World Tour - Tibet Main Page
July 6 - 24, 2002 Day 326 - 344
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17 Days in Tibet was and experience into a surreal and mysterious mystic world. Tibet is a place out of a movie, one that you would say was fiction. A good fiction movie with Tibet was Eddie Murphy’s “Golden Child” with mysterious monks, and a reincarnated lama that he must save. A couple films that are non fiction are: 7 Years In Tibet, and Kundun. That will give you a sense of the 14th Dali Lama (reincarnation of Lord Buddha, the manifestation of the Buddha of Compassion. Another excellent film depicting the nomads of the high barren land is called “Himalyia, or by it’s original name, “Caravan”.
We ended up traveling to Tibet, not by a big plan, but by circumstances. We were in Nepal trekking, and wallah!, there’s a real interesting country right next door with overland trips heading there. Hmm, once in a lifetime opportunity to go over the top of the Himalayas, thru waterfalls, gorges, snow capped mountains, thru the highest country on earth (average elevation is 4,000 meters, about 14,000 feet), go to the base camp of Mt. Everest, visit the spiritual home of Buddhism, and the palace of the Dali Lama in the Forbidden city of Lhasa. Only a few hundred bucks. Where do I sign up?
If anyone wants to see 2 extremes of the world in one place, this is it. The ancient Buddhist monasteries with red robed monks with shaved heads chanting with background sounds of gongs and 10 foot long horns blowing, while the smell of burning yak butter in the candles. This peaceful and surreal environment and culture is contrasted with the Chinese Communist occupation with Mao looking soldiers, strip mall looking buildings of white plasticky walls and blue windows built up thru the “modern” towns now inhabited by mainland the new Chinese residents (on a big financial incentive from the government). For something really different, the way the Tibetans burry their dead could give you the heeby jeebies, they do "sky burials" which really needs to be read in more detail. click here
The short of it on the politics part (every where we go to the politics and history are very important, not just for our knowledge, but sometimes our safety). Tibet was an autonomous country for several thousand years, give or take, and for the past 1500 years or so (going by memory), the country was headed by the spiritual leader of the country, the Dali Lama. When the Dali Lama dies, the people in his cabinet and monastery look for the child he reincarnates into (from hints and clues left before his death). The boy is identified, then confirmed after a series of tests to recognize his previous possessions before he died (are you following this). Until the boy reaches 18 years old, his regents rule the state while he is being taught to be a monk. Well, in 1949 the Chinese were now a communist government and had a huge military. Then the same old story, you are part of our country and we’ll liberate you from the foreign powers. Except there weren’t any foreign powers, just a bunch of monks and peasant people. After the military came in and destroyed most of the temples, and killed many of the monks, they wanted the Dali Lama, but he escaped into Exile in 1959. His headquarters is in the mountains of India where he is the spiritual head of the Tibetans today and has been trying to make peace with China for years (he won the Nobel Peace Prize). Well, it ain’t gonna happen. After a million or so murdered Tibetans in the past 40 years, things have only just been getting to a more neutral level as far as killings go. The country opened it’s doors in the late 1980’s for tourists and the Government is now cleaning up the wrecks of the monasteries all in the name of the tourist dollar. Well, capitalism ain’t all that bad if it keeps people from being killed and religious icons and structures from being destroyed. That’s enough of that.
Tibet is the size of Turkey, or Texas, so it’s a big open land.
Bruce and Julia, World Travelers and
Adventure Seekers Extraordinaire.
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Revised: 05 Feb 2007 20:21:28 -0600 .