Expedition to Tibet 2006
All travel reports are translated electronically although minor improvements are sometimes made.
Expedition to Tibet 2006
Expedition to Tibet is a journey on the ‘roof of the world’, through the Himalayas and Buddhist temples. I stayed in Buddhist villages, I went to Tibetan monasteries to participate in rituals, and had an unforgettable culture shock. However, Tibet is a sad country, tragically poor and it is occupied by China.
My trip to Tibet: Lhasa-Expedition “Highway of Friendship” to Nepal (Yamdrok-tso, Gyantse, Shigatse, Sakya, Shegar, Rongbuk, Mont Everest, Tingri, Zhangmu and crossing to Nepal).
Holy City of Lhasa – my first impressions
My trip to Tibet started when I got to Gongkar Airport after a two-hour flight from Chengdu, Sichuan Province. When we finally got off the plane, I felt that my next great adventure started because I was in such a special, mystical place – in Tibet. From the airport we took a taxi and drove to the capital of Tibet, 95 km away from Lhasa. On the way there were of course mountains and beautifully carved rivers and the only things that ruined our view were the Chinese military bases in front of the city.
When we arrived at the place, it was immediately obvious how much Tibet was different from China. The first thing we saw in the city was the beautiful Potala Palace. Built on top, beautifully stretched over Lhasa. This is the symbol of Tibet and the largest national treasure, but about it later. We arrived in the place indicated by us and stayed in the center, in a double but again very cheap and fully equipped room. I mean, there were two beds, not the walls and the electricity. Unfortunately there was no hot water and I had to wash in a very cold place with the Tibetan climate is quite heavy. The hardest thing was my traveling companion, who was not able to wash herself well throughout her stay. We felt good although we expected to have high altitude sickness because Lhasa is at an altitude of 3700m.
From the stories of other travelers I know they had great headaches, breathing problems and most of all the feeling of getting drunk. Especially when climbing stairs. Some could not even lock the key. After a few hours in this beautiful but very high city, we both felt that something started to happen to us. We had a headache and we were breathing hard. As it turned out, it took us two days, especially since we got friends from high altitude sickness tablets. Despite this, we decided to go out because curiosity took over.
From the first moment we liked, people were nice and very different than before. The Tibetans are different than the Chinese, they look different, they have different skin color, different hairstyles and clothes. Religion is also very important here, and rituals are practiced widely in the streets in front of the temples. Many Tibetans wear long hair, some do not cut them with a braid around their heads and wear their fluffy, warm clothes.
As for their prayers, they lay down on the street to rise up with their folded hands and lie down again, saying to themselves “o mane padme ho”. Of course, this is not a description of every Tibetan. Many are modern and speak English much more often than the Chinese. In Lhasa the population is divided, there are half the Chinese and half the Tibetans. The city itself is small and dirty, although there are not many shops in the shops, there are small shops with Tibetan food and large, very well stocked markets. There are also expensive shops where you can buy luxury goods and clothes, which is a great paradox because the Tibetan community in general is very poor.
There are a lot of beggars and homeless, dirty and hungry children who ask for the smallest pennies to simply survive. I changed money to the smallest banknotes and I give everyone how much I can even give food sometimes. For example, when I was eating, it came to me very dirty, about a 10 year old boy, holding a wooden guitar in his hand. I invited him to the table and I just fed him and gave him some money. It does not matter how much I give and how many times I feed them because it is still not enough. (Ahead of me India, which is famous for extreme poverty).
There are also Tibetans, also children, who sell beads on the streets, and when I take something in hand I do not want this back. They behave as if their experience depended on the beads being sold-and it probably depends. Very often children are seen cleaning their shoes. The average class of people is those who live very modestly, so they can afford to live and eat. They are also very wealthy (mostly Chinese), but they are few. I have been in Tibet for three days and I think that people here are very open and friendly but there is a need for money that is not there. On the street I can buy baked potatoes, fries, fruit, a bowl of soup and every such transaction, conversation with the prayers or contact with beggars is something very specific for me. In all these people there is something I have not seen so far. I feel that I am in a completely different world where my European culture is alien. I think a little of the way we look and how we dress. The Tibetans are similar to the Mongols, but in both these countries I can distinguish them.
Tourism is very well developed in Lhasa. There are a lot of restaurants and hotels. You can meet Tibetans who speak English, use computers and sell their souvenirs. Several times I also saw monks who talked by mobile phone. Even those who begged. I think compared to China, it is an even bigger country of paradox where often poverty is in touch with rare wealth, though everything is at hand.
