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Tibet 2013, My 15 days Journal!

Tibet 2013, My 15 days Journal! <3

CHINA | Monday, 16 February 2015 | Views [473]

 Tibet 2013, My 15 days Journal! 




Day 1, 6/8
My photography workshop trip to Tibet consists of a group of 6 people coming from around the world: one from Iran living in US(F), one from Israel living in France (F), one from Germany living in Italy (F), one from Italy living in US (F), one from Italy living in Italy (M), and one from Scotland living in Scotland (M) with the same love and interest for Tibet! 

Our travel leader, Jamin York and his wife are two Americans living in Xining, China (Xining has 103 million population, 105 thousand of them are Tibetan)! Jamin York has worked with Lonely Planet, National Geographic and the BBC regarding Tibetan culture thru his pictures. His two staffs are Tibetan from the areas of Kham ( Eastern Tibet). They both help with their hospitality and knowledge of the area! They are the ones who actually picked me up from the Xining airport and drove me to the hotel!
We had an amazing dinner in a local Tibetan restaurant after a short meeting at 5 pm tonight at the lobby of the hotel! Lots of food and hospitality!The Tibetan food is very different from Chinese food! I tasted the bread with ground beef and herbs inside, the potatoes with herbs, the beef with herbs on the side, the tofu with herbs, and the bread stuffed with herbs for he first time! The Tibetan food had the scent of the mother EARTH! Moreover, I have learned to say milk in Tibetan (Hama) because the Tibetan milky tea with herbs is to die for! We had an amazing cultural exchange over food, language, politics and Tibet on the first night! 


Day 2, 6/9
Today , I explored a typical Chinese breakfast in our Xinning Hotel which was actually a dinner feast rather than a simple breakfast: lots of hot meals with vegetables, meats, soups, fruits, and typical sweet coffee and green tea! I ate 1 out of 10 of what the Chinese tourists ate in this room! Of course not too many Tibetans here as they are mostly nomads and don't live in the city except for some of them. However, the city is surrounded by Tibetan nomads which Chinese government ignores who and where!
We have visited two monasteries today, one Chinese and one Tibetan. The Tibetan monasteries are more colorful than Chinese monasteries!  A bit of rain and fireworks to chase away the polluted air and the bad spirits were the two ear caressing elements of the day! In addition, we enjoyed a late lunch in a Western restaurant where we savored cappuccino as no one here has any clue what a good coffee is all about!
In the afternoon, we visited a Chinese Muslim neighborhood with its own charming market where meat was Hallal ( equivalent of kosher) and women had trendy hair scarfs in colorful fabrics ( not looking sad like Muslims in Muslim countries but quite gay). The Silk Road has brought many Muslims to China where 40% of population consists of Muslims!
Looking forward for another great day tomorrow as we have to catch a flight early in the morning to go to  Jyekundo in the southwest of Xining in the county of  "Yushu" where we will explore the real Tibet with an altitude that will gradually increase to 4000 meters, far away from tourists,  seeking the real nomadic Tibet!

