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Searching for Shangri-La

CHINA | Sunday, 20 September 2009 | Views [577]

Meeting author at House of Shambala

Meeting author at House of Shambala

Friday September 18, 2009

Shangri-la is not a place.

It is within yourself.

Today, we are free.  No tours, no excursions, no climbing. 

And today we with replenished our carry ons with all clean clothes.  Life is good.  And, want to hear something really funny?  We all agree that we brought too many clothes and stuff.

Following the suggested route from “Lonely Planet”, we decide to explore Old Town.  Life is much more real here with hardly any military, and the people are friendly and helpful.   Local venders are everywhere selling everything from yak butter to antique jewelry.  And listen to this, Carol Poe,  we even found pop corn, something like kettle corn back home.   One young man was selling jewelry and old relics so cheap, you almost feel guilty buying anything – and, on top of that, everyone expects you to haggle.  It’s almost like a game they enjoy.  We bought several things from him, but left feeling like we could have easily purchased his whole stand.  Not because we had the money (Don’t be silly.), but a carryon can only hold so much!

We stopped and stepped in The House of Shambhala just because Anne saw an interesting necklace in the inconspicuous shop window.  When she asked the price, a woman, who could not speak, ran next door and returned with a very tall, very impressive looking man.  Turns out, he is Laurence Brahm, author of “Searching for Shangri-la.”   I couldn’t believe the author of the book I meant to read before the trip just walked in the door, and I told him so.  He asked me if I believed in karma.  He spent a lot of time with us despite the fact that he was leaving shortly for Hong Kong where a book-signing tour started.  Turns out he has written more than 30 books.   The House of Shambhala is an ancient, rambling structure that he has restored and turned into a small hotel, spa, and restaurant.  Really well done, all of it.  The shop, we discovered, sold only items made by handicapped Tibetans.  We bought some of his books which he took the time to autograph, and we later had lunch in the little upstairs restaurant.  The interior reminded all of us of Jim Thompson house in Bangkok.  Only the best Tibetan antiques have been used, and the renovation is most impressive.  The whole complex is tucked away on a back street that we found only by following the old town route.  We also purchase interesting hand-made paper items on the way back to our hotel.

Tonight we have our last dinner with the guide we have loved.  Actually, I have fallen in love with the Tibetan people.  They are kind, friendly and always praying even doing the most mundane daily things.  No one is without prayer beads or a prayer wheel.  I grieve for their fate.  Their country is occupied, and they have lost their freedom, but still they remain spiritual, almost holy.

When reflecting on why we made the climbs up to the temples and monasteries, I know this much is true:  When finally reaching the top, our senses have been bombarded with incense, flickering butter lambs, chanting and the low sounds of the common people praying. 

Om Mani Padme Hum, Om Mani Padme Hum, Om Mani Padme Hum is still sounding in your head long after you have left the mountain.  Also remaining for me is the exhilaration I feel and more importantly, the sense of peace.


Notes to cute people:

Kevin:  Thank you so much for sending Lorna Doones.  I have never had then before and most likely will never have them again, but today in Tibet, they are my favorite food.

Dick:  What would I have done without the almonds?

Betty:  We have all enjoyed hearing your cute and clever comments.

Tags: jhakong monastary, lhasa, muslim area, old town, tibet

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