Author Topic: Tibet, China 中國西藏 (20 Jun - 4 Jul 2004)  (Read 50437 times)

Offline chin

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Tibet, China 中國西藏 (20 Jun - 4 Jul 2004)
« on: 09 February 2009, 04:14:19 »
Tibet - one of the poorest and most remote part of China, yet full of mystics that attracted thousands from outside.

The trip was planned for last year, but postponed due to the SARS epidemic. The trip included trekking for a few days, lots of 4WD rides, half a dozen high mountain passes, and visits to many monasteries and temples.

It was an entertaining and educational trip, with lots of twists and little adventures.


Offline chin

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Re: Tibet, China 中國西藏 (20 Jun - 4 Jul 2004)
« Reply #1 on: 09 February 2009, 04:15:12 »
Our Guide

Most of us felt the high altitude almost as soon as leaving the Lhasa airport terminal. At 3700m, it was higher than any of my previous trekking trips' starting point.

Greeting us in the airport were our guides Nrawang and his assistant Gesang (pictured here.) Both are nice people, trying to accommodate our needs as much as possible. However I think they are trained as regular tour guides, not specialized in trekking.

The guides we had in Peru and India were real specialists in guiding trekking and mountain walking. They would organize such that there is always someone leading in front and someone walking along with the slowest. They would point us to the special floral and natural features. None of this happened in this trip.

Offline chin

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Re: Tibet, China 中國西藏 (20 Jun - 4 Jul 2004)
« Reply #2 on: 09 February 2009, 04:16:25 »
Drepung Monastery

Before the trekking starts, we spent 2 days in Lhasa with leisurely activities so we would get used to the high altitude. These leisurely activities including visiting monasteries and temples.

The first one we visited was Drepung Monastery. The first sight in Drepung is the row of locals sitting next to a stream, one hand extended to us for money, while the other hand holding a string of bells in the water. We were told that this is a form of prayer, and we can pay them to pray for us.

Not far up stream, this monk (picture on top) sat there, singing prayer loudly, clapping hands loudly, and at the same time signaling us to give him money.

Money. A world that we will be hearing over and over and over again in the whole journey. In many village we passed, kids will rush to us at the first sight of our arrival, and yell at us "Hello, Money."

Money is also seen everywhere in ANY monastery and temple. Money is struck up in the hands of Buddha statues. Money is stick on the glass panel (that protects relics) at eye level. Cash is hand out directly to the monks in Jokhang while they are chanting. Money is in-your-face in all the religious establishments.

I understand that all the maintenance and going entity needs money. I just wish they can do it more subtly and gracefully, instead of in such direct sell-out style.

What disturb me most is parents would send their kids, as young as 3 or 4 years old, to beg from visitors. Yet the local Tibetan pilgrims would gladly hand out small bills (1 Jiao to 1 Yuan, or US$0.012 to $0.12) to every hand extended to them.

After talking to our Tibetan guide, he admitted this tradition of handing out money directly is a potential problem. The kids are so used to begging that they take handouts for granted, and taking them without shame and self-respect.

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Re: Tibet, China 中國西藏 (20 Jun - 4 Jul 2004)
« Reply #3 on: 09 February 2009, 04:16:52 »
Golden Faces

In one of the chambers in Drepung Monastery.

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Re: Tibet, China 中國西藏 (20 Jun - 4 Jul 2004)
« Reply #4 on: 09 February 2009, 04:17:26 »
Sera Monastery

You can hear the noise far away from the courtyard where the monks debate. It was quite a sight to see 100 or more monks, sitting in groups of 2 to perhaps 8, debating. In almost every group, one monk would standing up, talking with large body movement, such as swing his arm, clapping hands, and stumping foot.

We were told that the debates are exercises to sharpening the monks mind and debate skill, and that the body movement were to help emphasis their keys points.

The monks would occasionally change groupings. Those who stood up with large movements would tend to be the one standing up again. I wonder if there is a special role or just personal preference.

Note the monk standing up in the picture has a mobile phone in his belt.


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Re: Tibet, China 中國西藏 (20 Jun - 4 Jul 2004)
« Reply #5 on: 09 February 2009, 04:18:02 »
Observing Debates

While the monks debating, visitors can sit around in the courtyard to watch. Half of the visitors are non-Tibetans like us who has no idea what the monks are debating about, while the other half are Tibetans, like this woman, who watched with admiration and occasional smiles.

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Re: Tibet, China 中國西藏 (20 Jun - 4 Jul 2004)
« Reply #6 on: 09 February 2009, 04:18:41 »
Jokhang Temple

I took this picture in the large square in front of the Jokhang temple.

The square and the Bakhor Bazaar next to it are lined with hundreds of little stalls selling coral, turquoise and other tourist items.

There were also numerous young guys approaching us peddling Tibetan knives. All the knifes that I saw were new knives made for tourists. I was told that Tibetan men do not usually carry knives any more. So I guess the local demand for real Tibetan knives are gone.


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Re: Tibet, China 中國西藏 (20 Jun - 4 Jul 2004)
« Reply #7 on: 09 February 2009, 04:20:31 »
Lights of Hopes

In front of Jokhang Temple, there is a little chamber, half dug into the ground, with thousands of butter lamps lit up.

I was told that a score of families in Lhasa contributed to the building and maintenance of this special chamber. The special chamber was moved to right outside of the Temple due to too much smoke generated.

When we went into Jokhang Temple to see the monks chanting in the evening, I saw two well dressed Tibetan women, inside the chanting area, counting stacks of cash with a monk. 20 minutes later, an old monk handed out cash to each of the monk sitting and chanting there and then. I wonder if those two women were from one of the families that supported the temple financially.

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Re: Tibet, China 中國西藏 (20 Jun - 4 Jul 2004)
« Reply #8 on: 09 February 2009, 04:20:54 »
Guardians of the Potala Palace

Here we learned that the original palace, only a fraction of the current palace, was built in 7th centuey by the Tibetan king back in the Wen Chen Princess time. The palace was the political center of Tibet.

In 17th century after the 5th Dalai Lama seized political power, thus consolidated the "church" and the "state" power onto himself, he rebuilt the palace to a much larger scale.

Curious visitors like us now co-mingle with what appears to be pilgrims in the palace hallways. The pilgrims will offer money on the altars and add butter oil to the lamps.

This picture is taken on a large roof top of the palace, where we had beautiful vista of the Lhasa city.

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Re: Tibet, China 中國西藏 (20 Jun - 4 Jul 2004)
« Reply #9 on: 09 February 2009, 04:21:23 »
Superwoman Photographer

As soon as we got out of the bus that took us to the Potala Palace, we saw this woman squatting on the ground looking into her camera with the gigantic lens mounted on the tripod set to very low position. She was taking pictures of the many peddlers selling all kinds of junk.

On our way out, I saw her again, walking with a man. The guy also had 3 cameras on his neck and shoulder. Plus a smaller point-and-shot in his pocket and a nice (means heavy) tripod on one hand.

After talking to them, I found out that they are both from Beijing. When I asked to lay my hand on the big lens to see how heavy it was, he proudly announced to me the model number of his lens.

In the days that followed, we would see more groups with lots of professional-looking photography equipment on the roads of Tibet.