Monday, November 15, 2010


The roof of the world. Here's the view on the way:

You really need to want to go to Tibet to actually get there. Physically? Other side of the world. Visas? In addition to the standard visa to go to China, you also have to get a special Tibetan travel permit, which you can only get through an authorized travel agency in China. In other words, it takes a lot of extra steps to get there relative to other places you can visit.

The most common tour package is a four-day visit to Lhasa, a city of approximately 250,000 located in valley at 12,000 feet high in the Himalayas. (You can also go to Everest Base Camp but the whole trip takes about five days due to the super-high altitudes and the time needed to adjust.) It's home to several important religious sites and is visited by many Tibetan Buddhists as part of a pilgrimage. It was the first place that I've been to in my life that really had its main focus on tourists other than western ones. The markets surrounding the main areas of town had everything you might need for your pilgrimage including clothing, footwear, prayer accessories, food, and...yak butter. Here are some tourists in the market:

While in town on your pilgrimage, it's a great opportunity to visit a doctor and/or dentist. I was seriously considering getting a grill at this place:

There are pilgrims everywhere, lots of them. A common practice is to do multiple walking "laps" (known as "devotional circumambulations") in the Barkhor Market surrounding the Jokhang Temple (which I'll write about later):

This is a shot with some of the locals during my (one) lap of the temple:

Lhasa is a very interesting city to visit. It definitely has a different feel from the other places I went to in China; almost like another country... Because of its high elevation, it feels desert-like and there are very few plants and only a small number of (green-house) farms outside of town. Yes, there are yaks too, which is an important source of meat and yak butter (yes-more on that later). This is shot taken outside of town of some of the other locals:

Tibet, and Lhasa in particular, is an amazing destination. You're on the top of the world, there are lots of sites to see, and the people watching is captivating. It also has the honor of being so high that it was the first time where my toiletries in my luggage leaked after a couple of days, not just while they were on the plane.

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