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.

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. 

https://youtu.be/7XB8nN0pR7g

Thank you for stopping by Tattered Passport. If you have liked this post please Like, Share and Follow. Simple click on the follow button at the bottom of your screen. You can also find Tattered Passport on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Have you visited Pokhara, Nepal? What did you think about the Tibetan refugee settlement?

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.