Yak, Yak, Yak.

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Love Ones, TASHI DELEK. Our Tibetan guide explained that ‘Lha’ means ‘Heaven’ and ‘sa’ means “place” in Tibetan. Lhasa, at 3.650 m above sea level is the highest capital in the world and is as close to heaven as you can get. We are smitten!

My traveling companion to Tibet is my Ecuadorian sister-in-law Consuelo. We are very ‘sympatico’ as she is interested in many of the same things I am and she is awesome! We had decided to take the new “bullet” train to Lhasa, a journey of 2000km which took about 26 hours, which, if you do the math is hardly fast! We booked a ‘soft” sleeper which comes 4 bunks to a cabin. My thoughtful bro tried to book us the entire cabin for reasons of privacy – somehow it didn’t work out and we ended up “sleeping with” our  new BFF’s from Germany, Frank and Rudi – we were indeed VERY CLOSE by the end of the journey!!!!


014_640_x_480.jpgI would recommend the train trip – ONCE! (Try to book the whole cabin). The scenery was spectacular – breathtaking mountains, herds of grazing yak, wild antelope, villagers in traditional Tibetan costume waving at the train. It was fascinating, but by the end of the journey we were done with trains!


Paradise was a refreshing change.


192_640_x_480-2.jpgYes, for me it is Paradise. The buildings are beautiful, the people are beautiful, the way they dress is beautiful and even the merchandise in the market is beautiful. We are like kids in the proverbial candy store – in the whole of China I brought a T-shirt for my son and now my luggage is bursting with Tibetan treasure. (Yes, more Marco Polo outfits).

 Keep in mind the air is bristling with tension but everyone plasters on a happy face - this is my happy face story.  :-D   More later….


Much of the pleasure of our experience can be attributed to our hotel, certainly the loveliest of my journey.


044_640_x_480.jpgThere is a peaceful, leafy garden,

043_640_x_480-2.jpgdelicious food at the restaurant, wonderful Art and Tibetan Antiques. ….


032_640_x_480.jpgand a real cappuccino machine…………


104_640_x_480.jpgWe were upgraded to the ‘Presidential Suite’ – a 4 room pad that I would like to trade my apartment for. After venturing out one evening to the famous Yak Hotel and Dunya Restaurant, where we had one of the worst meals imaginable, (the Yak was Yuk) we decided just to say ‘home’ from then on.


053_640_x_480.jpgBut MOST of the pleasure of our experience can be attributed to our lovely Tibetan guard….oops! I mean guide, a young man not much older than Max, who spent 7 years, from age 13 – 20 as a monk at the Labrang Monastery. His parents are nomads, spending their summer months in the distinctive black tents and this is how he grew up. His spiritual knowledge is excellent ………

and he is working on his English!


Every August his people have a week long celebration with horse races, archery and other traditional games, singing (he is a beautiful singer), dancing and feasting. He has invited me to go one year.


I CAN Yak, yak, yak about the sites and experiences.


089_640_x_480.jpg No photo can prepare you for the arresting majesty of the Potala Palace or the exquisite craftsmanship of its priceless contents, in particular the tombs of Past Dali Lama’s – certainly on a par with the Papal tombs carved by Michelangelo. They are vast towering structures of gold encrusted with precious stones.


039_640_x_480.jpg At the Jokhang Temple; the most sacred and important Temple in Tibet dating back to 650, we happened upon a ceremony performed by elaborately costumed monks, chanting and drumming in unison under a gentle haze of incense mist. “In my years of guiding I have never seen this before” said our guide. It was a spectacular and moving sight but no pics allowed!


155_640_x_480.jpgWe went to the Sera Monastery, one of the 3 great University Monasteries of Tibet, to witness the debating; a courtyard gathering of monks loudly challenging their opponents in scholarly debate and slapping their hands vehemently to make their points.

130_640_x_480.jpgWe zig-zagged our way up Mt Wangbur to an elevation of 4750 m to the Ganden Monastery where, for a tiny fee, we were allowed to take photos INSIDE the temple, a rare opportunity, and we visited the Drepung Monastery which sits like a ‘rice heap’ at the top of Mt. Gephel.


We went to the peaceful Norbulinka, the Summer Palace of successive Dalai Lamas since the 1780′s where there was a small offering of food in front of the Dalai Lama’s seat, as if waiting for him to come home and have a snack.


043_640_x_480.jpgAll charming and interesting in their own mystical way. But really at the end of the day, it was the people that made Lhasa so special, in particular the welcoming smiles of the beautiful women, dressed in their traditional long black skirts, with colorful woven aprons, silver money pouches embossed with turquoise and coral, necklaces of yak bone, turquoise and coral and their HATS! Hats are a big deal in Lhasa; many men AND women, traditionally wear felt cowboy hats, many have long black braids wrapped around their heads with yak bone rings, turquoise and corals adornments woven in, some women wear bright magenta or scorching pink woolen scarves wrapped around their heads.

