Why You Should Travel to Tibet

Story and Photographs by Shane Ness

“Jokhang was an interesting combination of smells, colours, faces and sentiments. I felt blessed to be so close to the heart beat of Buddhism and yet so saddened by the annihilation”

Alisa Gwyn, Sydney Australia

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View of Lhasa from the Potala Palace

Why Tibet? Isn’t it dangerous? It’s not the real Tibet anymore. These thoughts did play a part in my decision to visit, but not in the way they were intended. I wanted to visit Tibet to see what is really going on there, I wanted to see the Tibet as it is today, with all its beauty, destruction and sadness however what I got, was much more than that.

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Walking The Jokhang

I was on an organised tour with Intrepid Travel, we met our crew in Kathmandu, Nepal the day before we would enter Tibet. We had our own reasons, however one rang true, we want to see it for ourselves.

We hadn’t been in Tibet for long, before we started to see the effects of the occupation. On our visit to the Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama’s Summer Palace we were quickly aware that we were being watched.

“We were even aware of one of the cameras following us around the room”.

Samantha Stocks an editor from Somerset England said.

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Intrepid Travellers in traditional Dress

Samantha, her husband Elliot and fellow Intrepid traveller Lauren had just been persuaded to wear traditional dress, by two Tibetan ladies who were hiring the clothes for tourist to try on.

“They were very charismatic ladies! Friendly and smiling. I enjoyed the interaction with the women who helped us to dress in the garments, and I hoped that the money we gave them would stay directly in their hands and not find its way into the Chinese government’s”. Samantha Stocks.

As we walked around the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet, I noticed Alisa sitting with a monk.

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The Jokhang and the Tattoo

“I have a line out of the Tibetan script tattooed on my forearm. He sore my arm, reached for a pen in his bag and finished off the rest of that particular chapter in the Tibetan script”

What does your Tattoo say?

“Boundless compassion, Love and kindness”

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Intrepid Travellers walking the Kora

It is this love and compassion that the Tibetan people have, even with all the destruction and oppression they have suffered that has changed the way that I see everything. When I asked my tour if they would suggest Tibet to their friends, the answer, did not surprise me,

“I would, and I wonder whether the only thing that will really keep the Tibetan culture alive in Tibet in any form is tourism. But I would like to see more literature on responsible tourism in Tibet, so that tourists can ensure that their money goes into the hands of Tibetans for the most part” Samantha Stocks

“Yes YES ANDDDDDDD ABSOLUTELY! Before it’s completely nothing more than a country encased by a false pretence” Alisa Gwyn.

Tony’s Travels in Kombi Confessions

Welcome to the very first episode of Kombi Confessions.
Where I interview a bunch of amazing people all across Australia in my 1976 Kombi.

Today we have my good mate and fellow Travel YouTuber Tony from Tony’s Travels.

Tony is an inspirational person. He has chosen a life of travel and really lives for adventure. His YouTube Channel is incredible and a must visit.

Go check him out and Subscribe!!!
YouTube
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Inside Tibet: Daily Vlog 35

Inside Tibet

Today I realise one of my lifelong dreams, today I reach a destination that has held my dreams, a place that has intrigued me for so long, today I reach Tibet.

I have no idea what awaits me, as a westerner I can only read articles about what is going on there, but how much of that can I really believe? How much of the stories that make headlines back here in Australia can I actually believe? What have the journalist from around the world been allowed to see and talk about?  My plan was to go and see this country for myself. See it with my own eyes and make my own mind up. What I saw amazed me, I didn’t know what to expect, but what I got, well please watch the next two weeks of my Tibet Vlogs to see what I saw, to see Inside Tibet.

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One Life, One Search,

Peace Out.

Shane.

Tigers Nest Temple, Bhutan. Daily Vlog 30

Daily Vlog: 30

The day has finally arrived, today we make our way up to the Tigers Nest Temple, (Taktsang Monastery). Visiting the Tigers Nest Temple has been on my bucket list for ages, the mystery around Bhutan and The Tigers Nest Temple has intrigued the world for decades. The day starts early, I wander outside and find myself gazing across the river and up the mountain, I had no idea what the day would bring me, but I was ready.