Potala Palace – the most sacred symbol of Tibet
On the same day we wanted to enter the Potala Palace, but it turned out that all the tickets were sold out for a few more days. But I met you at the ticket office, with whom I had arranged for the next day at a specific time. She said she would get tickets. On our way to the main square in Lhasa, after breaking through the vendors, we met a couple of Americans with whom we stayed for the next two days. We talked about a lot of political issues – especially about Tibet, we went to dinner, and then I got them to Potala, which they were very happy with. Travel agents reserve these tickets a few days in advance for an additional fee, but we and the Americans have paid for them. The Potala Palace is the most important religious building in Tibet. It is a showcase and a symbol of Tibet, to which millions of pilgrims come each year. It is beautifully set up in the central part of the city, where there are always plenty of bead sellers and prayers on the street as previously described.
The Potala Palace was built in the seventh century and was enlarged in the seventeenth century to today’s size. It is a sacred place in Tibet consisting of 13 floors and thousands of large chapels, once the seat of all the Dalai Lamas. Upon entering, I saw many Buddhist pilgrims who prayed earnestly and worshiped the Buddha. Everyone was very busy and prayed without interruption. I had the impression that they were living for their religion. They put money in, brought different gifts, and put them at the altars and statues. They also brought butter made from milk and mixed them and then drilled candles. Every man wanted to get to the next chapel to pray but was pushed by the next. I saw women who brought their children back and old people who could no longer walk.
This was the experience of my life, which I had never experienced before. All the rites, the taking of the faithful, the bringing of gifts, the kind of prayer that is pronounced aloud, the smell, the dark atmosphere in the chapels and the incense, seemed to put people in trans. But there was something else. Chinese police at every turn, who were sniffing around like Communist pigs from NKVD.
I also saw how they took all the money that people put into the chapels. Leaving Potala I asked one guide (Tibetan) what is going on with this money. He smiled, lowered his head and said he could not answer such questions. I think silence is the best answer. Americans asked him why Chinese police so often. The Tibetan says ironically that they are so hard at work that they have to eat all the time. More could not say, was afraid. The palace was beautiful, unusual and everything in the center, but it is also a very tragic place.Out of about a thousand rooms, few are available for tourists.
As I walked away from the Potala, I made many pictures of the most interesting faces. I also tried to take pictures with surprise, which always gives the best effect. On the way down I met a Tibetan family who allowed me to take a photo with me. Then one of them came to me, folded his hands and said a few times – the Dalai Lama. He then touched the heart again and repeated the same. I thought he might want money, but he did not. One woman told me that once she lost her wallet with money and when the Tibetan found him and gave her, he also did not want any money in return. Of course these are nice cases that are not a rule. For the rest of the day we walked around the city taking pictures, chatting with people and enjoying the environment and the very presence of this unusual but tragic place.
Barkhor and Jokhang temples
The next day we went to the two most important temples after the Potala. These were the Barkhor and Jokhang temples, which were right next to our hotel. Barkhor is a kind of circular place for prayer, which consists of many “waltzes”, which are Buddhist traditions. The passage is the whole circle in which people pray while twisting. Before Barkhor there are dozens of faithful who pray in front of the temple, laying down on the ground with their hands folded. There is also a large Barkhor Square, where there is a large bazaar with souvenirs. Here I was amazed by Tibetan art and bought a lot more souvenirs than normal.Sellers are not obtrusive but very hospitable and they are keen to do business.
Many souvenirs are made from bones of yaks, whose meat is the basis here. The products of this material are very interesting: Buddha, knives, caskets, perfume bottles, handmade carpets with Potala Palace and many others. Everything is beautifully carved and some parts also smell nice, because it is smeared with oil or milk butter. I bought all the stuff from the above list and I think my room will now look like a museum. There are also plenty of bars and restaurants where I had the opportunity to try authentic Tibetan, Nepali and Indian cuisine. Everything is delicious but there are no delicacies like in China; I mean, for example, a smoked rat bought on a stick.
I also visited the above-mentioned temples of Jokhang, which is called the golden roof of Lhasa and is 1300 years old. Just as the Potala is one of the holiest temples in Tibet, it houses the most valuable monuments of Tibetan art. Unfortunately, some of the monuments were destroyed during the “Cultural Revolution” and replaced with duplicates. Bearing in mind the Cultural Revolution, I am talking about the occupation of Tibet by China and the victims in the people. This temple collects many chapels and each one is filled with different faces of the Buddha and the people who walk in the circle. The best way to get around this temple is to walk in a large queue that moves fast forward. There were not as many Chinese troops as in the Potala, which was a great relief as I was able to take more pictures. The most interesting place for me in the whole temple was the roof, gilded and full of wonderful animal-like sculptures and dragon heads at the roof ends. It also had a beautiful view of the snowy mountains and the Potala Palace.
No doubt the Jokhang Temple is a very special place in terms of culture and architecture and is not as tragic as the Potala Palace because of the lack of Chinese police.
Meeting with the monk
That evening I met my Americans who invited us for dinner. This was more interesting because the Tibetan monk, who was behind closed doors, talked about Tibet, his religion, and answered our questions. As he later said, he did it to give tourists a little bit of their culture and history and to give them a sense of Tibetan independence and Chinese repression. This meeting was an addition to what I had read and I had the opportunity to know beforehand. The monk said that when the Beijing Olympics will be held in Beijing in 2008, Tibetans will try to raise public voice to arouse compassion and a willingness to help other peoples.If this does not help, the good will be when the Dalai Lama dies, because the death of such a celebrity can cause a revolution in Tibet and help the West. He talked a lot about not being able to pronounce the Dalai Lama’s name here, and to take his pictures, because he was sent to prison and the family of the “guilty” was persecuted. He said that some time ago a monk in Barkhor Square shouted “free Tibet”, but the next day he was gone and no one knew what had happened to him. There is also a Chinese program on television, which is pure propaganda and told to not watch it.
Education in Tibet is divided because there are Chinese schools where it is forbidden to speak in Tibetan. There are also Tibetan schools where they speak in Tibetan and teach religion and history, but after these schools no one can get a job because the Chinese government does not allow it. The only way to get a job is to finish a Chinese school. Then we talked about religion. He said he wanted to learn about many religions in order to better understand his own. She must speak English well in order to be able to learn at all. He said that a very important thing in his religion is “karma”, that is, if you do good or bad things, sooner or later they will come back to you. He drew attention to the statue of the “hungry spirit” in the temples. It is a statue of a man with a very large belly and a very narrow throat. This means that this man is forever hungry (hence the big belly) but he has too much bottleneck to be able to swallow anything. So if you do evil, you can be “hungry spirit” in your future life.
He talked about doing good to not expect anything in return and to give poor little if anything. I said that the profession of beggar is very profitable here because they are all Buddhists and are afraid of what will happen in the next life if they do not give a few cents. The monk laughed but admitted that I was right. I said that I am not too religious and do not agree with every law, but I always try to do well, help others and myself, be good for people and animals and the environment. The monk replied that acting in this way was already a religion. Then he said that (according to his religion) if I am a bad man then in future life I can be a snake, for example. I said that in my future life I would like to be a snake because I keep them home and are my favorite animals. The monk replied that it all depends on my attitude. If I love snakes and I am good for people and for myself and everything that surrounds me, it is very likely that in the next life I will be a snake.
Then we changed the subject and asked about society in Tibet. I asked how it is happening that the society is poor but a few Tibetans are very rich. The monk said that there are people who are spies or have ties to the Chinese government and get money from him. He said there is also one Tibetan singer who sings propaganda songs and is also very rich. The monk also talked about how people perceive other people, especially those who are culturally different to us. We never know how they perceive us and what their priorities are. I asked how it will be when the Dalai Lama dies and who will be his successor. He said that before the Dalai Lama’s death, he would choose a young boy who would be his successor, but then no one would know who he was. This was roughly the most important topics discussed that evening. It was a very informative meeting, in a very nice place and with a very good Tibetan dinner. I have learned a lot and am glad that my life is just like that. Because I can traverse the world and gain knowledge from first hand.
Lhasa – continued
I also had many other contacts with the Tibetans. One warned me against speaking or carrying a forbidden picture. The second man I bought baked potatoes on the street invited me and Monica and gave him a picture of the Dalai Lama for not wanting money. He also warned to be cautious, because especially for the Tibetans, strict punishments are being imposed.
Having stayed with these thoughts for a while, we strolled back to Lhasa, saw the Potala Palace again, and watched local artisans. All the time thinking of our experiences here, talking to a monk, temples and people encountered, and a cultural shock, we remembered that our stay in Tibet was not limited to one city. My goal was to see the most interesting settlements and temples on my way to Nepal and go to the camp at Mont Everest at 5200m above sea level. However, with the relatively high price of renting a jeep with a driver, I had to find two more people who would share the cost with us. In all hotels in Lhasa there were announcements for organized trips. Many people were looking for people on various expeditions, but many ads were old and contacting them would take a long time. So I decided to accelerate this process and I hooked up the Irishman and his girlfriend from Korea. As it turned out, they knew me from the stories of the Americans who told them about Polish couple and about Marcin, who always buys everything with a big discount and who got them Potala tickets without reservation. With such references we got along well with the money and the type of car, then took a better heated jeep – because of the women.