Day 3, 6/10
We flew from Xining to Jyekundo in the county of Yushu  (2 hours flight) in the southwest of china. The view of the valley with scattered Tibetan nomads' tents in front of the airport indicated that we are in a remote place as  yaks welcomed us with indifference! Elevation here is 3700 meters.  Here we are  in a remote area where the hotel has land line internet with no computer room or WiFi, and electricity is solar: some days with electricity some days without! We will be staying here two nights spending time exploring Tibetan monasteries.  And taking lots of pictures!
Day 4, 6/11
Breakfast at the hotel with no coffee or tea just yak milk for drink, boiled eggs, some kind of beans and vegetables, some kind of watery rice pudding without milk and sugar!
Due to the solar system, there was no warm water last night to take a shower but today I enjoyed a warm shower! Also, No WiFi here either! I am finally starting to comprehend: Tibetans don't know what wifi is, don't shower every day, don't use washer and dryer machine! As a matter of fact, today, I discovered the hotel staffs wash the hotel sheets and towels by hand and dry them out not in the dryer but under the sun at the rooftop of the hotel! I make sure I don't dirty my towels thoughtfully here!
Beside the Tibetan hotel hand wash laundry information discovery, I have tried a new tea called rose tea! The tea was delicious and delightfully garnished with wild flowers and roses! The tea had the flavor of cherries and roses!
Today, we visited Gyanak Mani Temple, Jiana Mani Temple, Wencheng Temple in Yushu with giant prayer wheels! When Tibetans turn the wheels, they believe the prayers written in small papers inside of the wheels are recited! They turn the wheels for hours for sanctification of their sins, a sign of merit to go to heaven!
In addition, I saw Batang Sky Burial , the most important one in the region of Yushu. I observed the big stones where specific trained monks cut the dead body with special tools into pieces before giving them away to vultures to eat. I saw feathers of the birds with some small bones on the ground thinking Tibetans donate their corpses to the birds as a sign of last charity on earth in order to go to heaven. Tibetan sky burial illustrates impermanence of life, the one that by charity, and merit you get back via reincarnation!

Tibetans don't do sky burial for sick or infected people. They bury them in the ground! 
For children, they leave the body in the river and fish decompose the remains. That is why Tibetans never eat fish!

Tibetans don't do sky burial for sick or infected people. They bury them in the ground! 
P.S. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6hSK8CluxQ

Day 5, 6/12
Just arrived to a new city/another remote place called Shadra in the south of Jyekundo (5 hours drive) . By the way, this trip has been the most bumpiest trip of my life due to the condition of the roads: dust all the way!
We stopped by Rashul Monastery in town of Xia La Xiu . The monastery is big and offers Buddhism teaching to its students. Some kid monks that I took pictures of could say a few words in English such as thank you, good bye.. I had a blast-taking pictures of the adorable monks with their red dresses and their orange books. So far, I have taken 100 pictures a day! The high monks enjoyed interacting with us asking where do we come from. Our local host from Tibet did a great job in translating when my Jewish tour member from Israel shared with the Tibetan monk the history of Jews: genocide of approximately six million Jews during World War II. It has been approximately 60 years that Jews have a country of their own! Why not Tibet in the near future! The Tibetan monk had tears in his eyes while hearing about holocaust picturing himself as a page of history with hope and frustration for his own people!
Down the road we visited an hermitage where monks isolate themselves in a cave for 3 years, 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days. Local people will bring them food to survive. Only after this period of time that the monks would get out to live elsewhere! I took pictures of the cave and the hermitage to show such an endurance and responsible meditation in Buddhism.
I have a wonderful time here with lots of dust, cold showers and awful toilets with horrible smell, no coffee or normal breakfast... Condition of restaurants in this village is very poor: a square space with tables and chairs ...that is it ...maybe one bulb for electricity and dust every where...The scenery is fantastic. Tibetans are very hospitable, peaceful, and extremely kind! They do though stare at us like the entertaining aliens never seen before...Tibetans don't take shower for 50 years , some do maybe three times a year... Tibetans don't know what pizza or WiFi or pickles are...!

Day 6, 6/13
One of the ways Tibetans make money is by cultivating and selling caterpillar fungus! Today we went to a local street in Shadra , capital of Nangchen county in the south of China. I saw a caterpillar fungus bazaar with local lovely Tibetans. For the first time I saw the very expensive creatures! Please Google or YouTube it as I just became aware of the fact that Chinese government does not allow FaceBook, YouTube, and Twitter in China! What a democracy in this yet communist country! Who can tell me what are the benefits of caterpillar fungus and how much are they sold? Have you tried caterpillar soup and paid for it? Google It!
We visited Dzamo monastery in Shadra in an almost un-inhabited village. We walked around the monastery; in other words we did kora?

