If you think that the luxury lodges at Namche Bazaar are over the top these days, then you need to watch this “documentary” by Channel News Asia. Two ladies with very limited camping experience decide to go on an adventure to experience “Tibet”. For their own safety, their sanity, their outfits, their makeup and also for CNA to earn some advertising revenue, the ladies were sent on a mission to explore an alpine resort in the Chinese Himalayas. They call this glamping – a fusion of glamour and camping. The concept itself is not new – bringing luxury accommodation to the great outdoors.
Xiahe is situated on the Tibetan plateau in Southern Gansu province near the Qinghai border. I was there in 1996 and of course, it was a very different Xiahe back then. Personally, I’m not against the creature comforts, but I’m doubtful about the eco-sensitivity and cultural authenticity that these “camps” have to offer. These are really commercial, luxury resorts in remote locations. Check out how our ladies “roughed it out”.
Yes, I heard the remark “so contemporary … almost Scandinavian … traditional Tibetan”. Below are a list of facilities provided by Norden Camp. At first sight, nothing seems out of the ordinary,
Things to do, massage and sauna? Off season, a standard tent here typically costs about $400 a night and a family tent goes for $1337 a night. From June to August, a standard tent can cost $484 and a family tent costs $1468 a night. These charges do not include food. You’re paying so much because of the location (22km from downtown Xiahe) and I bet there won’t be much of a choice as far as food, restaurants and shopping go.
In contrast, an equivalent double room in downtown Xiahe costs no more than $70. There are also numerous competing shops and eateries there to check out, not to mention the many tour operators who compete for your attention. However, I would not discount staying at Norden Camp if I were into professional photography. Staying smack in the middle of the scenic spot makes a real difference.
The Labrang Monastery I saw in the video seems lifeless compared to the one I saw in 1996. The place was overflowing with monks back then. Even the streets were a sea a maroon robes. Where have all the monks gone? It would be interesting to see what Xiahe is really like now. Ironically, it’s the commercialisation and gradual erosion of traditional Tibetan culture that will bring in more visitors who wish to experience Tibet in comfort and style.