Debarshi & I have been driving across Africa, Americas, and Oceania for years. So in April 2019 we thought of driving closer home. We wanted to drive from Kolkata in our Ford Endeavour, but were faced with a logistical nightmare. The travel formalities for entry through Nepal and then into China through the Zhangmu border was no easy task . To add to it , no permissions are granted for foreigners driving in Lhasa.
Thus, we took the relatively simpler option of taking the direct short flight from Kolkata to Kunming and then to start driving from there. I realized with a little research that a Chinese Guide in your vehicle is mandatory and zeroed in on CHINA DRIVING ADVENTURES among many self-drive agencies in China. Our contact was the owner Kevin (his English Name), a perceptive, rational and meticulous individual who swiftly picked up our pulse of travel.
Preparing for the Chinese Driver’s License
It is important to note that updated information about China is difficult to come by. Although Debarshi had prepared in advance for a written test with 100 questions on driving rules and road signs in China, the actual process in Kunming on reaching was far simpler, Kevin had already submitted an application for temporary permit along with our Indian Driver’s License. Debarshi had a quick eye test and check that he had no less or more than 10 fingers ! The police gave him a brief on traffic rules in Chinese, translated by Kevin, and issued the Chinese Temporary Driver’s Permit.
Debarshi started driving the next day on 23 April and we covered the Yunnan & Sichuan provinces primarily the Kham Tibet Region finishing in Chengdu on 6 May.
We then took the Trans Tibetan Railway – the highest in the world from Chengdu to Lhasa changing trains in Xining.
This time I decided on a photo log and video log to describe our driving experience day wise as follows:
- Arriving in Kunming
- Kunming to Lijiang
- Lijiang to Shangri-La
- Shangri-La to Xiangcheng
- Xiangcheng to Xinlong
- Xinlong to Derge (We were scheduled for Baiyu , but were prevented by the Police and hence Derge)
- Derge to Garze
- Garze to Tagong
- Tagong to Jiaju
- Jiaju to Mosika Nature Reserve
- Jiaju to Mt. Siguniang
- Siguniang to Wolong
- Wolong to Chengdu
- Chengdu to Lhasa by the Trans Tibetan Railway
- In and around Lhasa
I will begin with our arrival in Kunming and our first glimpse of China . We stayed at the Heri Jun hotel and after a hearty breakfast , we visited Kunming Motor vehicles for Debarshi Driving permit .
We visited the Dian Chi and and took a cable car ride to the Xi shan mountains .
We did a fair bit of walking around the city and had our first experience with authentic Sichuan cuisine .
We then drove from Kunming to Lijiang the next day and I have written more about it in our next log.