Magic Mushroom Dealers and Mountain Biking: Nepal. Daily Vlog: 49

I grab the mountain bike from my hostel “The Hotel Cherry Garden” and head for the hills on an adventure in search of the Friendship Stupa. Along the way I get completely lost in the farming land of Pokhara, get hassled out by a Magic Mushroom Dealer, almost die riding up the 1100m high mountain, barely escape from a out of control motor bike, dodge lightning and crazy Nepalese bus drivers and then have diner with the manager of Hotel The Cherry Garden. Oh he also makes me the most incredible coffee I have ever had. Hand ground organic coffee, Hemp Filtered and poured down a sandalwood stick, It was epic.

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Peace Out,

Shane.

Tashi Palkhiel Tibetan Refugee Settlement.

I leave the chaos that is Kathmandu, jump on a plane and head to the most incredible place, Pokhara. I had heard about a very special settlement just a 30min drive from the town centre so we decided to grab a cab and head out see what it was all about.

Tattered Passport Pokhara

A gift from the Dalai Lama

We arrive at the Tashi Palkhiel Tibetan Refugee Settlement and were greeted by a beautiful gateway and a very unique script written on it. Through out my time in Tibet we had not seen any reference to his holiness the Dalai Lama. This left a huge gap through out Tibet, as the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism the Dalai Lama is held in the highest of regard, however it is illegal to even talk about him in Tibet. So it was so beautiful to see his name right there in big letters, inviting you into the settlement. “Given by his Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama”, I new instantly this was a special place.

Tattered Passport, Pokhara

Tashi Palkhiel Tibetan Refugee Settlement

Tattered Passport, Pokhara

om mani padme hum

I dropped a “tashi Delek” and was instantly welcomed with open arms into their settlement. We were shown around by a beautiful Tibetan lady. Then I was invited into the Butter Lamp, prayer room and shown how to pray. This was a magical moment for me, I was able to give something back to these beautiful people, I purchased a butter lamp, said a prayer and was blessed.

Tattered Passport, Pokhara

Prayers and Butter Lamps

There are estimated 13000 Tibetan People living in exile in Nepal according to the The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). I am unsure of the number at this settlement. The people living at the settlement are kind of stuck between to worlds, it is very difficult for them. I do not pretend to understand how it all works for them, but from what I gather is that they are not allowed to work in Nepal. The only way that they can earn money is by selling some souvenirs. They have a small gift shop which sells hand made crafts, and as you walk out from the settlement you pass through a make shift market. Here you will find some amazing jewellery I am a big fan of beaded bracelets and necklaces and I was in heaven here. They are all hand made and you purchase them from the person who made them. In attempt to spread my money around I tried my hardest to by something small from all the stalls. 

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One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.

Inside Tibet: The Friendship Highway. Daily Vlog: 45

We continue our journey along the interestingly named Friendship Highway which is a 800 kilometre Highway stretching from the Capital of Tibet, Lhasa to the Tibetan (Chinese)/ Nepalese Border at the China-Nepal Friendship Bridge between Zhangmu and Kodari.

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Being on the Friendship Highway made me think. On this journey through Tibet I have made some life long friends, I have shared some incredible moments with these fellow travellers, I have left my family and friends back home and around the world to follow my dream and see Tibet for myself. I have rode the roller-coaster of emotions and have learnt so much about myself. Is that was this Friendship Highway was designed to do? Make you contemplate life, or is it Propaganda? A way for the Chinese Government to gloss over how they are treating the Tibetans, in an attempt to make it all seem ok?

Tattered Passport Tibet

Friendship Highway

As we approached the border I was lost with in my own thoughts. Soon I would be able to Skype home and speak to my wife, soon I would be free from the restraints that China has locked Tibet down with, soon I will be in Nepal, but am I ready for that? Am I ready to leave Tibet?

I soon realise that there is a fairly good chance that I will not return to Tibet. This could be my last time that I see this country, a country that has had such an impact on me, so much that I cant even place words in any form that would describe it. So what do I do?

https://instagram.com/p/0wVyYYA5r2/?taken-by=tatteredpassport

Our bus reaches the end of the road, we can go no further, I can see the bridge, I can see the customs gates and all the Chinese Military holding some serious fire power. I am instructed to put away the camera, even though I would really like to show you the border I comply, these machine guns and the tension is a little intense. Our guide is stopped as we walk up to the gate and not allowed to go any further. We all say our good-byes and hope that our guide is safe.

As we crossed the Friendship Bridge I look down and see a line of bricks, symbolising the border. On the Tibetan side a Chinese Officer stands still, machine gun in hand, ready for action, a last reminder of Tibet, on the Nepalese side an officer leans against the handrail, smiling, welcoming us back into Nepal. I stop for a moment, still in Tibet, one last moment in this country. I quickly get told to move on by the machine gun holding officer, and into Nepal I enter.

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One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.

