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: Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple.

Inside Tibet: Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple.

Daily Vlog: 37

Today was filled with mixed emotions, we start the day off with a visit to the Potala Palace the home of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India in the 1959 Tibetan uprising. This place has held my imagination for years. Construction of the palace was started by the 5th Dalai Lama in 1645 after Konchog Chophel one of his spiritual advisers pointed out that the site was ideal location for government as it was situated between Drepung and Sera monasteries and the old walled city of Lhasa. They believe that it may lay on the site of an earlier fortress, called either the White or Red Palace built in 637 by Songtsan Gampo.

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Posing at the Palace

As we approached this massive palace, I was in awe of its grand stature, it looked over Lhasa proudly, almost standing guard over the old city. I felt blessed that i would soon be able to see inside this very important building in Tibetan history. However I was soon brought crashing back down to earth as we were directed through bag check and after bag check, we had to walk along fenced pathways watched over by the Chinese military. As we approached the gate and yet another bag check, one of our tour members was not allowed in because she was wearing a dress. According to our guide, as long as you cove your knees you are normally allowed in. So our new friend had to purchase a pair of pants from a street seller, which the guards directed her towards. My guess is the street seller was a friend of the guards and we were just a way to get some cash off the tourists?

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The Potala Palace main entrance

Once we were all through the gates we now only had 20 minutes to make it up to the gate or we would not be allowed inside. Even then we only had 1 hour inside the Potala Palace, it is a very large building so you could not see much, you where constantly rushed through each room. You could not take photo’s inside the building either and everywhere you looked you were getting watched by cameras. I felt rush of sadness flow over me, there were only a handful of monks left, we had heard that even some of them where fake monks from the Chinese Military sent there to keep an eye over the Tibetan monks. The Chinese invasion of Tibet was very obvious here, they controlled every aspect of this once grand stature of Tibetan culture. It must be so hard for the Tibetan people.

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The epic view from the Potala Palace

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Potala Palace prayer flags

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Skulls and Potala Prayer Wheels

After leaving the Potala Palace I was not in a happy, joyful mood and I could see the same faces through out my tour group. So we decided to jump on some Rickshaws for a little fun and find some lunch. We wandered into the fast food outlet and where met by these beautiful smiling faces. They were all a little shocked to see us in there and we all had a bit of fun. But I don’t thing our bellies are quite used to the local food yet and we were all a little worried how we would handle it.

That after noon we wandered back down to the Jokhang Temple to watch the famous Debating Monks. This was a site to see, but it now looks like it is a bit of a tourist attraction, the temple was packed with Chinese tourist all very intrigued with us more than the Debating Monks. One even snuck up behind me and touched my dreads, she was very shocked when I turned around, her face was priceless.

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Making friends at the Palace

http://youtu.be/vlxx_UD5ubY

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One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.

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.

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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.

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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.

https://instagram.com/p/ztzkpjg5vH/?modal=true

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Barkhor Square Prayer Flags

https://instagram.com/p/zt0RFcg5v1/

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

Thank you for stopping by Tattered Passport, if you have liked this post please Like, Share and FOLLOW. You can also find Tattered Passport on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. You can also follow via email, simple click on the FOLLOW button at the bottom of your screen.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out.

Shane