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Wise Words

We jump in our new van and start the drive, across the river and up the windy road up the side of the mountain. We reach the car park, as far as you can make it in a vehicle, now we are on foot. I was really looking forward to trekking again, so off we went. The temple sits high on the cliff, you can see it almost the entire way up, it almost motivates you to keep going. The climb is steep and it is quite hot and humid, you are protected from the breeze by the large trees, which are almost always covered in Prayer Flags, the walk is breathtaking and we are almost the only people on the trail. Half way up there is a little tea house, a welcome break, a cup of tea and some biscuits and we are off again. Pelma asks me “Short Cut?” so we follow this really cool track off in the forrest, it winds its way straight up the side and soon meets the main track.

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Prayer Flags and Tigers Nest

A post shared by Shane Ness (@tatteredpassport) on

I walk under some low lying prayer flags, I can hear the wind blowing through the tree’s, then I see it, I see the Tigers Nest Temple, it is just there, across the other side of a deep valley. I am at eye level with the temple, I get this giddy feeling, this excitement crossed with complete awe. From here you can really see how steep and huge the cliff is, the temple is almost just clinging to edge, I stand there in complete silence. I soon make it to the gate of the temple after walking down the steep valley covered in prayer flags. I hand in my camera to the gate house, and enter the temple’s walls. Once inside I felt instantly calm, a smell of incense burning flows throughout the temple and across the valley. I walk into the very first room and I was met by the Taktsang Lama, I couldn’t believe my luck. The Lama invited us all to the main room and treated us to an impromptu teaching. It was absolutely amazing to listen to someone so wise speak. I couldn’t get over the fact that he would always say “I don’t know everything” he spoke about love, peace, compassion and that knowledge is everything. He said that he see’s many “Tourists” that come to see the famous temple, just to see the site but can not see, they see the paintings but can not see the art, they see the monks but not the life, I believe the few people that he spoke to, he believed were there to really see and attempt to understand. This moment mixed with all my amazing new knowledge through out my time in Bhutan have a huge impact on my life. Bhutan you have left a lasting impression on me, I look forward to when I can return and visit all the amazing people that I was lucky enough to meet.

Thank you for visiting Tattered Passport, If you have enjoyed this post please Like and Share. You can follow my adventures on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and simply by clicking on the Follow button at the bottom of your screen.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane

Breaking down in Bhutan. Daily Vlog: 28

Living in Western Australia, the largest and most remote state of Australia I have an unique concept of distance. I have no issues driving 6 hrs over 600km from Perth to Kalgoorlie for the weekend to see friends, or driving 200kms return trip just to pick up the newspaper at work. So when the entire length of Bhutan at its longest point is a modest 306km you would think it would be a country you could see in a matter of hours. How wrong you would be, todays drive from Punakha to Paro a short 143km drive will take you over 4hrs, due to the astronomical 10-12 bends per kilometre. The roads are well built how ever they are so windy and are dotted with road works and the road blocks slow you down even more. We could only really manage a brisk walking pace of 20-30km per hour. Just to make this road even crazier it rises to a whopping 3800m at the Dochala Pass.

Once we arrived in Paro we made a quick stop at the mechanics, apparently the brake fluid was leaking, I am pretty happy that I was not aware of that at 3800m. It was interesting seeing inside a workshop in Bhutan. I have spent years hanging around workshops, so for me even this little side trip was an unusual high light. It turns out workshops in Bhutan are pretty similar to what you would see in Australia. They were clean, had similar tools and car parts hanging all over the place, the usual oil sign posted up on the wall even the vehicles were similar. Bhutan’s cars are pretty much what you see in Australia, except for the odd Indian import, Land cruisers and any type of Toyota were very popular. We had some extra time to explore Paro whilst we were getting our new vehicle, so a quick souvenir shopping spree was had. I said goodbye to Telo my driver and hello to our new driver and brand new Toyota Hiace.

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Travel for free if your a Monk.

After lunch we visited the National Museum of Bhutan at the old Paro Watch Tower, well it was in the new building built behind the Watch Tower, but up until the huge earthquake in 2011 the museum was inside the old watch tower. The old building was a beautiful traditional structure standing tall and keeping a watchful eye over the Paro Fortress. You could see the physical signs of the earthquake, the large cracks running the height of the building. I hope they can repair the damage and restore this beautiful building to its former glory.

