Sam's Exotic Photo Journey to Mysterious, Haunting, Isolated Tibet - the Roof of the World
Mysterious, haunting, isolated Tibet - there are literally no adjectives to adeptly describe this truly exotic "country", its boundaries as large as Western Europe, with much of it lying over 4,000 meters in the sky. When the Chinese occupied Tibet in 1950, there were no cars, no roads, no electricity and little industry of any kind. Its people, deeply religious Buddhists, were ruled by its religious leaders, principally the Dalai Lama, who resided in its "capital" Lhasa.
Under Chinese occupation, Tibet has changed tremendously and continues to change as China re-engineers Tibet to make it more accessible to the rest of China (see narrative/album on Qinghai Tibet Railway for more information). But even after the Chinese occupation and throughout the settlement during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) Tibet borders remained closed to tourists and the outside world -- and were not opened until the 1980's making it one of the last frontiers.
Tibet has changed since. Many monasteries destroyed during the Cultural Revolution have been rebuilt, city streets have been paved and are kept clean, major roads have been built and other public works, such as their first railroad, is nearing completion. Tibet has leapfrogged neighboring Nepal, Burma and Bhutan in its infrastructure. Through it all, the Tibetan people have retained their religious fervor, adapting to their changing world with quiet resolve.
If you haven't been to Tibet yet - GO. There is no place like it. If you have been, so much has changed - even if it was 10 years, five years or last year. It will never be the self-contained world it once was, but the people and its scenic beauty will change your life forever.
Our family spent eight days in Tibet in late August, 2005 on a private tour. The itinerary was as follows:
Day 1 - Flight from Hong Kong through Chengdu to Lhasa area airport. Take land cruiser along Yarlung Tsangpo River to hotel in Lhasa.
Day 2 - Lhasa sightseeing, including the Potala Palace, the holiest shrine in Tibet and the residence of the Dalai Lama, Jokhang Monastery, built around in 639 – 647 during the Tang Dynasty and Norbulingka, the Summer Palace of the Dalai Lama.
Day 3 - Travel south along the Lhasa-Yatung Highway to Yamdok Yumtso, one of the three largest sacred lakes of Tibet. Continue to the ancient town of Gyantse and visit Palcho Monastery, constructed in the fifteenth century.
Day 4 - Drive to the second largest city of Tibet - Shigatse and the traditional capital of Tsang and visit the largest and principal monastery of Tsang Province – Tashilunpo Monastery, founded in 1447 and the residence of the Panchen Lama, the second most holy Buddhist lama in Tibet.
Day 5 - Drive along Qinghai-Tibet Highway and secondary road to northern region of Tibet, past breathtaking snow capped mountains and high plateaus, past the Yangpachen Hot Springs and Danxiong to Namtso Lake, at 4,700 meters the highest salt-water lake in the world and one of Tibet’s three holiest lakes.
Day 6 - Take the Qinghai-Tibet Highway, paralleling the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, under construction, back to Lhasa. Spend afternoon exploring the Barkhor Street Bazaar and the Muslim Section of Lhasa.
Day 7 - Visit Chappori Hill and Potala Park. Note: other temples and sites were closed due to preparations for China’s celebration for the 45th anniversary of Chinese occupation, beginning on 1 September.
Day 8 – Return to Hong Kong
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