013_640_x_480.jpgThe modern alternative is a floppy number right out of the sears catalog, circa 1967.


My favourite experiences where two “behind the scene” peaks into ‘real’ Tibetan life. Our ‘world’s best guide’ took us into a Tibetan village home on the way to the Ganden Monastery. 109_640_x_480.jpgWhile the outside was rather barren……


doorway-to-tibetan-doorway-to-tibetan-home_640_x_480_640_x_480.jpgOnce you step inside this doorway……

112_640_x_480.jpgEverything changes.

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123_640_x_480.jpgThis is the cieling…I think the interior would be a very happy place for anyone to live.

 After visiting the Monastery for several hours, as we drove back down the hill we noticed the man whose house we had visited, sitting on a rock by the side of the road, waving at us. I thought he was trying to tell us something so we stopped. He had Consuelo’s sunglasses in his hand. I think he had sat patiently on the rock for some time, waiting for us to pass.


Later ”world’s best guide” treated us to lunch at the tea house attached to the Tsamkhung Nunnery. No pics, I’m sorry to say but it was a fantastic sight. Just a metal awning providing shade against the sun and a clamor of several hundred Tibetans enjoying tea and laughter.

Best guide had taught us some handy Tibetan words, in particular TASHI DELEK, a respectful greeting similar to NAMASTE. It helped us make friends. One glorious day ‘world’s best guide’ stretched his arms to the heavens and said…”In my next life I want to come back Tibetan.’ I made friends in Tibet and I will think of them long and often.


We happened to be in Lhasa during the month of Saga Dawa, one of the holiest times in the Tibetan calendar. It was a time of great religious observance, the most obvious to us was the practice of prostration. Many devout Tibetan Buddhists could perform hundreds and hundreds of prostrations in a day to the point of complete exhaustion. Many, young and old alike, circumnavigated the cold hard, dirty stones of the Barkhor, covered with aprons, knee pads and sliding gloves.

069_640_x_480-2-3.jpgThe Barkhor is a magical place. The circular street surrounding the Jokhang Temple in the middle of Old Lhasa, dates back to around 650 AD when devout pilgrims beat the original path. Today the Barkhor is both a market full of exotic surprises as well as a place of religious observance, full of Tibetans with prayer wheels and beads, always walking in a clockwise direction, in keeping with Buddhist observance. We called it the “go-around” and we did it at least once every day and never tired of it. Each time we ‘went around’ with our Tashi Delek greeting, we made new friends.

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Viva La Tibet!


16 Responses

  1. Diane Says:

    Fantastic! I wish, more than ever, that I was there with you but I am grateful for the opportunity to see this much. I look forward to seeing more pics when you get home. XO D

  2. virgiinia Says:

    Absolutely marvellous Have said that before? Who said you can’t mix patterns. Nature, architecture, religion blend together gloriously.

  3. brillante Says:

    Peg, I enjoy every word and image of your trip and I am looking forward to hear more when you’ll be back. What a fantastic journey.

  4. To The Max Says:

    I love your posts! You really are a fabulous writer.

  5. Ruth Says:

    What an inspiration to go to on the ultimate trek. Peg, I am so proud of you and your pilgrim, pioneer, peregrinating spirit! Have a lovely last few days, and see you next week.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    I AM COMPLETELY ENTHRALLED!

  7. Jane Frazee Says:

    Holy smokes… you’ve got balls woman ! For all these years I thought you were a creature of comforts, the finest of foods and wine and yet there you are out braving the wilds of China SOLO and now soaking in the splendors of Tibet…
    You Rule! and you write really well….
    J

  8. janice noble Says:

    These very compelling “lonely planet” episodes in China and Tibet are marvellous Peg -thanks for sharing!

  9. Pete Says:

    Gorgeous! Wish I’d gotten on that train. You must be winding up by now…travel safely.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    I had trouble breathing while I was reading. I felt like I was at altitude with you. Lovely Peg.

  11. Cheryl Massey Says:

    What a trip, what an experience! Your photos are gorgeous and it sounds like the people of Tibet are gorgeous too!

  12. Joe Ennis Says:

    Calgon take me away!!! What an amazing tale of culture, can’t wait to see your face when telling the rest of your story. Safe travels!!!

  13. Umberto Says:

    Hola Consuelo,

    Tu viaje me parece fantastico en un mundo olvidado por
    los paises contaminados y
    dedicados solo a su crecimiento
    economico.
    un abrazo
    Umberto

  14. Diana Says:

    Fantàstico viaje. Me ha encantado el reportaje. Me encanta el Tibet, creo que vivì allì en otra encarnaciòn…Gracias por compartir!

  15. Anonymous Says:

    Hi Peg,

    Have been away from my computer for a bit , so wonderful to return to your world. Thank you for the enriching and joyful accounts. When are you returning ? Safe travels and I look forward to my next installment.
    xox Barb

  16. tearsa Says:

    wow there are so many cool things now and day i wish i go see places like that some time i think that would be cool

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