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Monks at the Paro Fortress

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Standing Proud

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Prayer Wheel

I loved exploring the Paro Fortress, watching the local monks spinning prayer wheels, gazing at all the beautifully intricate artwork plastered all over the old walls, I always get a feeling of peace when I enter these spiritual places. From the bottom of the hill you can see all three of the structures all built in 1646, at the top is the Watch Tower, below that the Paro Fortress and crossing the river the old bridge. Then some bright spark put a power line right across river and ruined what would be a magic photo. You got to watch out for those electricians…

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You got to watch those dodgy electricians

Thank you for stopping by Tattered Passport, If you have liked this post don’t forget to hit the LIKE button and share with your family and friends. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and simple by clicking the “Follow” button at the bottom of your screen.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane

Giant Wooden Penis; Daily Vlog: 26

We wake early and hit the windy roads towards Punakha. We know there are scheduled road blocks due to road construction and we are expecting long delays. We get to the first road  block and wait for around 40 minutes, this is not bad as it gives me time to wander around the area and take in all the sights and smells. It was a really interesting spot to get a feal for the local people and the culture. You see the local people set up make shift markets at these road blocks and sell there produce. There is everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh corn cooked on an open fire as well as the local porridge cooked on the side of the road. I was able to indulge myself in one of my favourite pastimes, “People Watching”, giving a rare glimpse into the Bhutanese travel industry.

Once through the first lot of road blocks we made it to the High Pass and the Stupa. We are at over 3000m again and you could feel the altitude, I was still loving the extra red blood cells i had left over from my hike to Mt Everest Base Camp, making this rather quick climb to altitude much easier. I was however starting to feel a little car sick, the windy roads were playing buggers with my stomach. Anyway at the top we stopped at a Tea House were I had some morning tea. Usually you are able to see over the Himalaya’s but the clouds were so thick we couldn’t see the car park. Pelma my guide treated me to a Butter Tea and some local porridge, which is usually for new years celebration in this area of Bhutan. I quite liked the butter tea, it is super sweet but quite nice, the porridge on the other hand i was not a fan. The texture was kind of like thick gooey mud with hard grains and filled with chunks of some kind of meat. The meat part was not actually that bad but i was not a fan.

We finally reached Punakha and had lunch at restaurant that was pretty obvious on the tourist route. The car park was filled with tourist vans and the only local people inside were

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The Punakha Restaurant Penis

the tour guides. I much prefer to be in a real local resturuant/ corner shop style eatery but I understand the need or want for travel companies to provide a “Clean” or “Western” place to eat for there customers. This probably would be fine for 90% of tourists but for me, a more authentic experience is what i seek. After lunch, which I might just add, was absolutely incredible we walked up to the Chime Lhakhang, the temple of the Devine

Madman. One of my favourite stories from Bhutan is the story of the Devine Madman, who slayed a demon with his Penis, yes you did read that correctly, now you see penis’s all over town. They paint them on their house’s walls, hang them from ceilings, have them in restaurants to protect them selves from demons. Some times if you are lucky and the local Lama is around you can get blessed by getting donked on the head with a giant wooden penis.

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I Love U Kiss Me

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Epic View of the Punakha Fortress

That afternoon we went to visit the Punakha Fortress (Puna Dechen Phodrang Dzong) that was built in 1636-1639. This place is HUGE, completely amazing and set in such a beautiful location.

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Fortress Painting

I could easily of spent hours wandering around this awe inspiring building. I have been struggling to film and document the beauty that I have seen behind the walls of these buildings. You can not film or take photo’s inside any temple or fortress, so the mystery of Bhutan still alive. I can tell you that the walls are covered in breathtaking art work depicting the battles between gods and demons, or the history behind Buddhism and stories of what have shaped Bhutan. Each temple will have a different local deity and there is no way that I could ever remember them all or even begin to understand Buddhism to that depth. I did find each story super interesting and I always got something special from each story.

 

Thank you for stopping by Tattered Passport, If you have liked this post please feel free to share with your family and friends. You can also follow Tattered Passport on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and simple by clicking on the “Follow” tab at the bottom of your screen.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane

Magical Takin’s and A Man with a beard. Daily Vlog: 25

I wake up early and have to pinch myself, I am actuality in Bhutan. I have a great breakie over looking the breathtaking Thimphu River and the Olympic Stadium. Our first stop of the day is the Changangkha Monastery and the celebration of the passing of “The Man With The Beard” sorry I don’t have his Bhutanese Name. The Man With The beard is loved in Bhutan and you see his statue everywhere. The celebration was an incredible site to see, it was an opportunity for me to see real Bhutanese Buddism celebrations first hand. All though I could not take the camera in side the monastery i can tell you it was incredible. I let the scent of incense the sound of bells and prayer wheels along with the power of chanting wash over me. I felt blessed to have been able to share this moment with the 100’s of locals all celebrating in that monastery.

