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
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
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.