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THE CHATTER BOX

 
  
  
  The Chatter Box : Travel
  
  
  
 
Tibet anyone?? by Tibetan sunset on 13 April 2004 7:38pm
 
Still looking for past or future Tibet chat. If ya been, shout up!
 
Re: Tibet anyone?? by lsfoust on 14 April 2004 12:51pm
 
Dear traveler (s) interested in Tibet,

In 2000, my husband and I embarked on a very interesting (and probably rather rare) overland journey from Kashgar, China, town near the Pakistan border and Karakorum highway, to Lhasa. We estimated the distance to be approximately 2500 km and we covered this distance in 13 days. We traveled by hitching rides with local Uighur truckers carrying loads of dry cement from Kashgar to Ali, with 30 male Tibetan pilgrims on their way to Lhasa, with a crazy drunk Han Chinese driving a gravel truck and finally with a grumpy, but offical, bus driver. The hot shower at the end of the trip in Lhasa was one of the most satisfying and glorious experiences that I have ever experienced.

It must be duly noted, however, that this is a rather dangerous and illegal journey according to Chinese law and tourist order. From Kashgar, elevation (?), one ascends to 5600 m within a matter of 2 days with a lorry. Altitude sickness really kicks in and is rather unpredictable as it affects every person differently. Transport is spotty at best and it would be a health services logistical nightmare if one fell seriously ill on the Tibetan plateau.

In addition to the health risks, this route takes you through an Indian/Chinese disputed area completely off limits to all foreigners and most Chinese nationals. We did not experience a run in with the Chinese authorities and it would only be wild speculation regarding the circumstances around such an incident.

On the bright side, we did see some amazing, untouched, ungrazed, uninhabited portions of the true Tibetan plateau. We had the rare opportunity of riding on the back of a pilgrim truck with 30 other Tibetan pilgrims, bumping along at 10-15 km/hr for days on end. We slept outside as it snowed and drank yak butter tea at local pilgrim houses. Hotels were nearly non-existent but the local, rudimentary hospitality allowed us to enjoy the most basic amenities - yak butter tea (something to get used to after years of practice), instant noodles and hot water. We witnessed true Tibetan culture and realized only later that even in Lhasa and on the route to Nepal, we did not witness such true culture again. The Han Chinese are doing a thorough job of drowning out the Tibetans in their own land.

We also spent much time with the very hospitable Uighur people of north western China and learned to appreciate their hardships and lovely sense of humour and honesty. We witnessed one of the most interesting Chinese towns in the middle of Tibet called 'Ali'- essentially full of Chinese female prostitutes and men in the Chinese military and, of course, a handful of Tibetan families. I deem this town 'interesting' since everyone in China knows that prostitution is something that nearly does not exist in their country - just one of the numerous tidbits of propaganda that one must get used to while traveling in China.

We became acclimitized through this journey so that our time in Lhasa at an elevation of 3500 m was without problems. For people flying into Lhasa from a lower elevation, the first days in Tibet are 'felt'. Headaches, nausea, tiredness, weakness and wild beating of the heart are not uncommon. Please consider this when planning your own trip to Tibet.

We regret not being able to visit Mount Kailash, a mountain of extreme religious importance to the Tibetans and Hindus. Looking back, this is one experience we should not have missed and we plan to visit it in the future. Somewhat expensive (I am measuring monetary value by backpacker standards) 'legal' trips from Lhasa with reputable Chinese travel agencies can be arranged at sporadic times of the year. Mount Kailash can also be reached independently via the southern route following the path that my husband and I took from Kashgar to Lhasa. When we visited, it was not easy nor advisable to attempt independent travel to Kailash from Lhasa. Check point guards enforce a strict code of Chinese law.

Lhasa was somewhat of a disappointment for us as we expected a more authentic Tibetan experience from an area with such deep religious significance. It is a shame to see the Han Chinese buildings, food, cars and people so thoroughly overshadowing the Tibetans. It was also a shame to witness how the Han Chinese control and mistreat the peoples belonging to one of their autonomous regions.

From Lhasa, we were forced by Chinese protocol to join a tour that took us on a pilgrimage south from Lhasa to the Nepalese border. We visited the numerous monasteries situated along the route and Everest Base Camp on the Chinese side. EBC was definitely one of the highlights of this trip.

Finally, the memory of smelling smells and hearing insects again once we reached the lushness of Nepal after traveling in the high altitude desert for more than a month, was a most moving experience.

Happy travels! Leanne

PS. It is not advisable to drink the unpasteurized Tibetan beer called 'chang' - no matter how tempting it looks. Stick with the local Chinese brand.
 
Re: Tibet anyone?? by Tibetan sunset on 17 April 2004 9:00pm
 
ISFOUST - Thanks so much for your honest and practical reply, It was a useful insight and sounds like it was quite an adventure! I'm not as brave as you so intend to travel with a group using Intrepid Travel as I have never been to a third world country before.
Thanks again,
Andi
 
Re: Tibet anyone?? by Godfather on 17 April 2004 9:33pm
 
>>>Lhasa was somewhat of a disappointment for us as we expected a more authentic Tibetan experience from an area with such deep religious significance. It is a shame to see the Han Chinese buildings, food, cars and people so thoroughly overshadowing the Tibetans. It was also a shame to witness how the Han Chinese control and mistreat the peoples belonging to one of their autonomous regions.

I know what you mean Isfhoust. I was lucky because long before going to Tibet, i'd heard about Lhasa being just a meer shadow of it's former self nowadays. So i did'nt expect great things from it. I did the trip from Nepal in 2002, along that friendship highway. Superb.I made a promise to myself to take a picture of the "real" Potala Palace panorama when i arrived in Lhasa. I was sick to death of seeing manipulated photos of it all over the place, giving people the sheer lie that it's a remote shangri-la hidden away in the mountains. In reality,the lines of Kodak film sellers,busy roads in front of it,and tacky Han chinese clothes shops nearby. I have the photos somewhere. I loved Tibet outside of Lhasa,and to me the old Tibet still very much exists outside of Lhasa. But i had a superb time at Drepung Monastery just outside Lhasa. I had arrived just by sheer luck in Lhasa the night before a huge Thangka festival at the monastery the next day. Early morning amongst droves of pilgrims,clouds of incense, and Tibetan horns along with Growl tones from the monks. A day i will never ever forget. An experience i'll never forget.
 
Re: Tibet anyone?? by lsfoust on 21 April 2004 2:40pm
 
Dear Godfather,

Thanks for your insight. Do you remember the time of year for the Thangka festival?
 
Re: Tibet anyone?? by Tibetan sunset on 21 April 2004 10:20pm
 
Godfather, thanks for the feedback 0 all helpful. Wish I'd have been there for tge festival u mentioned. Where are u off to next?
 
Re: Tibet anyone?? by Godfather on 22 April 2004 7:59pm
 


Hi Isfoust,

I think it was around August time, in 2002. It was just amazing. I have a few photos from the day (only with a one use camera though), and i'll put them onto a Geocities page some time if you like. It was stunning as the whole hillside was awash with people, and you just walked up and joined them as this huge thangka hung there. The growl tones of the monks in a tent at the bottom of it, changing pitch like Chakra toning. Everywhere were thousands upon thousands of little prayer cards that you bought for pennies. You threw them up into the air and scattered them while saying a prayer. Quite a day, and one i'll never forget.

Ps, Tibetan Sunset. I'm undecided at the mo.

 



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