Right outside the monastery…

SYNOPSIS:  About two days of sightseeing.  First, a Chinese “Resort Town”.  About village architecture and a legend that goes with it.  About superstitions and predigests.  About the oldest temple in Tibet, and a Nyingmapa monastery in which monks and nuns co-habit. 

Sometimes, I lose track of the itinerary.  I am at the mercy of the Great Tibet Tour travel agency and their idea of “culture”.  I had specified that I am interested in all aspects of Tibetan culture and I had listed a few “must see” monasteries.  But a few things appeared on my itinerary which seem to be standard offerings for the typical Chinese tourist who frequents the eastern part of Tibet a lot more than any Westerner. 

Today, we drove through lush scenery, wound our way up yet another pass (the Sikkim Pass of 4700+ meters), an occasion at which Pootse our driver, stops his recantation of mantras, rolls down his window, and shouts out something that sounded like this:   XXX

It means as much as: to all the good spirits that sit on every man’s shoulder!VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY


The Rainbow from Heaven

SYNOPSIS:  About “my guys”, traffic rules, and about being denied access to a tourist site.  About the dramatic changes in scenery, and about a rainbow.

This was the second Holy Lake (after my disastrous tour to Lake Namtso), which would not let me near it.  Karma, would have been Sergej’s answer.  Damn those vodka drinking Russians! would be my reply. 

Today, my Eastern Tibet Tour started.  Now I am all alone with “the guys”.  That is hard-working Pootse in his late 30’s, the ever singing and mantra-mumbling, high-spirited driver, never short of advice to distribute to anyone who will listen — that includes anyone at our lunch restaurants, or any hitchhiker we pick up, or even Tenzin.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY


300 year Manuscript with Bullet Hole

SYNOPSIS:  Blessed four times in a day!  About monks and monasteries in Tibet.  About the wounds of the cultural revolution and the effects of 60 years of Chinese liberation (that’s what the period since 1959 is called, officially).

You can always pay to receive a blessing from any of the monks at any of the monasteries.  You can also pay for having things blessed.  Somehow, that goes against my grain, especially since I do not see monasteries in Tibet taking on any of the charity functions that I am so used to associating with religious institutions, at least in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY



SYNOPSIS:  About manifesting a hot bath.  About another horrible hotel, night intrusions, and a cute little monastery with yet another meditation cave.

For six days we hadn’t seen a shower or even as much as running water.  And two more days without decent accommodations were ahead of us.   When Tenzin took off his boots in the car, we all had to hold our noses…  Well, if anyone else had done that, it could hardly have been better; the difference was that neither Sergej nor I dared!

I longingly remembered the little shop in Darchen, one of the first sites you see after finishing Kora:  Shampooing, it had said, in bright red letters…  If there were not three guys waiting for me in town, I would have succumbed to the temptation. 

We had left Darchen soon after I (finally) made it to town.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY


Sergej and the Mountain

As always, when I have a travel companion, I ask them to write a guest blog.  Nicola has written some wonderful blogs, Celibeth wrote one in Cuba, and Sergej, after some hesitation, agreed, to write this one.

He is writing about his Kailash Kora.  Just like when you climb Mount Fuji, when you do Kailash Kora, there is no one single story, no one single experience.  Everyone comes with different goals, different physical abilities, different ideas, different religious inclinations.

Neither one of us knew what the other one was writing.   There are differences, but there are also similarities in our descriptions.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY


Getting our Supplies

SYNOPSIS:  Between life and death.  Circumambulation of Mount Kailash.  A three-day journey reaching the end of the physical rope.  Three days in one long blog. 

At some point on day two, near the top of the pass, everything had been drained out of me:  Every thought, every bit of desire, pride, or want.  There was no past, no future, no sense of self.  There was nothing left but to breathe and to step.  If I let go of that, it would be the end. I was at 5600 meters above sea level.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY


Our Driver Pootse

SYNOPSIS:  1200 KM.  From Lhasa to Gyantse to Shigatse, to Sera to Darchen.  Tales from the road.  Lots of images are embedded.  Keep scrolling down.

Shigatse felt like the last of everything:  the last warm shower, the last wonderful breakfast buffet, the last time I would put on clean clothes.  We were delayed by two hours because of the trouble with the permit office.  Every minute of delay felt a bit of a relief.  From here on out, it would be rough.  For eight days we would be on the road, covering the 2400 km between Lhasa and Mount Kailash and back.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY



ET at Everest

SYNOPSIS: About Mount Everest, the Base Camp, a Fortune Teller, and Karma.

It’s all about Karma, Sergej believes. Some people have to wait for days before they see the famous North side of Everest, we don’t have the time to wait. Others get lucky. The first chance we had to see Everest was from a viewpoint along the road. We saw the lower mountain range, but Everest itself was shrouded in clouds. Did we drive all this way, to see nothing? Did we have enough Karma, or as I would say, luck?

We had gotten a 2-hour late start in the morning.… VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY


Architectural Detail

SYNOPSIS:   Transit Shigatse.  Shigatse Monastery and Fort — a new ball game invented by the Chinese government. 

Shigatse is a big town.  80,000 in this nick of the woods seems huge, compared to the small villages we passed along the way from Gyantse.

Some settlements can’t even be called towns.  They are no more than a cluster of homes, or even single small estates by themselves.  One of those was a water mill, in operation for generations.  Millet and barley are ground to flour, and bags of flour are sold right here, along the road side.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY


School children with Sergej and ET

SYNOPSIS:  About a fortress and a monastery — yeah, another one, but a good one.  About traditional Tibetan houses.

Thousands of temples and cultural institutions fell victim to the fervor of the Red Guard during the infamous Cultural Revolution, not just in Tibet but in all over China.  But some sites, miraculously, and for different reasons, were spared.  The Buddhist Grottos at Binglingsi were one example.  They were too remote.  The Fortress of Gyantse is another — it had been appropriated by the Chinese Government as an example of heroic resistance against the British invasion of Tibet, and so no longer was seen as a symbol of the evil past, but a symbol of Chinese superiority. 

Three Tibetans had flung themselves from the heights of the fortress to their death and were declared martyrs.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY