Potala Palace, Lhasa, Tibet: As I was relaxing at the restaurant on the top floor of my guest house, playing pool with the local staff and waiting for my food, we could see the palace. When it got dark and I saw the lights showing the Palace in all its glory, I sprinted (not WALK, not SAUNTER, I mean full on run) downstairs to my room to fetch my camera and take a few shots. This palace is more breathtaking than anything I've ever seen, including the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, and the Palace in Versailles: It has more gold and jewels than both; It is older than those 2 combined; It is made without any nails. All interlocking wood. The local people donate all the materials needed to repaint the palace every year, especially since the Chinese government gives no funding and provides no maintenance to these temples or palaces, which is EXTREMELY frustrating because you have to pay a premium just to get to Tibet. (You are not allowed to enter or travel to Tibet on your own. The PRC forces you to not only use a tour company but also that to have a Chinese sponsored person guide in your group. Sometimes it's just the driver). Yet, none of your premium goes to these palaces.
I encourage any of my fellow travelers to use a local tour company when booking tours into Tibet. This way some of your money actually goes to the people. There are a few companies you can get in touch with online. As a public service announcement, I entered Tibet from Nepal without a prior visa. This is incredibly uncommon. I encourage anyone going to NOT duplicate my pattern. Acquire your visa ahead of time OR enter Tibet from China where you can easily get a visa for Tibet. Getting a month long visa is best, because then you can enter Tibet at will and leave via Nepal. The PRC won't be very nice to you if you attempt to re-enter China after going to Tibet.
One last note: the 48-hour train from Lhasa to Beijing is amazing. To be riding through the Himalayas for the first 24 hours was breathtaking, especially since you are traveling at over 5,000 meters in the air.
Upon arriving into Beijing, I was informed that my visa would not be extended, since I went to Tibet first. I had to fly that afternoon from Beijing to Hong Kong to apply for a 2nd visa. I did get that visa without any problems, thankfully. Funny, the first customs agent I spoke to told me that I had to fly to another country and apply for an emergency visa. I asked her which was the closest country (trying to get the cheapest flight) and she informed me that Hong Kong would be the cheapest place to fly to. I replied that Hong Kong is part of China. She told me that Hong Kong is its own country. This coming from a woman standing in front of me, behind bullet proof glass, wearing a full military uniform... What a strange place...
I have explored 76 countries, no hand holding, no tour guides just a drive to see, smell, taste, experience, and enjoy the earth. I have been on Reality Television and spend much of my time giving back to the community. From a unique perspective of sports, adventure and travel.