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

TatteredPassport, Tibet,

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.

TatteredPassport, Tibet,

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: 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?

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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.