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.

Inside Tibet: Peace and Love in Turmoil. Daily Vlog: 39

Inside Tibet: Daily Vlog 39

We leave Lhasa on our way to one of the one of the Great Three University Monasteries in Tibet, The Ganden Namgyal Ling Monastery. This great monastery was founded by Je Tsongkhapa Lozang-dragpa between 1357-1419. It remained peaceful until it was completely destroyed during the 1959 rebellion, than in 1966 it was heavily shelled by the Red Guard the remaining monks were forced to dismantle the remains. After pictures of the Dalai Lama were banned in 1966, 400 Monks rioted. They were fired upon by PLA troops (People Liberation Army). Re-building of this once grand monastery has continued since the 1980’s.

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Ganden Namgyal Ling Monastery

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Given this monasteries recent history there was no surprise to see the heavy military presence. It all started as we approached the Wangbur mountain that the monastery sits on. We were stopped at a Police Check, asked to get out of the bus walk through a metal detector and back on the bus. It was strange as they didn’t check anything really? Just a display of power I guess?

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Burning Incense

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Ganden Namgyal Ling Monastery

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Friends on the Kora

I was on the look out for hidden cameras and I quickly started to spot them. We started our walk around the Kora a Pilgrimage around a sacred mountain and sitting high on hill there was a camera watching over the valley and the sacred Kora. As I walked I felt this beautiful feeling of calm, it was obvious that this was a very spiritual place. I let myself float into this almost mediative state and feel the peace and love from the hills. It was truly amazing. I could see all the little caves that Monks have been meditating in, I spun all the prayer wheels that were scattered around the Kora. There were prayer flags blowing in the wind, sending their prayers over the valley and over anyone who walked the Kora. This place was very special and I had a moment between myself and the mountain, it was beautiful. 

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On the Kora

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The Kora Panorama

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Once again it all hit home hard as I rounded the last corner and the monastery came into view. One of the very first things I saw was a large Chinese flag, then I quickly became aware of all the cameras watching me again. I new they were there through out the Kora, I had seen them but I guess I didn’t let it bother me, I didn’t want to loose that moment I was in. I saw camera after camera, then more and more military personnel scattered, watching over the monastery. There were these two guards standing on a roof top under an umbrella. It just all felt different again.

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One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.