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The coolest and my new favourite animal in the world

Have you heard about the national animal of Bhutan the Takin? A half Cow half Goat looking creature that has a very unique local story of how it become? The Man With The Beard who came to Bhutan from Tibet and brought with him Tibetian Buddism was not loved nor recognised as anyone special. He was mistreated by the local religious people at the time, however this did not bother him. One night at dinner he was given only the bones of a cow and a goat to eat. He said some very powerful words over the bones and the Takin appeared and walked out side. Since that day The Man With A Beard has been worshipped in Bhutan. I love hearing these mythical stories of  the countries that I visit. They give you a little insight into the history of the land and its culture.

Bhutan has really had a profound effect on myself, I really love its peaceful and unspoilt landscape. My guide Pelma took me for a walk through the forrest. One of the most peaceful places I have ever been. I could easily of stayed there for hours. We walked along this track and appeared at the Tango and Wangditse Dzong monasteries. They are currently in a full on restoration project phase. They burnt down due to a Butter Lamp incident. This was a common occurrence through out Bhutan. So many times i had seen monasteries with fire damaged areas. Now a lot of the monasteries have a separate area for the butter lamps. I found it fascinating that these monasteries are both a tourist spot and still getting used constantly from the locals for worship. Bhutan has a very interesting concept behind tourism and seems to work for them. These sacred places are still enjoyed by the local people. I would always see local kids, parents and grand parents laughing and enjoying the great weather. It was very refreshing after the chaos of Kathmandu.

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Amazing Bhutan

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Bhutanese Prayer flags over Thimphu

Our van boke down so we had an opportunity to walk around Thimphu for a few hours. Pelma showed me the Archery competition, which i found very interesting. The competition is in this field in the middle of the town and you can just wonder in and watch. There is not fencing or barriers stopping you walking across the field and i watched as people did just that many times. The local stray dogs would walk across and even lay down in the middle of the paddock and no one seemed worried. In Australia there would be so many barriers up stopping you from getting close enough to see anything and don’t forget a huge fee to watch the event.

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Bhutanese archery

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Suger cane at the Farmers market

I got to wonder through a local market place as well as the local farmers market, one of my favourite pass times. I love walking around these types of places. The smells the noise the people and the stuff. It is just a great way to see how the locals really live, how they really trade there goods for stuff that they need.

 

 

 

Thank you for stopping by Tattered Passport, if you have liked this post please feel free to share with you family and friends. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and simply clicking on the “Follow” button on the bottom of the screen.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.

The Emotional Roller Coaster of Saying Good Bye.

Saying good bye is never easy, after spending 22 days with amazing people in some of the most breathtaking locations I have ever seen you build a very close friendship. Then after it all everyone leaves and heads off. Today I felt a little alone, so I got myself a massage, wondered around Thamel and did a bit of the Admin side of my blog. Sorry this daily vlog is only a short one. Nothing really happened.

Travel opens your mind and soul for new and incredible experiences. You seek knowledge and look for any opportunity to meet new people. Once when I landed in Kathmandu from Paro, Bhutan I shared a cab with a Swiss backpacker, after chatting on the way into Thamel we decided to catch up for lunch. After lunch we wondered around Thamel and found our way to the “Garden Of Dreams” where we bumped into an Aussie backpacker, who invited us out for dinner and she introduced us to her Chilean friend who told us about a cool Shisha bar where we spent the night singing and chatting over a bunch of beers and Shisha. I still stay in touch with all of them and follow there adventures. This unique way of building friendships so rapidly and then parting ways just as quickly can be a emotional roller coaster but somehow builds the friendship even stronger.

Have you had experiences like these? Have you felt empty when your left alone in a random country after making great random friendships?

Thank you for stopping by Tattered Passport, you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or simply by clicking on the Follow button on the bottom the screen. If you have liked this post please feel free to share with your friends and family.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out.

Shane

Lukla Airport Chaos, The Worlds Most Dangerous Airport. Daily Vlog: 22

Today we wake early full of anticipation, for today we leave the mountains and head back to Kathmandu. However as we found out yesterday many people had been stuck in Lukla for up to 7 days so the village was full of trekkers all wanting to get home so hopes were high.

I take a sneaky peek out of our window and I could see blue skies, however by the time that I walked down to the dinning room the clouds had rolled in and it was a thick as pea soup. It was not looking good, our tour manager Prasant was silently confident, he new this mountain better than anyone.

