Study Trip

Qinghai: The Roof of the World on the Tibetan Plateau

Wednesday, 17 – Saturday, 27 July 2019
Leader: Khun Eileen Deeley, Council Member of The Siam Society



Lying on the northeastern border of Tibet, big, bold and beautifully barren, Qinghai occupies a vast expanse of the northeastern part of the Tibetan Plateau. A relatively unknown province, this massive area is home to dozens of Tibetan monasteries, epic grasslands, one of Tibet’s holiest mountains (Amnye Machen), and the headwaters of three of Asia’s greatest rivers – the Yellow, Yangzi and Mekong.

In every respect – culturally, historically and geographically – it is part of the Tibetan Plateau, and was once the Tibetan province of Amdo, the birth place of the current Dalai Lama, the 10th Panchen Lama and Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

Qinghai, which means 'Blue Sea' in Chinese, is classic off-the-beaten-track territory, often with a last frontier feel to it. Travelling here can be a little inconvenient, though China’s rapid development plans have begun to touch the province, with huge highways and new rail lines under construction. Despite that, Qinghai still delivers an aura of solitude among middle-of-nowhere high-plateau vistas, Martian-like red mountains, and encounters with remote communities of China’s ethnic minorities, including Tibetans, Goloks, Tu, Mongols, Salar and Hui.

The highlights of this 11-day study trip will be the shaman festival and Yushu horse race festival, a rare occurrence in the Tibetan calendar when the two festivals will take place at the same time. Shamans are individuals whose bodies are inhabited by a god at specified times of year. Through the medium of the shaman, the god then advises local people on how to maintain safety and good fortune. Special shaman festivals are held where villagers gather to hear the advice of the shaman and to participate in ritual dancing and play-acting.

During the Yushu annual horse race festival, Tibetan riders from far and near will gather there for the race, colorfully clad in traditional costumes. We may also witness yak racing and archery competition on horseback.


The tentative programme will be as follows:

Day 1: Wednesday, 17 July 2019: Bangkok – Shanghai - Xining

9.30 a.m. Meet at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport, China Eastern Airlines.
11.50 a.m. Depart Bangkok to Shanghai Pudong International Airport by MU9854 (4.05 hrs)
4.55 p.m. Arrive at Shanghai Pudong International Airport, transit for flight to Xining (3.25 hrs)
7.30 p.m. Depart Shanghai to Xining by MU2309
10.55 p.m. Arrive Xining Airport, transfer to hotel.
- Overnight at Hotel Sofitel Xining.

Day 2: Thursday, 18 July 2019: Chengdu - Xining (2,270m)

- Breakfast at the hotel.
Morning: Visit Qinghai Tibetan Medical and Cultural Museum, one of the best Tibetan Museum in the world. There are eight major exhibition halls, including the art of thangka painting, Tibetan medicine history, classical medicine literature, astrology/astronomy, culture and calligraphy. The highlight is a 618m-long thangka scroll – the world’s longest – which charts most of Tibetan history
Noon: Lunch at local restaurant
Afternoon: Visit the Dongguan Grand mosque and the Muslim street.
Evening: Dinner at a local restaurant

Day 3: Friday, 19 July 2019: Xining – Shachung Monastery – Tongren (2,480m) (travelling time 4 hours)

Morning: Breakfast at the hotel
- Proceed to the town of Hualong to visit Shachung Monastery located on a mountaintop with a great view of the Yellow River in the openi valley below. This is one of the most historic and renowned Geluk monasteries in Amdo, founded in 1349 by Lama Dhondup Rinchen, the teacher of Tsongkapa.  Though the monastery is famous among Tibetans, it is not well known to tourists, most of the visitors are Tibetan pilgrims from all over the area.
Noon: Lunch at a local restaurant
Afternoon: Continue to Tongren via several Muslim and Tibetan villages. Tongren (or Repkong in Tibetan) is home to three large Tibetan monasteries and is famous across Tibet for its artists (about 2.30 hrs.)
Evening: Dinner at a local restaurant
- Overnight at Hotel Hongfengde in Tongren.

Day 4: Saturday, 20 July 2019: Tongren Shaman Festival (2,480m)

Morning: Breakfast at the hotel and proceed to the Shaman festival.
- Shaman festival also called Luroi in Tibetan is a celebration honouring the local mountain gods and request their bestowal of safety and good health on villages.  The festival is lively and colourful, the mountains gods are invited to the ceremony whereas the Shamans serve as their medium and dance energetically in the crowd.
Noon: Lunch at local restaurant
Afternoon: Free time walking around the area.
Evening: Dinner at a local restaurant
- Overnight at Hongfengde Hotel in Tongren

Day 5: Sunday, 21 July 2019: Tongren – Tsekog (3700m)

Morning: Breakfast at the hotel
- Visit another village to further explore the Shaman festival. If time allows also visit the thangka painting studios in the Sangge Shong village to see the process of thangka painting by locals.
Noon: Lunch at a local restaurant
Afternoon: After lunch, Drive to Tsekog high grassland (180 km, travelling time 3 hours)
- The paved road to Tsekog leads across the watershed into the Mesho forest valley.
Evening: Dinner at a local restaurant
- Overnight at Hotel West in Tsekog (Zeku)

Day 6: Monday, 22 July 2019: Tsekog – Ragya Monastery – Machen (3680m)

Morning: Breakfast at the hotel and proceed to Machen 280 km (travelling time 4-5 hours)

Machen is the capital city of Golok Tibetan Prefecture, the most rugged area in all of Amdo Tibet. The landscape changes from green forest and rolling hills to snowy mountains. About 40km west of Tsekog town along the main road, we can visit Hor monastery and the Mani stones just behind the monastery. The monastery originally was a tent camp, constructed by the first Terton Rinpoche in 1831.

