We’re going to Amdo and Kham: Traditional Tibet

Nomad- Photo by Thelandofsnows.com
Nomad- Photo by the excellent website Thelandofsnows.com

I always had big plans for this Summer. Even before I knew what they were, they were going to be good! I am fortunate enough to  get a lot of vacation time in my job and, with Justin now out of the office and working from home, these years in China were ripe for adventure.  Since we moved to Beijing we have so far  spent October break in Shanghai, winter holiday in Burma and Thailand, Chinese NY in Xi’an and now the big one: Summer in Amdo, Kham and Indonesia.

Where on earth are Amdo and Kham? You might ask!

And I wouldn’t blame you. Amdo and Kham are Tibet. But they are also not Tibet. They are part of China now. Traditionally Tibet was divided into different regions. Two of those were called Amdo and Kham. These days, much of Amdo and Kham lie outside of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) and are in in the Chinese regions of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan. Few travellers realise the TAR only contains 50% of the Tibetan plateau, so Amdo and Kham are great places to still experience Tibet without having to get another visa or hire a mandatory guide (as  you have to if you visit the TAR). For a more detailed explanation, please see the amazing website The Land Of Snows.

Photo of a monastery from TheLandOfSnows.com
Photo of a monastery from TheLandOfSnows.com

Why these regions?

We had originally planned on going to Tibet (the Tibetan Autonomous region). But we were really put off by the the rules and regulations for foreigners. While Chinese people can freely travel to Tibet (and many of them are travelling there as tourists and to set up businesses.) Non-Chinese people have to get a visa and have a tour guide with them at all times. There are also many restrictions on where you can travel.

Justin and I already have visas that give us the right to live and travel in China but we still have to get further visas to travel in the Tibet Autonomous Region! Some people will try to tell you it’s to keep  us foreigners safe from all the political unrest… some people might think otherwise! I have very strong opinions on this  and so  I wasn’t up for navigating the (in my opinion) outrageous visa, political  and human rights issues.  Whilst researching visiting the TAR, I realised that I could still visit “Tibet” without having to get a new visa. I began to learn about the traditional regions of Tibet and how there is some amazing Tibetan culture to experience within China itself.

So, what are we going to do there? We are hoping to see Tibetan monasteries, home stay with nomadic people in their yurts, ride horses, see grasslands and eat Tibetan food. I have spent a good deal of time reading The Land of Snows website in excitement! I really recommend using this site if you plan to visit any part of Tibet. It  has some great itineraries to use as a basis. We have used the Xining to Chengdu route to plan an outline of our 3 week trip. After that we will fly back to Beijing for a quick stopover, ready to start the second half of the Summer: diving in Indonesia.

If possible, I will post some updates on this blog as we go. But I may not be spending a lot of time on the internet. If I don’t update (I’m not taking a laptop) fear not, there will be plenty to blog about when we return. Otherwise find me on twitter and instagram (I literally just set up an instagram account!).

Twitter: @joellabjacobs

Instagram: Joellajacobs  (Yes, I know-  I am extremely late to the instagram party…)

Photo from Langmusi.net who are organising our nomadic home stay and horse trek. Fingers crossed for great weather.
Photo from Langmusi.net who are organising our nomadic home stay and horse trek. Fingers crossed for great weather.

Have you visited this region? Have you read much about it? Would you like to go? Let me know!

19 thoughts on “We’re going to Amdo and Kham: Traditional Tibet

  1. How exciting! I have never been to Tibet but your time there sounds like it’s going to be amazing. I can’t wait to read about it (even if we have to wait awhile). Where are you going to in Indonesia, again? I wish I knew more about diving…but if you have any other questions feel free to ask 🙂

    1. Thank you! This trip has been so great! And I’m off to Indonesia in 2 days! I’m going to Bali, the Gili Islands and nusa Lembongan. Can’t wait!

  2. That’s awesome! I’ve had a lot of the same thoughts about Tibet and haven’t decided if I will go to Lhasa or not… the rule are frustrating and I’m afraid going might be wrong. I’m so excited to hear about your adventures, I bet it will be awesome. Horseback riding will be crazy! Also, welcome to Instagram.

  3. I never knew you had to have a tour guide at all times to visit Tibet! Can’t wait to hear about all of your adventures this summer – they sound amazing!! Diving in Indonesia is phenomenal – you will have such a great time. Totally following your instagram now 🙂

    1. Thanks, Katie! I am loving using instagram- why didn’t I join sooner! I am super exciting for the diving- just a few days to go now.

  4. Interesting. I’ve heard lots about the Tibetan visa regulations and I think it’s an excellent work-around to head to the Chinese area. I can’t wait to hear more about it!

  5. Oh man I really wanted to go to Tibet, but eventually had to be content with visiting Shangrila because of lack of time. Well, have a lot of fun, can’t wait for photos!

  6. That sounds amazing! I went to some of the Tibetan regions in China last autumn and it was so beautiful, and really like entering a new country. I’m sure you will have a blast!

  7. Ooh, I hope you have had an amazing time in Tibet! Can’t wait to hear about your adventures, especially home staying in yurts!

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