The agency provided us with general travel permits for Tibet and for our special wishes, the extra permission for one very rarely visited place. The whole trip was supposed to take about a week if the weather and all other unforeseen things would allow it. We can also pay extra for a longer stay in one of the locations. I think especially for Monica it will be something new but I believe it will be brave. It reminds me of my beautiful and wild trip across the Gobi desert in Mongolia, although I am sure that Tibet will be the only one. Finally, I will see the temples and nature inside Tibet, I will meet new people and see the long awaited Everest !!!
On the way through Tibet – from Lhasa to Nepal
(In this chapter: Lake Yamdrok-tso, Gyantse, Shigatse, Sakya, Shegar, Rongbuk, Mont Everest, Tingri, Zhangmu.)
Lake Yamdrok-tso and the Tibetan way of warming houses
The next morning the driver picked us up with his great jeep from under the hotel. We packed our luggage, picked up the previously mentioned couple and set off. Upon departure from Lhasa we were glad that a new, wonderful adventure started, but I was also a bit sorry that I was leaving such a unique place. When I left, the last time I looked at the Potala Palace was a new adventure. My plan was to get to the border with Nepal, the famous “highway of friendship”, stopping in the most interesting places. The route is 920km and leads through the most spectacular parts of the Himalayas of the Tibetan plateau. The highest point of my trip was 5220m above sea level and was in Gyatso-la-pass though I plan to be higher on the road to Mont Everest (8848m).
Our road led through the mountains at an altitude of over 5000m above sea level where we could observe the Himalayan peaks and rivers and valleys. From time to time we were stopped by a flock of sheep and what was slowly passing through the road. After two hours of driving we reached the Kamba-la pass (4794m asl) from which we had a beautiful view of the crystal clear turquoise lake Yamdrok-tso (4488m above sea level), lying below the valley. As we could have guessed on the spot there were a lot of people with garnished ones who persuaded us to take pictures for a small fee. I did a lot of photos for a very symbolic amount. I photographed with people against the beautiful lake and the Himalayas and Monika took me still pictures when I mounted yak. After enjoying the animals, one man chased us because we supposedly paid too little. I paid as much as I needed but the people were so poor that when the tourist came they wanted to use it to the maximum. Up there was a strong wind and it was very cold and when we reached the height of about 3700 m it became warm and the sun was shining. So far in Tibet the weather has been very variable. Heat is only when the sun is shining, but then the temperature drops sharply, above all depending on the height. The beauty of Tibet has so much fascinated us that we stopped quite often to admire the Himalayan peaks, play on sand dunes and breathe in pure air.
Coming to our next destination in addition to the magnificent nature we could watch the ordinary Tibetan villages. It is still poorer than in Lhasa, though it would seem that the poor can no longer. When I drove with my jeep, I could watch people living in very poor houses, poorly dressed, fattening sheep and plowing fields with manual plows. I think the biggest victims here are the children, who always stretch their hands with a big smile every time they see us. I also met here with a new way of warming houses. It was often seen that the walls and fences were covered with animal excrements mixed with straw. It looked strange when white cobblestones were set up with crappy cakes. I think taking into account the local climate is a very practical and ecological though smelly idea.
After a couple of hours of driving we reached the small village of Gyantse to see the local monastery of Pelkhor Chode. Gyantse is a small village, worth visiting not only for the monastery itself, but because here is a large extent preserved Tibetan culture not affected by China. We all survived the shock after we left the car because the children were so hungry that they were bananas and chocolates from our hands. I had a camera and money but they wanted to eat. They snatched some fruit and asked for something else.When I was able to lose a hungry crowd, one boy grabbed my hand, hugged her and did not want to let go though his father had a beer. It was a tragic experience and I wanted to help them somehow, but I could not change their lives for the better. Upon entering the monastery, I saw that it was very dirty and run down. At the entrance there were prayer battles with the Tibetan alphabet, and the roof of the temple itself was a golden bell with the eyes of the Buddha. In the middle of it was not possible to take photos, but with resolute opposition of monks and so I did. Many sculptures were beautiful and each represented a different figure.
Pelkhor Chode monastery was built in the early 15th century and consisted of 108 prayer rooms and each was a statue of another saint. There were several buildings built in the typical Tibetan style with a characteristic thick window frame. But I saw that there was something wrong here, because the monks looked very well fed, under each statue the gods were scattered and the children were starving. I decided on a move that was a bit risky because I’m not religious and I do not always follow the law. I do what dictates my conscience and what is appropriate at the moment. I simply stole the money that was at the figurines and then fed all the children I met. By witnesses I was taken as a great benefactor because no one is doing such things. If I did not steal this money, the children would still be hungry and the money would have been stolen anyway but by the corrupt Chinese police, which further plunges Tibet into misery.
