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The roof of the World, Tibet my dream destination

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Long ago, I read the book ‘the Tibetan Woman’. Fascinated by this book, the impressive culture, the landscape and the oppression since the fifties, I really wanted to see this country with my own eyes.

In 2018 it is time!

It is not allowed to travel alone in Tibet, so I joined an international group. It turns out to be a very small group, only five people; from Spain, Canada and the Netherlands. We fly from Kathmandu to Lhasa and the flight above the Himalayas is exceptional!

Lhasa lies on an elevation of 3600 meter and this is quite high. The guide explains us that it will take several days to get used to the height and we have to drink a lot of water.

Do you wake up in the night? Drink water. Do you have a headache? Drink water.

I’m quickly out of breath and feel this when I walk up small stairs at the monastery. I quickly start panting, or is it my fitness?

Within three days I feel okay and am acclimatized to this altitude, I’m glad it didn’t take a long time.

Chinese influences

The chinese have added Tibet to the Chinese empire in the 50’s and like to keep this area under control. We aren’t allowed to discuss with the guide or ask political or related questions, he’s not allowed to speak freely. In the car we are being monitored, there are two cameras in the dashboard that record us constantly. Later that week we have to show our passport and visas multiple times. Sometimes our bags are scanned three times a day.

The Tibetan people is a proud and special nation with an intense Buddhist religion.
Because of Chinese influences this is being degraded bit by bit, what a shame! Aside from the influences of the Chinese government and the oppression of the Tibetan people there is still some parts of the authentic Tibet visible.

Drepung Monastery

Monasteries, palaces and temples

Everything I see from the palaces, monasteries and temples is beautiful and impressive. The guide gives us a lot of information, he is of Tibetan origin and tells a beautiful story.

First we visit the Sera and Drepung monasteries, where the monks are debating in the gardens.

One monk is sitting on the ground and the other is standing near him. They call out all kinds of statements and fanatically clap their hands. An impressive scene to be seen.

The next day the Potala Palace, the former palace of the Dalai Lama and the Jokhang Temple are on the schedule. Wow, the Potala Palace is gigantic! A lot of spaces are off limits for us but we are allowed to see one of the rooms previously used by the Dalai Lama which is still intact, very special.

Potala Palace

The Jokhang Temple nearby in Lhasa is very religious, hundreds of people pray everyday at this temple. The people kneel on the street. Sometimes the pilgrims lay down on the street and get up again, take a step aside and repeat the same movement. Often they do this around the entire temple. Making this round is also called the Kora. Everywhere you smell incense burning and in this environment everything is tradition and rituals. I’m loving it. 

Praying pilgrim

The temples here are exceptionally beautiful. I’m gazing at the paintings, sculptures, books, butterlamps, wood carvings, stupa’s, offerings and on and on. What a photogenic area! Normally taking photos is not allowed, but when offering 10 yuan, this restriction is being lifted. Excellent!

Butterlamp burning on Yak butter

Organised group tours

After a few days I realize what is means for me to travel with an organised group. Everyday I’m told where and at what time I’m expected to be. It’s actually quite relaxed because I don’t have to worry about anything. I barely know in what place we are now or what the next stop will be. Rarely I’ve been this docile, hahaha. We eat three times a day as a group and travel together all day. I’m not used to this so sometimes I choose to eat alone, so I can have some time by myself. 

The trip only takes 10 days and is clearly set out but I’m looking forward to travelling alone, as I realise now, that’s something I’m fond of.

Into the mountains

After three days we leave Lhasa behind to go to the ‘rural area’. We drive along a winding road to the mountain pass. For the first time I really feel being on the rooftop of the world. We are at such an high altitude and have wide views all around.

Ganden Monastery

Than the self punishment sets in as we have to walk up the mountain for two hours.

The views are worth it though; Ganden Monastery. A really big monastery high in the mountains. Often these monasteries were built in these places, far away from cities and other people. This causes less distractions for the monks.

We continue our drive through great landscapes and at an elevation of 5000 meter we cross small vilages towards Mount Everest.

We drive to a viewpoint looking upon Mount Everest and are allowed to walk around the area. This is the hike of the day.

A bit disappointed, as we were looking forward to walk in the mountains, but sadly we needed a different permit to be allowed to do this.

The photos are beautiful and ‘being there’ gives a more than blissful feeling, the altitude the silence and the cold.

Viewpoint Mount Everest 5248 mtr
Yamdrok lake

Next day we drive a long and winding road to the intense blue Yamdrok lake. It’s so pretty to drive on the rooftop of the world! The lake is beautiful and with the praying flags in the foreground a pleasure to photograph.

Bye bye Tibet

Arriving at one of the last hotels, they seem to be missing a chef, so we eat instant noodles with hot water. There is also no running water, becasuse the plumming is frozen. No problem, we just get a can of warm water to wash ourselves. I like the simple life!

What an exceptional country Tibet is! There’s so much to see and experience, it’s just too much to mention it all; the enormous heights, the freezing cold, the tasty veggy momo’s, the stupa’s, pilgrims, many monks, the butterlamps running on Yak butter, the yaks themselves, the mountain goats, prayermills, walking the kora and the many colourful prayer flags.


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