Published on : Thursday, August 8, 2019
Zhou Mo, a school teacher by profession in Hangzhou, and her best buddy took off from her work on early Tuesday morning. Zhou spent almost seven hours on a plane prior landing at Lhasa airport in Tibet. One of their prime targets was to look at the Milky Way over the Himalayas.
This year’s Qixi festival, or Chinese Valentine’s Day, has fallen on Wednesday. It’s the annual date for any Chinese mythical couple to come together on the bridge of magpies, or the Milky Way.
“We planned to stargaze by Namtso Lake on Qixi,” Zhou said. “However, the weather is not in our favor. I’m a little bit worried.”
In spite of the weather office’s prediction of rain and cloud, have shown their eagerness in being stargazers on such a special day, as travel agencies mentioned about huge inflow in the number of tourist groups to Namtso, Yamdrok Lake, base camp of Mt. Qomolangma and Ngari Prefecture. All of these are considered good destinations in terms of stargazing.
China developed its first dark night park in Ngari, western Tibet in 2014. With an altitude of 4,200 meters, the park is based about 25 kms south of the town seat. It offers tents, an area for telescope observation and different facilities for tourists.
“Ngari’s high altitude, low precipitation, high transparency, low humidity and pollution made it an ideal place for building a dark night park,” said Yao Yongqiang, chief researcher of the National Astronomical Observatories.
To greet the enthusiastic stargazers, the dark night park has set up a special platform where they can enjoy meteor photography, multiple high-power astronomical telescopes for astrophiles, and food, beds and introductory science films for tourists.
“It’s just so irresistible to have intimate contact with the stars on the ‘roof of the world’,” Zhou said. “Where I live, seeing just a handful of stars is considered a luxury, never mind the Milky Way.”
Tourism has turned out to be much more “niche” in Tibet, as more and more tourists have brought fresh ideas as well as demands with stargazing of late, said a travel agency manager surnamed Xu, who has been working in Lhasa for over a decade.