Gyantse was shocking and here one could see how much China had done to the Tibetan people. Although the monastery was beautiful, in fact the memory remains mostly poverty and hungry children.
Our next destination was about two hours away from Shigatse, where we had to spend the next two nights. Shigatse is the second largest city after Lhasa, which has always competed with Lhasa for preference in Tibet. Fortunately the kids did not rush to us but it was late when we arrived so that might be why. We stayed in a very good hotel where we could even take a hot shower. The main attraction of Shigatse is the third largest and first in Tibet, the great monastery of the 15th called Tashilhunpo. Many Tibetan temples have already seen and all are based on the same beliefs and the same architecture. Here people also walked around praying, bringing gifts and throwing money at Buddha’s feet. Just as elsewhere they lay down on the floor to pray. The monastery itself was rather neglected but of course it had its beautiful Buddhist atmosphere and was located at the foot of the mountain. Monastera Tashilhunpo was always the headquarters of one of the high-ranking Panchen Lama, and there are about 600 monks living there, although once lived there are 4000. One of the biggest attractions of this place is the 27 meter Buddha and the great tomb containing 85kg of gold and a wealth of jewels. But I liked the town itself and the people I met there and the location of the monastery in the mountains.
From the upper parts of the temple I saw the whole of Shigatse. Even after seeing the Potala and Jokhang in Lhasa, this temple was also very special. Although the architecture is very specific and although it was nice to know more about Buddhism, I am primarily here for these people. I observe how they behave in temples and I think that unfortunately human stupidity knows no boundaries. Big temples are built in the name of a Buddha statue painted in golden color, where money is thrown while children and their parents are hungry and dirty outside. They live in extreme poverty on the street, and certainly some of the money they also get thrown into the temple, which then takes the Chinese government. Someone once said that smart people are clever and wise, while masses can be driven like sheep flocks. Religion is the golden rule that allows the Chinese government to do what people want. It is funny that people have so little need for life, and that they are so naive. All they need to do is figure out how to pray to them and even lie down on the street. I’m not sure if they really understand or imitate each other. Although interesting is the culture of Tibet, I believe that here first of all education and of course independence is needed.
All the time I took pictures, more often than humanity, many poor people who always wanted something always pulled their hands for money or food. So I did shopping and gave mostly fruit, cakes and sweets to children. I tried not to give money because I did not want them to go to the temple. People were obviously unique and photos and videos could be shocking for some. I also noticed that I had great pleasure in giving, but no matter how much I gave, I could not change their lives for the better. Very interesting was the bazaar in front of the monastery where you could buy Tibetan souvenirs, but for me again were more interesting people themselves and how they behaved.
In the evening we went to a traditional Tibetan restaurant where I ate the soup with the yak meat. People around us were interested in us, and it was evident that our movements and gestures and our presence were an experience for them. When we go down the street we often hear loud “hello” and we answer each time. We are also looking for a contact, also for taking pictures. People are always very peaceful, but they do not always want to be photographed. On the other hand, they are very happy when I show them how they came out on the pictures. The day passed for giving sweets to homeless children, haggling for souvenirs for contact with people and for taking pictures. I was also in a small diner where a Tibetan couple prepared for me dumplings dumplings. Every time it was very nice although no one spoke English. I enjoyed the environment and the company of these people, no matter what the conditions or the poverty surrounding me.
In Shigatse I also learned something important about monks. Now everyone must be approved by the Chinese government and everyone is a potential informer. I think it looks like that if you do not want to be hungry and have a roof over your head, the best way is to go to the monastery. Also ticket prices for the temples are regulated by the government. Secondly, the Dalai Lama, the highest Buddhist dignitary, is also approved by the government and therefore his image is in every place. Just that every picture looks thicker. The next day we left this interesting but depressing place.
Shigatse was a very good opportunity for me to learn more about Tibet, its beauty and ubiquitous poverty. I think that here I am just starting to understand what Tibet is really and I began to suspect that I would be moving further into the country, it would become increasingly tragic.
The next morning we went to Sakya, which is to the village to which we needed additional, forfeited permission and to get here we had to leave the “road of friendship”. Sakya is out of the way but here I wanted to come and I even wanted to pay more because this little town is very Tibetan in its expression. I would say even more than Gyantse. There is an interesting monastery on both sides of the river Trum, but for me the greatest experience was contact with local people.