Inside Tibet: The Tibetan Holy Mother Speaks To Me.

I wake to the sound of Yaks mooing, and prayer bells ringing, I wake to the smell of fresh snow and the Yak dung fire mixed with the smell of juniper incense drifting from the near by Rongbuk Monastery, its a uniquely Tibetan smell. I wander outside, the air is thin and the sky is so blue. I stand still in awe of Chomolungma I stand still for I am in the presence of the Holy Mother.

Tattered Passport, Tibet

Holy Mother.

I struggle to find words to describe this morning, the beauty I see before me, high mountains, covered in snow, glistening in the early morning sun, a few yaks are awake early, you can hear their bells ringing as they wander around the field. My head starts to fill with many emotions. I feel the pain of every Tibetan that I have met. I feel love towards these beautifully peaceful people and an unhealthy anger. I fight the anger off, anger is not something I want to dwell inside me. I feel peace and a feeling something like being trapped. I am confused but with a sense of clarity. I open my eyes and I see Chomolungma, I am grounded again. I return to the lodge, unable to understand what just happened.

Sun rise over The Holy Mother

Sun rise over The Holy Mother

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One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.

Inside Tibet: Your invite inside a Tibetan Home. Daily Vlog: 41

As we wander along the streets of the old town of Gyatse, spinning prayer wheels, dodging cows and laughing at the puppies that were playing in the street we were invited inside a local Tibetan house. This was a huge honour, to see inside this Tibetan house was a sneak peak into real Tibetan Culture.

Tattered Passport Tibet

The Cow guarding the house

Tattered Passport

Tibetan Puppies

Tattered Passport

Inside a Tibetan House, Drying Meat

We enter the old traditional home through the ground floor, traditionally this is where the family house their animals. This family still keep their cow here, we had to pass the very large and grumpy cow, I don’t think she was very happy to have us in her home. The room looked like it has been heavily used for many years. The timber was weathered, you could see right through the ceiling up to the floor above. We walk up the rickety stair case to the first floor. The stair case opened to this beautiful first floor court yard, it was colourful with painted murals, prayer flags hanging amongst prayer wheels. The family had meat drying, hanging from hooks scattered amongst old farming equipment. Everything looked old, really loved and used. We entered a room, dedicated to the Panchen-Lama, of cause this would be for the Dalai Lama, if it were legal. The Chinese government force the Tibetan People to worship the Panchan_Lama, a Chinese appointed Lama who lives in Beijing and is not Tibetan. He was not found the traditional way, the way that all Panchan-Lama have been discovered through out Tibetan Buddhism.

Tattered Passport, Tibet

Tibetan House and drying meat

Tattered Passport, Tibet

Inside a Tibetan House

I left, thanking the beautiful Tibetan lady not only for the invite into her home, but an insight into how these peaceful people are still living in their home, their home country that is getting strategically destroyed by China.

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Peace Out,

Shane.

Inside Tibet: The Dreadlocked Tibetan Mastiff.

Daily Vlog: 40

One of the things that I love about travelling is you never know what or who you will meet. Every time I travel I meet new and inspirational people, I see beautiful places and I experiences magical things. Today I met my first Dreadlocked Tibetan Mastiff and its entrepreneurial Tibetan owner.

https://instagram.com/p/z3i95ag5qE/?modal=true

On our way to Gyatse we stopped off at this incredible lookout and there was a local Tibetan man with his giant Tibetan Mastiff. You could pose for photo’s with the dog, a unique business venture, for these now stranded Tibet people. The man was so intrigued with my hair and I seemed to hit it off with the dog as well, I even got a bit of a kiss from the giant Tibetan Mastiff.

https://instagram.com/p/z3jFvsA5qX/?modal=true

The Tibetan Mastiff is not a true mastiff, early western visitors misnamed it along with several other local breeds, a better name for the dog would be Tibetan Mountain dog. The Tibetan Mastiff also known as Dok-Khyi which roughly translates to “nomad dog’” and “dog which may be kept”. It was traditionally a guardian dog to keep watch over the nomadic villages flock. This giant dog almost looked like he was standing guard over Tibet, grasping to what was left of his nomadic lifestyle. He was caring for his owner and his family, yes he was no longer keeping a watchful eye over his flock, he was now putting food on the tables of his Tibetan family.

Tattered Passport

yamdrok lake

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Tattered Passport

New friends at Yamdrok Lake

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Peace Out,

Shane.

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.

Tattered Passport Tibet

Ganden Namgyal Ling Monastery

https://instagram.com/p/z1LdTTg5nb/?modal=true

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?

Tattered Passport

Burning Incense

Tattered Passport Tibet

Ganden Namgyal Ling Monastery

Tattered Passport Tibet

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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Tattered Passport, Tibet

On the Kora

Tattered Passport Tibet

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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Peace Out,

Shane.

Inside Tibet: Dalai Lama Summer Palace, Paranoia.

