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Ethnic Tibet is an area Tibetans have traditionally lived in but for most of history has been under the political control of a different governments including Mongolians, Xia Kings, Muslim traders and Chinese. Also most of Ethnic Tibet has been a border zone between Tibetan, Chinese, Mongolian, Hui and Uyghurs cultures making some areas of Ethnic Tibet a very interesting blend of cultures. Ethnic Tibet covers a huge area and is spread over most of Qinghai, southwest Gansu, the western third of Sichuan and northern Yunnan. With most Tibetans being nomadic in traditional times the nomads crossed these vast areas with ease when searching for fresh pasture no matter who was in charge. Many travelers argue that the more remote areas of Ethnic Tibet are actually more Tibetan then some areas of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. From Qinghai lake, where the first Dalai Lama received his name from the Mongolians to Labrang Monastery outside of Xiahe (Gansu) which is one of the largest and most influential monasteries outside of the Tibetan Autonomous Region that Ethnic Tibet has plenty to offer.
Scattered around these towns are many amazing smaller Tibetan communities and nomads. These are just the main centers and good starting point before asking other travelers where they would recommend going next.
Qinghai Lake Bike Race takes place every summer and is a professional road biking race around Qinghai Lake.
Unlike the Tibetan Autonomous Region the vast majority of Ethnic Tibet requires no permits to enter or travel in. Another perk of Ethnic Tibet is that there are no restrictions on travel on local transport. Because of the poverty in this area of China the local transport can be very basic at times. Be prepared for old, dirty, crowded, smelly and smoky buses or mini buses on most roads. Also since most of these towns are small they will most likely only have one bus a day and may require many legs in order to get there. In some cases these towns won’t even have a bus station requiring you to stand on the side of the highway and flag a bus down going in the right direction. Lastly this area of the world has many landslides on poorly maintained roads, which can easily block road crossing or trap villages for several days.
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