A TICKET TO THE GOOD LIFE

Iso­la­tion poses a huge chal­lenge to a city loaded with must-sees for tourists, but it is not let­ting that hold it back

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WEEKEND LIFE - By LIU XIANGRUI li­ux­i­an­grui@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Like mi­gra­tory birds whose re­turn her­alds an im­pend­ing sum­mer, jet air­craft de­scend on a re­mote city in Ti­bet, har­bin­gers of pros­per­ity whose fruits inhabitants are be­gin­ning to en­joy.

And even as air­craft home in on the new ter­mi­nal at Ny­ingchi air­port, opened four months ago, else­where on the ground work­ers are toil­ing away on a chal­leng­ing sev­enyear project in which a rail­way line is be­ing built to link the city with the cap­i­tal, Lhasa, about 400 kilo­me­ters to the west.

If that were not enough to con­vince you that some­thing is afoot in Ny­ingchi, a high­grade road con­nect­ing it and Lhasa is now be­ing built that, when it is com­pleted within the next cou­ple of years, is ex­pected to halve the present travel time of 10 hours.

What these mon­u­ments to hu­man en­gi­neer­ing have in com­mon is that they will in­evitably help nour­ish a blos­som­ing tourism in­dus­try seen as a ticket out of poverty for many of the city’s 230,000 inhabitants.

Even be­fore adding in­ge­nu­ity to the mix in this quest for a bet­ter life, Ny­ingchi, about 3,000 me­ters above sea level, is well ahead of the game, en­dowed with rich nat­u­ral re­sources and well known for its su­perb land­scape, nat­u­ral won­ders, his­tor­i­cal sites and bi­o­log­i­cal di­ver­sity.

The ma­jes­tic Nam­jag­barwa Peak, lush Lu­lang For­est, Yar­lung Zangbo Grand Canyon, the long­est canyon in the world, and Ba­sum Lake, which holds a spe­cial place for the re­li­gious, are just four of the jew­els in its fine crown.

The area is also spe­cial for its eth­nic groups, such as Ti­betan, as well as Lhoba and Menba, which are among the small­est eth­nic groups in China.

“We are de­vel­op­ing the econ­omy around tourism, and aim to as­so­ciate all in­dus­tries, all de­part­ments and ev­ery cit­i­zen with that,” says Ten­zin Sang­drub, di­rec­tor of the lo­cal tourist depart­ment.

Last year dur­ing the peak sea­son more than 10,000 vis­i­tors a day ar­rived in Ny­ingchi pro­por­tion­ately akin to 1 mil­lion peo­ple de­scend­ing on a big city like Beijing each day.

Over the year, the lo­cal gov­ern­ment says, it spent 1.32 bil­lion yuan on more than 80 tourist projects, the likes of ru­ral inns, restau­rants, in­fra­struc­ture and tourist vil­lages. The aim: to en­sure that the area’s poor­est peo­ple have a di­rect share in the spoils of an eco­nomic wind­fall that these projects can de­liver.

The size of that wind­fall is ev­i­dent in the bil­lion yuan that the lo­cal gov­ern­ment says tourism at­tracted year.

One of the at­trac­tions that helped pull in that money was the Ba­sum Lake area. The lake, whose name means green wa­ter, is in the high­lands, 90 kilo­me­ters west of Kongpo Gymdo county in Ny­ingchi. It cov­ers more than four square kilo­me­ters and lies at an al­ti­tude of more than 3,700 me­ters.

Far from the hus­tle and bus­tle of towns and cities, Ba­sum Lake is renowned for the bluish-green wa­ter that gives it its name and the lush veg­e­ta­tion in the sur­round­ing land. Ba­sum is also a holy lake for the Ny­ingmapa school of Ti­betan Bud­dhism, one of the old­est schools of Ti­betan Bud­dhism.

If the med­i­ta­tive life is not your cup of tea, out­door ac­tiv­i­ties such as moun­tain bik­ing and hik­ing com­pe­ti­tions have been in­tro­duced in re­cent years, and the Ba­sum Lake

PHO­TOS BY LIU XIANGRUI / CHINA DAILY

Ba­sum Lake is renowned for the bluish-green wa­ter that gives it its name and the lush veg­e­ta­tion in the sur­round­ing land.

Ny­ingchi is spe­cial for its eth­nic groups, such as Ti­betan, as well as Lhoba and Menba, which are among the small­est eth­nic groups in China.

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