Many say that Tibet will change the way you see the world. I think not only Tibet but travelling in general changes the way you see the world, or at least gives you other perspectives. Despite the fast pace of change, Tibet for sure gives you an insight in a complete different and unique world.
Before going to Tibet, we hang around some days in Xiàhé and Làngmùsì in the Gãnsù region to acclimatize at around 3.500 meters before going to the roof of the world. The right choice. Our very energetic Malaysian train-to-Lhasa-roomies becoming more silent the higher we get, despite the oxygen that is flowing through the train. Peaking at 5.000 meters one even has to crash down with an oxygen mask. We feel pretty ok thanks to our acclimatizing days and can enjoy the nice views.
In the Gãnsù region we not only get used to the height, we also enter a lively Tibetan heritage, outside Tibet. It’s a complete different world. Tibetan houses, people wearing tradition clothes, shops selling colorful garbs and bead necklaces, locals spinning the prayer wheels and not to forget the 1.500 monks wandering around, who live in the Labrang Monastery next door. Not much changed here for a long time. Although, the iPhone X, that some monks have, suggest at least that some things changed…
We hike a part of the Kora (pilgrimage around a sacred site) which brings us up into the mountains. Now and then we pass some monks or locals who are chanting their mantra’s. People are smiling. We enjoy the peaceful environment and the beautiful views over the mountains and the Monastery.
We also visit the Labrang Monastery with an English-speaking monk. It is fascinating to hear about his way of living. He studies Philosophy and explains that he is dedicating his life to find the truth. And so, he asks us many Philosophical questions. Who is I? What is a soul? What is suffering? What is pain? What is good? What is bad? He keeps away of sharing his view and just smiles when we try to discuss possible answers. Before we know it, we get a new question. It can be inspiring to stand still by these kinds of questions, particular with someone who probably has complete different perspectives. But we do like questions that comes with some kind of answers or at least exploring the answers :).
In Tibet we visit many more Monasteries. If you like it or not, you can’t escape Monasteries in Tibet. It’s included in every tour and a tour is the only way to travel around. Plus, as a tourist you are only allowed to go in with a guide who is more than happy to explain you every single detail. Over and over again. It is very interesting though and you learn a lot about Tibetan Buddhism, but after all the Monasteries we finally became Monastery-tired. In the end we tried to guess which Buddha or Lama was in front of us 😉
Another big draw of Tibet is the pure beauty of the highest plateau on earth. Driving through the landscapes is impressive with stunning views, clear blue lakes, snowy mountain peaks and of course Mount Everest which deserves an own blog. We were far away from getting Tibet-landscape-tired, but after two weeks in Tibet it was enough and time to move on.
Tibet is just overwhelming. We’ve visited Tibet in the middle of Saka Dawa, which is the most sacred of Buddhist holidays. In this month and particular when it is full moon (exactly when we were in Lhasa…), many Tibetans come to the Monasteries to offer donations, pray and reciting mantras, making pilgrimages, lighting butter lamps and circumambulating around stupas and holy places. It’s impressive and pervasive due the many people and the great variety of rituals all around you.
Did Tibet changed the way we view the world? Probably not, the Tibetan culture and in particular the full devotion of the Tibetans to the rituals is a different world for us. I guess, we are too down-to-earth . And yet it was very special that we were able to see a glimpse of this unique way of living.