We stayed in a fairly affordable hotel but unfortunately without water and heating. The village itself was an image of misery and despair. There were donkeys and cows in the streets and people lived in houses that looked like slabs of animal waste. The houses were farms where horses, donkeys and people lived together or next to each other. When we went out into the street we were like the aliens from another planet. The whole village was staring at us while we were taking photos and giving chocolates to our children. Of course they were all filthy and very hungry, forever begging for anything we had. Once when I walked into the store and bought everything after the cake, the kids threw it at me. Then I went out into the street with a packet of sweets and I wanted to give each one one, but the crowd of children pulled me out of their hands. When we were climbing up the mountain, people took out our hands and the children begged and wanted to posing for photos with money. The life there was extremely miserable. The young girls were washing their belongings in the icy river and alternately took care of the young children who were still crying.
All these poor children were left alone for a whole day as soon as they learned to walk.The older ones teased the younger and the defenseless to laugh and then they all reached out to us. On the way to the top, two boys were behind us who wanted something from us and after a while it became very tiring. From here you could see the whole village, white stacks built on the mountains and two parts of this tragic place. There was a miserable part of the river in my part of the river, and the second part of the river, which looked like no better. All this surrounding of farmsteads and primitive quilted houses, begging the children and part of the Sakyan Chinese made me understand very well the words of a Chinese who was never in Tibet. He told me earlier that his nation “continues the mission of grace here.”
Many Chinese brought up on the lies of Communism honestly tower that they help Tibet but the truth is unfortunately quite different. On the way down, passing through the main street, I saw how the ragged sheep were exposed to the butcher and how the flies were settling on them. I saw women carrying large wicker baskets full of cow dung and children laughing and looking for contact with us. They rode on donkeys, smoked cigarettes and posed for photos. Me and Monica were shocked. I’ve done a lot of tragic pictures and movies here. I have never seen people live in such conditions, even though I have gone through so much of the world.
When we were leaving we all waved and the kids ran behind the car. It was a shocking and tragic experience. Sakya was the best example of how much China was hurting Tibet …
Another evening and night of our trip on the “Friendship Highway” (road from Lhasa to the Nepal border) was the next village-Shegar. Shegar is one of those places where there are several buildings on one short street and where the village looks dark and deserted. At first glance, you can only see dogs and one cow wandering on the main and at the same time the only way. You could make a very good horror film here because the place worked on the imagination. We stayed in a room without water, heating and without a toilet and there was still electricity out. We stayed on the first floor in an icy room that only protected us from the wind. Next to it was a “toilet” or a hole in the wooden floor. At the bottom was a very modest diner, whose main advantage was the stove.
I saw that Monika already had enough time in Tibet. She wanted to rest, warm up and wash. But there were still a few days of traveling around Tibet and I wanted to make the best use of it. So we went for a walk to go to the mountains and enjoy the beautiful views. We met a girl who was feeding a sheep who, like very cold weather, was dressed very lightly and wore flip-flops because she could not afford shoes. Once again I was surrounded by the natural beauty of Tibet and the poor people and their wretched, shabby village. For me, as an outsider, it was still a very attractive place because of its cultural difference and above all the beautiful surroundings of the mountains, herds of sheep and yaks.
When I returned to the pub I ordered vegetable soup but the food, as everywhere in Tibet (except Lhasa) was very basic. I only got a bowl of boiling water with carrot juice. Usually served with rice or potatoes with eggs and if I order soup with meat, then I’m lucky if I can find one tiny piece of meat. Well, at least I could have warmed up. I sat with Monica on a wooden bench and played cards and then returned to the icy room. There were not too many children in the town, but the ones they encountered were throwing themselves at what they could.
Shegar was only on my way to the next “lovely” place, although I must admit that the views of the Himalayas were as beautiful as ever.
Rongbuk and Mont Everest expedition (8848m)
Another place was Rongbuk, a small monastery at the foot of Everest. It was a very convenient place to spend the night for those who went to Everest camp. There was also a very modest cafeteria, a very basic food store and a dingy hostel with no water and a freeze in the frost. Under these conditions, however, all but the smallest things are very happy. I did not want to aggravate the situation, but I saw that Monika was already quite fit and was already on the verge of endurance. I was not surprised because I met many travelers here, including healthy and strong men who also looked miserable. Many were dehydrated and had high altitude sickness, so their drivers brought them some time lower than they helped.
