Zhangmu, known as Dram (འགྲམ་) in Tibetan and Khasa in Nepali, is an interesting town sitting along the Tibet-Nepal border about 750kms southeast of Lhasa. Unlike most of Tibet, Zhangmu sits only at 2250m/ 7380 feet and has a very humid, almost tropical climate. From the Thong La mountain pass at 5050m/16,570 feet, it is all downhill to Zhangmu. From the high pass to Zhangmu is 95kms/60 miles of winding road with more hairpin turns that you can count. The elevation drop of nearly 2800m/9184 feet is quite noticeable. You go from the frozen, barren, desolate Tibetan Plateau to the sub-tropics of Nepal in a very short time. It is quite amazing and can't be fully explained unless you see it for yourself. As you get closer to Zhangmu, the scenery changes drastically. Forests and dense vegetation appear as do numerous waterfalls that form from melting snow from the nearby Himalaya mountains. During the rainy summer season, the road can be quite rough and muddy to Zhangmu and the road closes periodically due to rock and mudslides.
Zhangmu sits along the foothills of the Himalaya. The town has one narrow, winding street that is usually blocked by incoming Tata trucks from Nepal. From the top of Zhangmu, it can often take 1 or even 2 hours to drive the 2 or 3kms down to the center area of town due to all of the truck traffic blocking the road. The traffic is unbelievable. The town itself has an interesting mix of peoples. The population is roughly 1/3 Tibetan, 1/3 Chinese and 1/3 Nepali. Most of the signs are written in these 3 languages as well as in English. There are several decent, though overpriced, hotels in the city and a few really good restaurants serving Nepali, Tibetan and western food.
Most people only stay in Zhangmu for an hour or so in order to catch a meal before crossing the border into Nepal. The town isn't a bad place to stay, though there really isn't any reason to stay longer than 1 night. If you have been on the road to Everest or Kailash, Zhangmu and its hot showers and good food will be a welcome treat. Most of the Nepali's in town speak decent English and are always eager to talk to foreigners that are on their way to Nepal.
The Chinese immigration office is open daily from around 9:30am until around 6:30pm. Leaving China is a pretty simple process. Your driver and guide will take you to the customs office, but you will have to cross the bridge into Nepal on your own. At Nepali customs you can get a visa, but make sure you have a passport photo with you. The visa will cost $30 of the equivalent in Chinese RMB or Nepali Rupees. From outside of Nepali customs you can hire a car to take you the 4 hours or so to Kathmandu.
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