We visited another monastery in the afternoon taking great pictures of people, dogs, flying flags, mountains, and lovely brownish green Mekong river that starts from Tibet and ends to Vietnam!
Our Tibetan guide had to drive back one of our tour group members to a hospital in Yushu (bigger city, better hospital) from here ( 6 h drive back and forth non stop) due to severe chest congestion and asthma needing oxygen mask. She decided to get back to her own country for more proper care! Not a good idea to get sick in a remote place in China! Healthcare is cheap but awfully serviced and cared! I thank God for not getting sick here! Please pray for my health and the safety of my trip!
Day 7, 6/14
Great rainy day today! Temperature is around 7 degrees Celsius. We drove two hours to go further south east of Tibet to see the brilliant Tibetan Baizha National Forrest in the region of Khama (Eastern Tibet) with stunning sceneries of rocky stones, spruces, velvety grasslands, and rivers...
According to Footprint Tibet Handbook, forested gorges of the southeast of Tibet in the region of Kham are known to have bears, badgers, lynxes, otters, and, in some border areas, monkeys and giant panda! Well, I only saw monkeys, horses, yaks, sheep, birds, some type of fat chicken with elongated black tails, and an amazing old style wooden bridge above the river!
We picnicked in the Tibetan forest before taking that bumpy road again for two hours to get back to the hotel in Sharda. Talking about hotel, I am using my flashlight often at night as the light in the room is very weak, and I can barely see myself in the mirror at night! As far as the sink, each time I run water, water falls down on my feet, as there is a major plumbing problem here! As far as the shower, good luck as sometimes there is no warm water. As far as my room view from the window, there is a balcony type full of trash including empty soda cans, broken glasses, papers, and cigarettes! Sweet!  
Day 8, 6/15
Drove 5 hours from Sharda to visit Dana monastery located in Nangchen County. Tashi our Tibetan guide and driver did an amazing job driving on the bumpy roads regardless of which I got a huge back pain! 

On one side, the rocky red soil at the base covered with the fluffy grassland at the surface decorated with yellow, purple, and white flowers on top! 


On the other side, the green Christmasy spruces over which the vultures fly above!  

In the middle, the Rocky Mountains with traces of snow at peak! 
Unpretentiously, the stunning Mekong river which passionately allows the yaks to bath in its velvety brownish water establishes the bridge between two contrasted Tibetan sides and depicts the unique beauty of the beloved Tibetan plateau that I have never seen anywhere in the world. 
Regarding the pictures of the beautiful white horses that I took today, according to Footprint Tibet Handbook, the horsemanship of Nangchen is particularly esteemed, and there are rare breeds of Nangchen horse, which have been noted by French explorer Michel Pessel in particular. The Nangchen horses are petite regardless of age, very muscular but refined! 
Tonight at the Dana monastery, we managed to make dinner in a dusty kitchen provided to us by the monks. We also made tea, cucumber salad with Tibetan salt, and pasta with ratatouille for dinner ignoring the dirt, the dusty glasses and the horrible smell of yak' poop in the corner next to the stove! For desert, we had Cadbury chocolate with walnuts from UK, courtesy of our Scottish group member!   Dirt everywhere including the Tibetan rugs on which we are sleeping tonight!
Four of us are sleeping in one room with dirty carpets and dirty comforters that the monks kindly provided. Yak smell everywhere, bees dominating over our heads...my back killing me and I feel itch in my underwear, as there is no shower here except wipes! Thank God that I have my iPad to postpone my sleeping time in those stinky comforters on the floor! I hope we will not be sleeping another night here! I will probably have yak poop and head-lice in my nightmare tonight! 

Sweet smells!  :)




Day 9, 6/16
We had an exhausting day today: nobody slept well last night at that stinky Dana monastery! In addition, we drove today 10 h to get back to Sharda on the bumpy road AGAIN (with several stops for photography). Thank God we did not stay at Dana monastery more than one night (change of plan) although it was all worth it because of the elevation ( above 4000 meters) and stunning sceneries ... 
On our way back, we took a different road to visit the most important nunnery in the region of Kham (Eastern Tibet) called Gachak Nunnery in the county of Nangchen! 
I have visited a family in the village for the first time today.  They invited me and Tashi, our driver and guide, inside of their small house with almost nothing inside! Four beds and a corner kitchen in one and only four yards by four yards space!  The beautiful little girl has lost both parents due to the earthquake in Yushu in April 2010 (this is where I first visited in Eastern Tibet, please google it) and now her aunt raises her. Her aunt offered us warm water (that is what Tibetan drinks), some homemade pastry and dried yak meat! I took pictures of this emotional connection as sometimes words don't speak volumes as good as pictures!
I have been taken about 100 pictures a day since i am in Tibet! Jamin York, our travel leader and an established photographer has thought me the importance of framing in any shots today! He has already admitted that two of my pictures are worthy of being published on his website. A value of two hundred dollars to start with! Good deal!?  :)


