In the movie 2012, this is where everyone is heading, come the end of the world, that is :-) The world hasn't ended and there is no sign of it ending as yet, so Tibet is here to stay. For now, it is a Chinese territory. Whatever you say, whether you like it or not, it is a Chinese Territory. As a foreign visitor, you need a special pass from the Chinese Government to enter this region. For a few months in 2008, it was totally closed to foreigners due to instability in the region. It's all Politics and I'm really not into Politics or discussing about it.
Tibet, to me, is purely a travel destination. I was here before the highest railway in the world was in operation. So, I flew directly into Lhasa from Chengdu, China. On the way to Lhasa, the plane flew ever soooo closely to the snow capped mountains, so close that I could almost touched the peaks! Never have I seen so many mountain peaks at an altitude of over 7000 meters concentrated in a single location! Yes, Tibet has numerous of them! It was quite an exhilarating experience even if I only got to see it from the inside of the plane.
The Whys Tibet mystifies! Sacred mountains glinting with ice, numerous holy lakes, high altitude deserts, a lifestyle only fit for the nomads & yak, a belief only practised by the most devoted believers of Lamaism; it is a land of harsh condition & yet a land where faith exists in abundance & in its purest form! Tibet is a country untouched by time... yet, a contradiction in this new age, high tech world.
What brings me to Tibet? Perhaps it was Brad Pitt's movie "7 Years in Tibet", perhaps it was "The Little Buddha", perhaps it was Dalai Lama's books & wisdom, or perhaps it was sheer rebellion. I wanted to visit a place where no one in the family or friends has ever been to & with that determination, I set out to see this part of the world. This is possibly the beginning of my journey in life & self discovery!
Xizang (西藏) in Chinese, the Tibetan plateau is 1600 miles long & 800 miles across. It is part of the People's Republic of China & covers an area of 471,700 sq. miles. Comprising of dry & arid land, it consists of huge span of inhospitable terrain but is an area rich in historical & cultural past.
The City of Potala One thing I've learned about life is this... we have very different realities; formed from different circumstances, life experiences & expectations. In other words, I can try to understand you, empathise with you & even feel for you, BUT, I can never be you! Still, I find it tremendously difficult to even begin to put into words what I saw in Tibet. For majority of them, life-path means having to travel thousands of miles or kilometres enduring harsh conditions to this city. It means prostrating full length along the path just to reach here, right in front of the Potala Palace. I don't know much about Tibet before I came; I know even less when I left!
Lhasa is the capital of Tibet. Lha in Tibetan essentially means gods while sa means the place. So, what is it that attracts & acts like magnets to people from all walks of life?
The What 1) The Mountains - 6 peaks at more than 8000 metres above sea level, 50 higher than 7000 metres & Mt. Everest of course (known as Mt. Qomolangma in Tibet; highest at 8848 metres)! The Earth's summit! Regarded by the people as the most sublime & purest of all things on earth. Well, no matter where you go or whether you like it or not, you are gonna see mountains, range after range. Luckily for me, I love mountains as much as I love lakes. So, in this sense, Tibet is a paradise for me :)
The Tibetans believe that Gods live in these mountains & it was God themselves who give legitimacy to rulers & are therefore respected & worshipped. The prayer flags we so often see on these mountains are part of the purification rituals accompanied by recitation of texts believed to defeat the demons.
2) The People - 2.3 million of them live up in the mountains, on the grasslands & in the river valleys with a unique & harsh lifestyle in one of the most sparsely populated region in China. Compassion, tolerance, love & kindness are some of the qualities fostered & rooted within the hearts of its people.
3) The Religion (or The Monasteries)- Lamaism is the religion follows by the majority of Tibetans & embodies the Tibetans' philosophy of life. Some of the common symbols found in the manasteries in Tibet are the presence of Golden Roofs, butter lamps, prayer wheels, mani-walls & gyeltsen. Devotees' rituals such as CHAK which embodies the prostration of entire body while reciting a particular holy formula that may lasts for hours; KHORA, the journey made around the walls of the monastery whilst praying with the prayer wheel in hand (barkhor) & lighting up all the 108 butter lamps in the monastery, are common symbols of Lamaism.
4) The Unexplained- The mystic, exotic, sacred, faith & peace.
Potala Palace All roads lead to Potala Palace for devotees. Potala Palace was built about 1300 years ago after the marriage of Princess Wencheng from Tang imperial court to the Tibetan King Songtsan Gambo in A.D. 641.
Potala Palace had also been the official seat of the Dalai Lama since its completion to 1959. It had also represented the heart of government & parliament. In addition, Potala Palace also houses the prayer cells, tombs of the Dalai Lamas & staff school.
Holy Lakes Yamzhog Yumco is one of the many holy lakes in Tibet. The other 2 being Namco & Mapan Namco. Yamzhog Yumco is located in Naggarze County at 4441 meters above sea level.
This is also one of the most beautiful & unique lakes I've ever seen in my life! Awesome, isn't it?
During Tibet's history, it has existed as a region of separate sovereign areas, a single independent entity and as a part of successive Chinese dynasties. Tibet was first unified under King Songtsän Gampo in the 7th century. At various times from the 1640s until 1950s, a government nominally headed by the Dalai Lamas, a line of spiritual leaders, ruled a large portion of the Tibetan region. During most of this period, the Tibetan administration was subordinate to the Chinese empire of the Qing Dynasty.
In 1913 the 13th Dalai Lama expelled Qing's representatives and troops from what is now the Tibet Autonomous Region. While the expulsion was seen as an assertion of Tibetan autonomy, Tibet's proclaimed independence was not accepted by ...