On this cold evening we went to the hotel with a real event to relax and warm up by the stove and by the way eat one bowl of soup together, because there was only so much left. From the balcony we took photos of Everest, which by the moonlight was very visible. The next morning we got up early because we were waiting for an 8 km walk. Rongbuk was only 8km away from the camp at Mont Everest and we were about to take over in about two hours at an altitude of over 5000m. We got up early, also because we could not sleep from the cold. Taking into consideration the sanitary conditions during this expedition, after some time we began to self-abhorment because we soiled. All other travelers, too, but fortunately the low temperature killed our odor. We were really tired, and we had enough that we could not get along well. We were able to feel how real Tibetan people live every day. Fortunately, at least we could wash our teeth.
During this expedition my head sometimes hurt because I was already at an altitude of over 5000m above sea level. We always moved from one place to another, climbing up to 500m, so that we could adjust to the height. This morning, after a painful awakening and after a cold night, we went for a long awaited walk to the camp at Mont Everest. I felt good but Monika was very tired and heavier as the air was very thin. From time to time I had to use special exercises and breathing methods to get in. I also carried her backpack and her own and I made up various shortcuts, but the work of this expedition was for her to finish. The scenery was beautiful, around the majestic Himalayas, crystal clear rivers, rocks, glaciers and a harsh climate. The higher was the colder. Overcoming obstacles encountered, once we even met a herd of mountain goats.
That walk was a beautiful adventure and after 8km we finally reached a place at the height of 5200m. From there we saw Everest, but unfortunately it was very cloudy. We had great satisfaction that we managed to reach the highest peak in the world. Standing there and aware of its size, I felt that I had fulfilled my next great challenge. I also felt that I could go higher, but not this day because I would need a longer time to adapt to the height.
We managed to do a lot of nice photos though Monika could no longer stand the cold, even though I gave her her gloves and watched for warm clothes. We walked up the hill to there on the background of Everest and many Buddhist prayer flags, with frost and strong winds figure for about an hour and enjoy the view.Being under Everest I met a group of Tibetan mountaineers who had just set off for the summit. When I talked with them, I felt that it was a small matter for them because they were born there. I talked with people who were about 8000m above sea level without any clothes or equipment and without oxygen cylinders, but these people were from Tibet. They said that a lot of Europeans and Americans are climbing to great heights but they are just harder.
The tourists who were with me on the expedition arrived at 6000m asl, but many of them got ill. They had dehydration or high altitude sickness, stomach problems and a great headache. They had to get off to a lower altitude and to slow down or adapt to slower conditions. Someone once asked why climb Everest? Because it is. I am glad that I went there and was at 5250m above sea level at the highest peak of the world. If I wanted to go higher, in addition to my own zeal, it would take a lot of money, the Chinese government’s consent and the help of many people.
On the way back it was a little warmer or maybe we were so impressed by the environment that we walked too slowly and half way through the driver picked us up. We left Rongbuk this afternoon and continued on to the border with Nepal. But it was not the end of our adventure with Everest because we saw him long before and after hitting here.
To sum up this expedition, I am happy because I was in such a unique, Mont Everest, and in such a magical place that definitely is Tibet. So far, every hard time, sacrifice and all the hard work of this trip were worth it.
The next day, we were still heading for the Nepal border and we were crossing the steep and winding slopes of the Himalayas. We also drove through the river and sometimes our driver stopped to take pictures that were just as good. It was beautiful and very peaceful. I particularly liked the great emptiness and silence of the Himalayas. We also passed small human gatherings where, unfortunately, again was misery and the biggest victims were the children. This time I had a biscuit on my back and as soon as I got out of the car, they threw themselves on and they ate immediately. They were dirty and hungry. The experience of this type is beautiful to Tibet, but it is not their fault.
After a few hours driving we stopped for a night in the village of Tingri. I think Tingri was even worse and darker than the rest, but nothing could beat Sakyi.
Tingri is a classic Tibetan town with traditional Tibetan architecture and unfortunately its poverty. The town is beautifully situated, as you can see two Himalayan peaks: Mont Everest (8848m) and Cho Oyu (8153m).Tingri is the place where travelers to or from Nepal spend their last night and we did so too.
We came here when it was dark. There was no lighting, only frost and hordes of stray dogs and people buried in their poor homes. We were very hungry so we left to find a shop and came across a private house where the Tibetan family prepared for us a modest meal. We were sitting in a wooden house with a few candles because the lights were not there and at the stove in the company of other people. One of them read the book and showed me that in the middle there was a ban on Tibet, a photo of the Dalai Lama. For propaganda to be fulfilled, Mao Tse Tung’s portrait hung somewhere in the darkest corner. It was a sad place, not because of the conditions but because of the lack of freedom of these people. After some time we managed to eat some meat and vegetables.