Day 10, 6/17



Today was the most amazing day of my entire trip to Eastern Tibet for several reasons:


 First we drove to an higher altitude up to approximately 5000 meters on our way back to Jyekundo in Yushu County! 


Second, I touched snow with my hands! 


Third, I took an amazing video of a group of Himalayan Griffons devouring a dead yak at approximately one yard from my feet! Jamin York, our wonderful travel leader and photographer have to stop me from getting closer to the vultures but I knew they are so hungry and occupied that they will do no harm to me!


 Fourth, I took an amazing picture of a group of Nangchen horses (smaller than American horses regardless of their age, very petite, muscular but refined), along with a picture portrait of a white Nangchen horse's head! 


Fifth, I saw a traditional Tibetan black tent holding up with approximately 22 poles, a value of two hours at least to get mounted! In addition, I had a chance to see the inside of the tent as its inhabitants were absent busy making a living in the mountains by searching for caterpillars fungus (2 to 4 dollars for each) and shepherding the yaks  (value of 5000 dollars for a yak, they sell 3 a year to make a living), the two major Tibetan sources of income!  The interior was decorated with a primitive stoned stove working with yak's poop as fuel in the middle of the tent along with bunch of rugs simply stacked on the side! 


Sixth, I saw three monasteries from the town of Modrong in Yushu County: Surmang monastery (first built in 15th century, wooden columns and stones with carved wooden windows in details), Ganden monastery, and small Surmang monastery. 


Seventh, I saw the Dizi River not brown and velvety as Mekong river but green and agitated as the rocky mountains garnished with spruces!


Eighth, I became to this firm conclusion that if French Alps (from the French side not from Italian side) are mystique, if Colorado Rocky Mountains are majestic, the Tibetan Mountains are magic because they are never the same due to its contrasted layers, shadows, lightings after the variety of emotional changes of weather per day and  season!


Finally, if don't like Tibet, I don't like you!    :)

Day 11, 6/18
We got back to Jyekundo late last night (19 hours of driving with stops and so far 780 pictures since June 8)! Today, we started our day late around 10 am with city browsing and souvenir shopping! 
As we were walking in the city, we had to cover our mouth and nose! Hard to breath! The city has been affected by earthquake in 2010. Everywhere we go there is a construction project and lots of dust! Today's temperature was 30 degree Celsius, unusually too hot and dusty in the city with no clean air! 
When I was in Beijing, the city was smothered by smog and I could not breathe! The most 12 polluted cities in the world are located in China according to the Chinese news. China's major reasons of pollution are car exhaust and the usage of coal! 80 percent of Chinese energy comes from coal according to the same source! Streets in China around 1983 contained mostly bikes and horses! Now we discover cars instead! Slowly but surely good luck China!
Looking forward to relax a bit today as we are heading out to camping with the Tibetan nomads tomorrow, which means no shower! 


Day 12, 6/19
Left Jyekundo to have a nomad experience nearby the town of Chito in the county of Drito with the temperature around 3 degrees Celsius!
We had dinner with our Tibetan guide's niece and cousins and slept the night at their house/tent! 
In the middle of the tent, the stove stoked with yaks poop to boil water and milk, to cook dinner and to warm up the room! The tent had mainly one stove, two windows, three beds, one table, one clock, and two bulbs! I watched the falling hail and the snowfall far at the top of mountains thru the window shortly after we arrived here at 5 pm! 
The host had three lovely children who entertained us by so many different ways! I video taped some of the greatest time with them such as feeding the needed yak milk with bottle, putting yak poops in the stove, playing baseball( a gift from Jamin), playing Frisbee with the kids, picture taking, dog watching, goat back riding, and simply having dinner together!