We will stop enroute at Ragya Monastery, a branch of Sera Monastery in Tibet Autonomous Region. Ragya is located at a red clay valley on the banks of the Yellow River. There is a half hour circumambulation path around the monastery where we can join the local pilgrims.
Noon: Lunch at local restaurant
Afternoon: After lunch continue to Machen town, one of the fast-growing towns in this region.
Evening: Dinner at a local restaurant.
- Overnight at West hotel in Machen.

Day 7: Tuesday, 23 July 2019: Machen – Mt. Amnye Machen – Yushu (3710 m) 410km 5-6 hours

Morning: Breakfast at the hotel and proceed to Mt Amnye Machen
- Mt. Amnye Machen is one of the main holy mountains in Tibet, revered in both Tibetan Buddhism and Bon religion as the chief indigenous deity Machen Bora of Amdo. The existence of this huge mountain caused the forming of one of the great bends of the Yellow River. We will stop at the bottom of this majestic snow mountain, walk to the Halong glacier or hike up to an opposite mountain for a panoramic view of Mount Amnye Machen.  The glacier is over 4,600M, about a 40-minute walk. Those who are not able to make the climb, may remain on the bus to enjoy the view from below.
Noon: Lunch at a local restaurant
Afternoon: After lunch continue to Yushu (Jyekundo) via Mato town which is the highest town in Amdo with an elevation of 4,300m above sea level. In Tibetan, Mato means the town which is located at the upper source of the Yellow river.
Evening: Dinner at a local restaurant
- Overnight at Yushu Gesar hotel

Day 8: Wednesday, 24 July 2019: Yushu  (3,710m)

Morning: Breakfast at the hotel
- Visit Jyegu Monastery, before the festival begins. Jyegu monastery is located on a hill behind the town. It was a Bon temple originally and later converted to Kagyu sect and now a Sakya monastery. It was completely destroyed during an earth quake in 2010. Now the reconstruction is almost done.
Noon: Lunch at a local restaurant
Afternoon: Visit Gyana Mani stone pile, a huge pile of stones carved with Tibetan Buddhist prayers. The largest field of Mani stones in the whole Tibetan region, approximately 1 sq km in area. The original temple on this site was built in the late 18th century by the first Gyana Tobden Tulku.
Evening: Dinner at a local restaurant
- Overnight in Jyekundo

Day 9: Thursday, 25 July 2019: Yushu Horse Racing Festival (3,710m)

  Today is the best to see the festival.
Morning Breakfast at the Hotel
- Yushu or Jyekundo Horse Racing Festival is one of the most popular horse racing festivals in Tibet. The various government activities, and the second and third day will be the main activities of horse races. The festival also consists of some other interesting cultural events of traditional songs and dances from Kham Tibet. Tibetan dress show, yak riding and other cultural activities. The main purpose of the festival is the commemoration of the legend of King Gesar combining with the awareness of the sources of the three major rivers.
Noon: Lunch at a local restau
Afternoon: Visit different festival sites, the festival is likely to be held at Batang Grassland which is a big open area in the mountains. The flat grassland is full of different colours in July. We may also be able to see Yak racing and archery competition during the festival.
Evening: Dinner at a local restaurant.
- Overnight in Jyekundo

Day 10: Friday, 26 July 2019: Yushu – Chengdu – Bkk

Morning: Breakfast at the hotel.
11.00 a.m. Transfer to Yushu Airport.
1.25 p.m. Depart Yushu by China Eastern Airlines to Chengdu MU5282 (1.30 hours)
2.55 p.m. Arrive at Chengdu Airport, pick up luggage and transfer to restaurant for supper and see the Sichuan Face-Changing Show. In case of any delay, we reserve the right to cancel the Face-Changing Show.  Show time supposed to be at 6.00 p.m.
11.30 p.m. Depart Chengdu to Bangkok by MU5035 (Travelling time 3 hours)

Day 11: Saturday, 27 July 2019: Bkk

2.35 a.m. Arrive at Bangkok international airport.


Bt. 109,000 (Bt. 112,500 for non-members). Single room surcharge Bt. 19,500. A deposit of Bt. 30,000 and photocopy of passport must accompany the booking. Your reservation will be confirmed as soon as the deposit has been made. Payment in full is required 60 days before the start of the trip (i.e. by Friday, 17 May 2019)

Please pay by cash or cheque payable to ‘The Siam Society’. There is a 4% surcharge for credit/debit card payment to cover bank charges. Alternatively, you can deposit/transfer the money to the Siam Society travel account at the Thai Military Bank, Asoke Branch saving account no. 053-2-18000-7. Please fax or e-mail the deposit or transfer docket to us. In case the tour has to be canceled due to insufficient participants, a full refund of the deposit will be made.


The contribution includes international airfare, meals as mentioned in program, accommodation for two persons per room, entrance fees, gratuities and other costs incurred to make this trip possible. It excludes visa fee (if any), personal expenses, personal beverages, etc.

To comply with payment and cancellation policies set forth by tour agencies, and to facilitate smooth working condition between the Siam Society and the tour agencies, please read carefully the revised cancellation policies stated below:

Cancellation charge:
60 days before the start of the trip:                                                  Deposit forfeited
60-30 days before the start of the trip                                              50% of the tour cost
Less than 30 days or cancellation without notice:                               No refund

Booking details:

Your booking will not be confirmed until deposit payment has been received. Please book your place as soon as possible. Please supply a copy of your passport with your booking.

The Siam Society reserves the right to change the programme as necessary. Seats are limited. Please book your place as soon as possible. For further information and bookings please contact Khun Prasert or Khun Supanut.