis thing) but fun; and the food was divine. The architecture was about blending into the city and not sitting in some awkward, juxtaposed out-of-place way.

Waldorf Astoria on the Bund: a Shanghai MUST STAY. Last night, the final night of this Chinese journey, I stayed in a suite in the historic old building and LOVED everything about it-even though it did not have a brainy toilet like the new wing (go back a few posts for my love affair with the brainy toilet). My Tip: request a suite facing the river in the old wing ( there are only a few) or a suite in the new tower facing the river. What won me over and moved the Waldorf to my absolute fave for Shanghai was the in-room check-in. Last week after sampling the Waldorf and the Peninsula, i picked the Peninsula. The main decider was en suite check-in. Last night i had that luxury at the Waldorf, and, thus my new #1 in Shanghai. Some people are devoted to other Shanghai properties, but at this writing, I prefer the Puxi side of Shanghai, on the Bund, with great service and an excellent breakfast (you may recall that the Peninsula’s breakfast was totally scrambled and unorganized).

Peninsula Hotel Shanghai: The clubby feeling at the Peninsula would comfort a solo traveler and some people still appreciate the signature outfit of the Peninsula bellman. Beautiful hotel and the first new build in years on the Bund. I like the Peninsula tradition but prefer the history of the Waldorf Astoria.

The next must stay hotel is the Amanfayun in Hangzhou-picturesque and tucked into a spiritual area. It is very soothing and spiritual and when they improve their lighting in rooms and on pathways (rooms are scheduled for increased lighting this winter), it will be a solid recommendation.

Other places we stayed or inspected were adequate, even perhaps, the best of the area, but truly not worthy of comment—except I did like the Four Seasons Hangzhou, just a little too Western compared to the Aman.

I know several of you have been to China. What are your favorite places to stay?

 

Amanfayun-photos-room

 

Four_seasons_hangzhou

 

Amanfayun                                                            Four Seasons Hangzhou