Then after dinner and a nice evening we returned by the same dark road to your room. Housing conditions were dingy, also without water and toilets and yet I felt I was happy here. Even my Monika stopped moaning. Maybe it was too exhausting, but we both understood how special place Tibet was for us. Heating was also not in spite of the approaching winter, and therefore inside was similar to the outside temperature. In order not to get cold at night, we dress warmly, we went to sleepers and so we fell asleep. For comparison I will say that when I was in Mongolia and slept in a yurt in the Gobi desert at about -20 degrees, I was very cold then. In Tibet I was warmer because I traveled with Monica and I have to admit that taking women to cold regions of the world (except for all negative sides) makes sense because they are hot at night.
The next morning we boiled hot water to brush our teeth, I loaded our rucksacks to the jeep and just as dirty as before but still happy, we left Tingri – our next Tibetan experience.
The next morning the driver was scheduled to leave for Zhangmu, a border town between Tibet and Nepal.On our way to Zhangmu we drove through the most picturesque terrain on the edge of the abyss. We drove all the way through the stone road, bypassing the great boulders strewn on the road, and we had to cross the river. Even the driver stood under the waterfall to wash the car. We all went downstairs where the views were getting better and warmer. Zhangmu was the prettiest city so far, because people did not look miserable and could eat well and stay where. It felt different from the rest of Tibet because it was everywhere green and much warmer than before as we were in the lower parts of the Himalayas.
You can feel the influence of Indian subcontinent in the form of curry smell and many Nepali dishes in restaurants. Zanghmu was quite unusual because it was built on the edge of the mountains. There was only one street stretching from the top of the mountain for a few kilometers down to the border. Lots of people ran a private exchange there which was very helpful. I bought some Nepali rupees and finally had a good meal in a decent restaurant. Zhangmu is also very different from the fact that the town is “only” at an altitude of 2300m and therefore there is a humid subtropical climate, which is rare in Tibet. It fosters all vegetation;trees, flowers and more. I will remember this small town on the mountain slope as primarily the entrance from Tibet to the Indian subcontinent.
The border with Nepal
The crossing of the border was not so chilling as the border between Mongolia and China and it was not as relaxed as the border between Laos and Cambodia. However, geographical location was difficult and time consuming. Now that border was on the edge of the mountain and to get from the Chinese side to the Nepalese, it was necessary to beat about 8-9km of steep, rocky road. After the Chinese check we hired another car and driving down very slowly, all the time shaking, after about twenty minutes we reached the border with Nepal in Kodari. Of course we surrounded the crowd but without paying attention we went to the border. The views were beautiful because we were surrounded by mountains and standing on the bridge before entering Nepal, we had a restless river below us.
I immediately noticed that people here were different than in Tibet and we were perceived differently by the natives. When I left Monica alone for a moment, they started whistling at her and several people touched her hands, but when it is with me nothing like this. Perhaps they were curious about what “white man” is made of because many people from these countries have never had contact with us. Then we were passed through a large iron gate so we could buy a visa and so far everything was going according to plan. We paid for our visas and then we were officially in Nepal.
Summary of Tibet
My expedition to Tibet ended with an expedition in a beautiful, Himalayan country where every day was a discovery for me. I was in the sacred city of Lhasa and then stopped in the most interesting settlements, I reached Nepal. It is a wonderfully beautiful country with its most famous and highest peak on earth – Mont Everest. I also met the interesting culture of Tibetans, which was reflected in daily rituals and in secular and sacred architecture, with its greatest treasure, the Potala Palace. People have always been very peaceful and always felt very good here.
Tibet is not an easy country to travel to. It is a very cold country where you can fall into high altitude sickness and, to put it mildly, the living conditions are more than modest. When crossing Tibet, there is also the ubiquitous misery of these people, which is obviously not their fault. I think that despite the beauty of Tibet, for many coming here would be too much of a challenge. Precisely because of living conditions, poverty and natural and climatic conditions in Tibet.
The only thing that bothered me personally was the Chinese occupation of this beautiful country. I personally witnessed the damage done in Tibet by the People’s Republic of China.
- Chinese occupation of Tibet
- Lhasa capital of Tibet
- Potala Palace
- poverty in Tibet
- residence of the Dalai Lama
- Tibet Barkhor temple
- Tibet friendship highway
- Tibet Gyantse
- Tibet Jokhang temple
- Tibet Mount Everest
- Tibet Sakya
- Tibet Shigatse
- Tibet Tashilhunpo
- Tibetan border with Nepal
- Tibetan monks
- Tibetan plateau
- Yamdrok-tso Tibet lake