Travel to Tibet in December is still accessible, however, the suitable destinations normally shrink into a few concentrated areas. To mountain lovers and divine pilgrims, Mount Everest can still be visited with more chances to have a clear view because it’s not foggy in December, but Mount Kailash in this month is not recommended visiting. Namtso Lake is frozen and frigid both because of the down-below-zero temperature and the harsh wind (Wind season of Tibet starts from November and lasts till May). The road route from Lhasa to Namtso at this time encounters frequent heavy snow which unpredictably leads to road block and very often in this month passengers already on the halfway to Namtso would have to head back. If you are keen on visiting holy lakes in Tibet, Yamdrok Lake is a good option even in winter. You can even travel further to Shigatse, which is the second largest city in Tibet.
Namtso Lake in December
However, December is a good time to travel for culture and food. The best destinations to tour in Tibet at this time is Lhasa and Nyingchi, where the altitudes are both around 3,000m, relatively low in Tibet, and the temperature in the daytime is tolerable because of the bright plateau sunlight. Imagine that you’ll get to have a quiet connection with the pristine religious attraction sites, and have a relaxing rest after the hours of stroll in Barkhor Street or other squares, enjoy the generous sunbath and witness the devout pilgrims do their prostration and kora. Because winter is the season of worship for the devout. Pilgrims travel to Lhasa from all over the Tibetan-inhabited area stretching as far as Qinghai Province and Sichuan Province; and those living overseas come back to Lhasa at this time.
Barkhor Street in Lhasa
Besides the dense religious atmosphere, you can promisingly take in, the wish to observe and be part of the real Tibetan life, to get deep understanding of their custom will also be easier to realize. You can take your time to hunt for a good restaurant to have a traditional Tibetan meal, have a cup of sweet tea or yak butter tea and start a natural conversation with the local people who share the same little table with you. And after the yum food and healing hot drink, both your body and your heart will get warm enough to get back to the cozy hotel to have a snug time. Reading a book, listening to music, or writing a short letter, journal, etc, anything that generates from the bottom of your soul will be heard with clarity, and just follow the sound and have your time at your disposal. Your way is the best way to spend your time here.
Before setting off your exploration of great Tibetan cuisines to Nyingchi, forget not to try Tibetan potato snacks, Tibetan noodles, sweet tea, yak butter tea in Lhasa. As the usual first stop of most travelers’ Tibet trip, while you are having your first days in Lhasa, having healthy and yummy food and hot drink can help you acclimatize better the altitude. And then you can extend your tour to the southeast prefecture Nyingchi, which is the warmest area in Tibet, to try the very two most famous dishes, which are also inventive dishes originating in Nyingchi.
By watching the documentary film, The Third Pole (2015), you’ll get to know the complete story of how the precious and well reputed Lulang stone pot come into being. And you can also have a quick glance at how the stone pot is used for cooking with the local specialties.
Please put away the feeling of shame that you are traveling to Tibet for food. Giving back your hearty compliments to those who provide you the yum food, and maybe tipping a small amount to show your true appreciation, are your warm and kind feedback to Tibet. By exchanging food culture sometimes an enduring friendship between two people from different backgrounds may just start.
This is a very healthy and also yum dish because nearly all the ingredients are from Tibet, where pollution of food source origin hasn’t been a problem. The main ingredient is the Tibetan indigenous chicken that grow in the wild. To say with immodesty, this kind of chicken drink clean spring water and eat clean Tibetan plants. The other main ingredient is Gymnadenia conopsea（手掌参，pinyin: shouzhangshen), which is a medicinal plant believed as beneficial to the treatment of asthma, liver problem, diarrhea, etc.
Lulang Stone Pot Chicken
It is actually a very young dish, invented by Ms. He in 1999, in Lulang. It is a slow-cooked chicken soup taking a few hours to make. With a flavor of medicinal herb, the chicken tastes tender and elastic. This dish became so popular that other regions in Tibet start to cook it for tourists.
Ingredients: chicken thighs, Gymnadenia conopsea, mushroom or matsutake, red dates, wolfberry, coriander, scallions, garlic, ginger, pepper, salt, sugar, star anise, Gastrodia elata (天麻, pinyin: tianma), or other optional ingredients added to your preference.
Lulang is a town long Sichuan-Tibet Highway (China 318 Highway), belonging to Nyingchi Prefecture, Tibet. It is teeming with the medicinal plant Gymnadenia conopsea and it is the origin of Lulang Stone Pot, made of stones containing special mineral elements. The stone materials come from a kind of micalex namely “Soapstone”. To get the best raw stone, the craftsmen sometimes even climb to the steep cliff where the rough waters run violently in the summer. With the hard-earned material, the craftsman continuously cuts and chips the raw stone with fine strength. A careless motion can lead to penetration of the pot bottom; Thus, this craftsmanship requires very high standard and sophisticated skills.
Another popular dish in Nyingchi is made of Tibetan pork. It can be cooked with slices of fumigated Tibetan pork or in a stir-fried way. The meat quality is satisfactory because of the richness of nutrients and the irresistible flavor. The contents of amino acid and microelement rank the first among most meat products, meanwhile, the fat content is the lowest. It tastes tender and not greasy thanks to the very thin skin.
Tibetan Flavored Pigs
As you know, Tibetan people are one of the most religious and devout groups in the world. They follow the doctrine to respect life and try not to do unnecessary killing. They would be quite friendly to cater vegetarian and vegan.
The frigid plateau climate and relatively barren land dominate most of Tibet. In this respect, Nyingchi is a lucky exception. It has the biggest forest region in Tibet and stands proudly as the kingdom of plants. The rainfall in Nyingchi is ample, and the land is fertile, giving it possible for the growth of much more variations of veggies than the rest part of Tibet.
It is not a mystery that most vegetarians and vegans are also nature lover. The No. 15 highest mountain Namcha Barwa, the deepest valley Yarlung Tsangpo Great Canyon, Lulang Forest Sea, Mount Sergyla, and the dotted towns with delicate beauty are waiting for your acquaintance.