Daily Vlog: 38

Since being in Tibet I have been struggling with the amount of Chinese military control over the local Tibetan People. This suppression extends so far into daily life it affects everyone. Little things like signs for shops are written in large Chinese characters with tiny Tibetan characters underneath, to young tibetan people not allowed to visit and worship at temples. The constant reminder that China has taken over Tibet is depressing. Today I get a little annoyed and suddenly very aware that I am being watched almost 24hrs a day.

Tattered Passport Tibet

Norbulingka UNSECO

We visit the summer palace of the Dalai Lama and I am instantly shocked. As you walk up to this once spiritual home of the Tibetan Buddhist leader you are confronted by huge LCD screen pumping out loud Chinese music. Once inside I feel calm mixed with a sense I am being watched. Every where i look i see a camera, they are everywhere and I mean everywhere, on every corner of the main wall, every walkway even in the gardens. I can see our guide feeling uneasy here, she is aware that her every move is bing watched and anything she does can be used against her and her family.

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We arrive at the Dalai Lama’s Palace, the last place that the current 14th Dalai Lama lived before he fled to India. There was no surprise here, plenty of cameras outside, but what shocked me and made me nervous was waiting inside. We were in one of the rooms, completely aware that we were getting watched by cameras every step, but what shocked me was one specific camera. I spotted this camera that would move about, it was looking around the room, this was not odd, what was odd was when it spotted me. I remember nudging my friend and whispered to him, do you think that camera is following me? I may sound a little paranoid but it was looking straight at me, with these two eyes. So I walked around a little to look at another painting in the room. I look up and again it was looking straight at me, almost trying to read my mind, looking straight at me. I looked back at my friends and they all had seen it as well. I thought to myself, surely not, so I tried again, I walked around the room a few times and every time this camera followed me. I was certain that I was being watched and that I had been picked out of the crowed of tourist in the room to keep an eye on. I couldn’t stop thinking that there was someone in a room somewhere controlling that camera, some one was watching me. This is only one time, I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to the Tibetan people to be watched like they are, to know that there is someone watching your every move, controlling what you see and what you do, we could never understand how this affects your well being.

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Tattered Passport

Canggu Nuns

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http://youtu.be/sAtmgtWC8Z8

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I would love to hear your thoughts on the Tibet situation. What have you heard, have you been to Tibet? Have you experienced these same situations?

Inside Lhasa. Daily Vlog: 36

Daily Vlog: 36

Today is my first full day in Tibet and some of our tour groups first day at altitude, which at 3800m was showing on a few of them. We were scheduled to stay in Lhasa for 2 days to acclimatise to the altitude. I was lucky as I have just returned from hiking in Nepal so I have already been at altitude so I could get straight into exploring Lhasa.

Tattered Passport Tibet

Preparing your dinner

We wondered the streets and found our way to the Barkhor  Square where one of the most important temples in Tibet is located, The Jokhang. We were instantly confronted by the large Chinese military presence. As we walked around the corner into Barkhor Square the first thing that I saw were two very large and scary looking military vehicles. They kind of looked liked the bullet proof vehicle from Fast and Furious. There was some sort of very big gun mounted to the roof, next to them were a bunch of Chinese military personnel all holding machine guns. To enter into the Barkhor Square we had to go through a X-Ray scanner controlled by Chinese military. I was a little nervous as I put my bag on the conveyor belt. I new that I didn’t have anything that was illegal, but I had no idea how I would be treated here. Turns out I was very surprised as they hardly even looked at our stuff and just waved us through.

Tattered Passport, Tibet

New and Old motorbikes in Tibet

As we walked around this spiritual place you could feel the energy of the local people. There was incense burning and flooding the area with a smell of peace, you had old tibetan people prostrating, chanting prayers, tibetan flags draped over the walk. It was beautiful, it was peaceful, then 6 Chinese military come marching through the crowd, in the opposite direction to all the Tibetans, all dressed in full black riot gear, complete with helmets and face masks and holding what looked like AK47’s. Traditionally Tibetans walk clockwise around the temple, however the Chinese military walk in an anticlockwise direction, seemingly in attempt the disrupt the local people. The Tibetans stand strong in the face of this, however you can see the pain in there eyes, they are not free. A small group of us stopped to talk to an old Tibetan lady, which one of our group took a photo of her. As we were showing her the photo we almost immediately had a group of military personnel surrounding us and moving us on. I was rather shocked by how confronting it was to walk around the Jokhang.

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Tattered Passport, Tibet

Barkhor Square Prayer Flags

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That night we found a bar that had some live music so we wandered in and had a great night. The music was great and the atmosphere in the bar was great. The guy was singing a huge mix of songs all acoustic, including what sounded like a Tibetan pop song. We were even treated to local dialect version of an Eminem rap.

http://youtu.be/v6EbCpI_66Y

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One Life, One Search,

Peace Out.

Shane

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.