We got the call and we all rushed down to the airport caring everything we had. By the time we arrived it was obvious that the word had got out and the entire village full of trekkers were there all fighting to get on a plane. It was utter chaos, however what happened was something I would never of imagined would happen in such a peaceful and magical place. In amongst the chaos tempers rose to boiling point, voices were rising and heated words were exchanged. Right beside me a fight broke out between a couple of trekkers and the flight staff. It was a full on fight, with punches thrown, people getting knocked to the ground and the cops having to physically restrain the culprit.

Once we managed to get our way through bag checks and into the waiting room, we were able to relax. It was a mission to get through all that. Prasant came over and said “Now we wait”, and wait we did. Three hours in and we hear the call, “First Flight”. You could feel the energy lift in the room and we were all excited, we were actually going to get out and not be stuck here for days or even weeks. Watching the first plane land and take off was a strange feeling for me. One side I was well this trek is over and I was a little sad, then I was like well lucky we were not getting stuck here for weeks and at the same time I was feeling even more excited as I new I would soon be jumping on yet another plane and heading to Bhutan, it was a little bit of an emotional roller coaster. Then the actual roller coaster started, the flight down the mountain. It is a strange feeling in that plane, on the way up after take off all you do is climb, there is no levelling out at cruising altitude, then you land. Its even odder when you are returning to Kathmandu. You take off from Lukla and start to descend, almost your entire flight is downwards. You can feel it in your guts, really odd. Due to the clouds we were flying much lower and much closer to the mountains. This was both an incredible way to see the mountain, we got a real close up aerial view, however it did mean it was much, much more bumpy.

Once we landed in Kathmandu it was straight to the showers. We had not had a real shower for 18 days and were starting to be a little on the nose. So after a quick spruce up it was out to Kilroys for a last dinner and some celebrations, speeches, singing and later on some dancing.

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The crew Celebrating at Kilroys

Thank you for visiting my little blog. You can find Tattered Passport on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Or you can follow by simple clicking on the follow button at the bottom of the page. If you have liked this post please feel free to Share with your friends and Family and comment below. Have you been to Nepal?

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out.

Shane

Moments of Trekking Solitude. Daily Vlog: 21

We make our way back to Lukla, the small village that our adventure started almost 3 weeks ago. Today is only a short trek, 2 and a bit hours from Ghat to Lukla, however it is all up hill. We start the day with a raffle, trekking style. We all donate any gear that we either no longer want, need or would like to donate to our crew. The gear gets laid out on a tarp and all the items have a playing card placed face up on them. Then all the crew members, Sherpa’s, Porters, Cook, and helpers get to pick a card from the deck and what ever item matches the card, they get to keep. As you could imagine not all the items that the crew get suit them personally, but this is fine, they can trade with the other crew members or sell the gear in Lukla and make some extra money. It is a great way to say an extra thanks to the crew that have helped us reach a huge goal and successfully return safe and sound.

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Sorry just had to take a pic of this tree

Todays trek is all up hill but it is only a short walk. We trek through some of the thickest clouds we have encountered on the trek so far, this worries us all as we have heard that no plane has landed in Lukla for over a week, we quickly realise that we to may get stuck in Lukla. The way that it works in Lukla is that if your scheduled flight is able to land and leave than it does, if it can not and you miss your flight, your are put the very back of the line and wait your turn. This can be days or even weeks. As you can imagine there is sweet FA to do in Lukla other than drink coffee at the local “Starbucks” or drink beer at one of the many pubs.

We slowly make our way up the mountain, the clouds quickly roll in, the air gets very damp and then it starts to rain, luckily only for a short while. We break the cloud level and we can see the gate that we passed through almost 3 weeks ago. It sits atop the last short climb. This gate was not only a gate to the Himalaya’s, for me it is a symbol of what I have just achieved a symbol of what our group have achieved. I know that I was a little emotional as I passed under the gate and I’m certain others would of felt the same.

Tattered Passport, Lukla

We make it!

18 days ago as we passed under that gate we had no idea what lay in front of us. I had no idea of the amazing friendships that I would build and the incredible people that I would meet. I had no idea of the breathtaking sites that I would see or those moments of trekking solitude that are some form of meditation that will change you forever. I am finding it hard to put into words what I learnt about myself on that mountain. I have been touched and I will never be the same.

Nepal I will never forget you.

 

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Have you had similar experiences in Nepal?

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out