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New in Tibet: Crowds

October 5, 2006 By: Dan Butcher Travel Agent

Since China launched the first train into Tibet, in July, there's been a rush to the roof of the world, the Wall Street Journal reports. Tourists are being drawn here partly on the belief that modernization is about to sweep aside an ancient culture. The high-altitude Qinghai-Tibet Railway will deliver 800,000 visitors annually—and it's already spurring change. Now, many travelers to Tibet's capital, Lhasa, are being turned away from its major attraction, the Potala Palace, the focal point of Tibetan Buddhism. A boutique hotel just opened and Tibet's first five-star hotel, a Park Hyatt, is under construction. The government says four or five top hotel chains have also scouted for locations, from Banyan Tree to InterContinental. Next year, a luxury train with butlers and bathtubs is slated to make its way from Beijing into Tibet over a mountain pass at 16,640 feet above sea level.

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