At night I have heard yaks snoring, dogs barking nonstop, rain dripping, and a goat sneaking into our tent! This is the first time that we have really used our flashlights! What a night sleeping experience under a Tibetan nomadic tent shared with two other creatures and a persistent goat who was not afraid of our flash lights at all!


The nomad adventure has been the most significant experience of my Tibet trip! Contrary to some organization in US for Tibet freedom and independence, the Tibetans do not want to stay nomads selling yaks and caterpillar fungus as the two only way of existence!



They want a better life for all men, women, and children in Tibet as anywhere else in the world! They want to learn skills and become acquainted to the modern life (look at Tibetans who drive cars rather than driving horses) for the equal job opportunity and the pursuit of happiness! 

Day 13, 6/20
Got up early in the morning as the goat last night woke us up four times trying to get into our tent and the temperature inside of the tent has dropped perhaps to as low as 3 degrees Celsius! To keep the stove burning the whole night, we needed to know where are the yak poops supply and the matches?!

I slept last night with all my clothes and did not get out for any reason, afraid of whatever I could possibly find in the dark: a wolf, a dog (dogs bite here), a bear, a goat, a mouse! I used my scarf to cover my hair and face afraid of head lice and the goat's fur touching my mouth! As far as smell,  I put a baby wipe made in France smelling like heaven in front of my nose to not smell the horrible yak's poop !


With a change of plan, two of us decided to get back to the hotel in Jyekundo.The rest of us drove all the way to see Yanzi River! Much bigger and longer than Mekong river and only running in China! The rest of afternoon, we rested as nobody has slept well last night! After all, Tibet trip is not vacation, it is work! 

 Day 14, 6/21
Today, we drove to visit Wencheng temple in southern Jyekundo. According to a legend princess Wencheng from China who married a Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo , stayed here for one month while on route for Lhasa. Most of the rock inscription that I took pictures of are located behind the temple. The majority of inscriptions are in Tibetan and some in Chinese. Continuing beyond the temple, the Bikhok Gorge opens out into grassland! The rock carvings and historical figures as well as rock inscriptions from the royal dynastic period are dated sometimes in 18th century according to Footprint Tibet Handbook! 
Wonderful cloudy day today!  A simple picnic (during which I noticed that Tibetans don't use the trash cans in the area, they just throw things away no matter where), and a farewell dinner at the hotel before flying back home tomorrow is the plan for this afternoon!

Day 15, 6/22
I am flying back home today! Time to reflect about all I have seen, learned, and heard about Tibet and Tibetan people:

Reflection 1: Contrary to some organization in US for Tibet freedom and independence, Tibetans do not want to stay nomads selling yaks and caterpillar fungus as the two only ways of existence! They want a better life for all men, women, and children in Tibet as anywhere else in the world! They want to learn skills and become acquainted to the modern life (look at Tibetans who drive cars rather than driving horses) for the equal job opportunity and the pursuit of happiness! Independence for Tibet does not mean let them remain nomads!



Reflection 2:   How could China become number one power in the world when Tibetans are not allowed to have passports and visit a different place as near as Thailand? They are not even allowed to go to Hong Kong either!


Reflection 3:   Although most Tibetan nomads now live in a house ( about 800 square feet) given by Chinese government as a substitute to their traditional tent, the Tibetans mostly still sell yaks and caterpillar fungus to make a living! They still have no skills to integrate into the society! Moreover, they are not given the same equal opportunity to succeed as it is given to Chinese people speaking fluently Chinese! 


Reflection 4:    In order to go to Tibet, you need to have Chinese visa! But if in your visa application you mention you are going to Tibet, no chance to get the Chinese visa! Good Luck, if you want to take a chance!


Reflection 5:   Why is China afraid of foreigners coming to China helping Tibetans to learn English and  other skills?!




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