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A trip to World’s Rooftop !

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Tibet with its formidable mountain ranges which makes even motoring almost impossible is aptly titled as the ‘roof of the world’. In such a place where lofty inaccessible mountains and risky permafrost soil consist most of the landscape can anyone imagine a rail route that connects it to the mainland china? That’s the Qinghai-Tibet Railway the miracle project of the people’s republic of china.

What makes the Quinhai-Tibet railway stand out among other railway lines all over the world is, it’s constructed across terrains where none can dream about transportation – about 17,000 feet tall mountains to climb, tens of kilometre-wide valleys, five hundreds of kilometres of unstable permafrost soil, etc! No wonder this is considered as China’s most costly rail-project till date, and arguable the most costliest of its kind in the world.

Starting from china’s capital city Beijing, the highlight of this train journey is the passing through the astounding Kunlun Mountain Range (the ‘Mother of Thousands of Mountains’) that virtually isolate Tibet from the rest of the world.

Most of this region is dubbed as the ‘Forbidden Zone’ or the zone-of-death as its unpredictable weather… where the average temperature is minus zero, fierce sandstorms and high UV radiation, make living impossible! Here the average altitude of rail track is 13,500 feet above sea level, with the highest point at 16,700 feet – the most elevated rail track in the world!

But for the passengers the incredibly high altitude won’t pose any problems as all the train carriages are fully air-conditioned and pressurised, plus, oxygen masks are available in sleeping cabins as well as all the train corridors and washrooms. With lavish facilities including western / continental cuisines, it’s more like an Aeroplane ride for the travellers.

More than three-fourth of the entire Qinghai-Tibet Railway is thru this majestic mountain range that includes the ‘Tanggula Pass’ (about 16,640 feet / 5072 metres above sea level) – the world’s highest rail track, and the ‘Fenghuoshan tunnel’ – world’s highest rail tunnel.

Even the highly unstable permafrost is well taken care of … the Qingshuihe Bridge, that extends over eleven & half kilometers, is the world’s longest bridge built on permafrost.

To protect Tibet’s fragile, sensitive eco-system that accounts for many rare & endangered flora & fauna, the railway track is aptly elevated at many spots… otherwise, it utilizes fencing and tunnels cut under the tracks; so that the natural wildlife continues, practically unperturbed by the moving train.

Most importantly, the train is equipped with garbage compacters and vacuum toilets, so that no garbage is allowed to be left behind… to protect the unspoilt natural environment.

Covering almost two thousand kilometers, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway opens up to the visitors the undiscovered bewitching beauty if Tibet.

When the climax comes – the final destination of the train – “Lhasa”, it is more like ‘exploring the unexplored’ for the passengers !

This praiseworthy railway project has now thrown up new avenues for exploring the pristine Tibet for the foreign tourists and people from mainland China alike. A trip to world’s rooftop in every sense !!!



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Info Courtesy:  E Cheong, New Huaren Federation

Fascinating Finland Lakes

The Nordic country of Finland is popularly referred as ‘the country of 1000 lakes’. Indeed it is one of the rarest countries in the world where majority of its landscape is adorned with unscathed thick forests and lovely lakes.

Even the term ‘country of 1000 lakes’ falls short to describe Finland’s amazing geography. Actually there are around 2, 00,000 lakes (official records state: 1, 87,888). However there is a region in south-east Finland that aptly justifies this tag – the biggest Lake District in entire Europe.

This ‘thousand lakes region’ in Finland in fact accommodates much more than 1000 lakes which are dotted by numerous beautiful islands and covered with vast forests. With relatively spare population all over, there are few better locations that offer an ideal travel experience. Another amazing feature of this region is the almost round-the-clock daylight during summer season. When days a so long and nights – almost nil !

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Let it be varying seasons like summer or winter, Finland’s lakes’ offer eye-feats and entertainments in plenty. Summer will be a bustle of spectacular natural sceneries, when people can relish in full by means of lake cruises, yachting, fishing and swimming. Whereas in winter, all the rivers, lakes and even forest stand frozen – making a giant playground for outdoor activities like Nordic skiing, skating, hiking … So nature lovers, solitude seekers and adventurists can choose a season as per their preferences.

Amongst Finland’s around Two Lakhs of lakes (with 20,000+ kilometres of splendid shoreline), the top five, in terms of size and charm, are as follows…

1
Lake Saimaa

The largest and arguably most beautiful of all Finnish lakes, Lake Saimaa is situated in eastern Finland, between the cities – Joensuu and Lappeenranta.

A priceless jewel of Finland’s natural beauty, this lake is characterised by an extensive water-body dotted by thousands of isles and countless bays. A fishing paradise, Lake Saimaa is home to ‘Saimaa Salmon’ (a land locked variety of the popular Salmon fish).

2
Lake Päijänne

The deepest and second largest lake in Finland, Lake Päijänne extends from city of Lahti to the city of Jyväskylä (Southern Finland). This lake offers diverse sceneries with its landscapes – isles and shores – each varying in geographical shape.

The southern parts of this mighty lake are home to ‘Päijänne National Park’, an apt location for adventurous hiking trails. Päijänne Lake is a famous fishing site too.

3
Lake Inarijärvi

The only major lake among the ‘top five’ that doesn’t belong to Finland’s celebrated ‘thousand lakes region’, Lake Inarijärvi comes third in the list of big-sized Finnish lakes.

Perhaps the only one of its kind in terms of pristine nature and wilderness, Lake Inarijärvi accommodates about three thousand isles. This lake area offers one of the very best cruises thro’ unspoilt nature! Another speciality of this lake is its excellent water quality. It is said that there is no need to bring drinking water while travelling in Lake Inarijärvi.

4
Lake Pielinen

The fourth largest lake in Finland, Lake Pielinen lays north to the city of Joensuu. Another lake boasting of majestic sceneries, Lake Pielinen is beautified with many little isles and neighboured with pine forests.

Koli National Park, a well known natural site in Finland, is located on the western shores of this lake. Pielinen’s waters also houses a diverse fish variety including the land locked Salmon.

5
Lake Oulujärvi

Located to the west of the Finnish city of Kajaani, Lake Oulujärvi is the country’s fifth largest lake. Better known by nickname ‘Kainuu Sea’ due to its vast fishing resources, Lake Oulujärvi is rated as a top pike-fishing destination and is a favourite hunt of trollers.

Apart from its own share of charming shores and sand dunes, what makes Lake Oulujärvi distinct is its Island of Ärjänsaari – an isle with high sand banks.

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In a country like Finland that ranks high amongst the most stable countries in the world… whose capital (Helsinki) is world’s no.2 safest city… outings can be enjoyable in every sense. Almost countless pristine locations lay unexplored in not so large a country!