Online shopping at the foot of Mt. Qomolangma

After crossing the 5198-meter-high Mt. Jawula, lights could be seen in the distance. Mr. Yang's eyes lit up with excitement; it was barely past nine in the evening, with another two hours' drive, he would be home.

Mr. Yang lived in the township of Zhaxizom, part of Dingri County in Shigatse, which is less than 50 km from Mt. Qomolangma. He owns a small convenience store which has launched a new service for its customers:  sending and receiving packages.

Zhaxizom may be remote, but its residents are no strangers to online-shopping. In the past, packages could only be sent to the nearest town, and residents had to pick them up. Nowadays, the packages could be given directly to the farmers and herders.

The shipping receipt on a package showed its journey: the parcel departed from Huangpu, Guangzhou on October 9th, flew to Chengdu on the 11th, transferred to Lhasa by the 13th, and reached Shigatse on the 14th, where a logistics company transported to Dingri in the afternoon, and the convenience store delivered it to the buyer by the 18th. The whole trip took 4936 km, crossing more than 5000 meters in altitude.

While the road from Zhaxizom to Dingri County is only around 60 km, and most roads are in asphalt, the more than 1000 meters in altitude difference and the 100-plus turns on the winding mountain roads make the journey challenging. In addition to effects from high-altitude illness, the weather is also unpredictable with constant snow and hail, all of which make driving difficult.

Mr. Yang said young people are the main online-shoppers;  they buy everything from clothes, household products, tea, honey, to high-end wine.

His own son, Yang Tao, is an online-shopping expert, who has become a helper for locals. Some older residents unfamiliar with online shopping would ask him for help. After selecting the products, the convenience store would pre-pay and be reimbursed after the packages arrive to the buyer's satisfaction.

The convenience of online-shopping has changed the lives of people living at the foot of Mt. Qomolangma. "My daughter was using face masks when she first arrived, and some locals didn't know what they were." said Mr. Yang. After everyone learned how useful they were, young women would ask Yang Tao to order these for them. Nowadays, face masks, electric brooms, etc., have all arrived at this remote village. The convenience store also provides another service: they ship heavy backpacks home for travelers and hikers.

Online shopping is now a part of the Tibetans' life.  At the end of March, there are 1.639 million mobile internet users in Tibet.