22 August 2010

Seven Days in Tibet - Best of Tibet

We saw tons of amazing things in our week in Tibet. Aaron nicknamed our Tibet excursion "Where were you when we were getting high?" Here are some of the best shots we took while we were on the top of the world.

Literally about the highest I have ever been: 5190 meters baby!

This is a less than great shot of one of the coolest things I have ever seen: Tibetan monks engaged in their daily debate. You should really see this in video form.

The trading market we went to in Lhasa. This place was chalked full of pilgrims, tourists, and yak meat vendors.

Some awesome landscape shots taken on the Tibetan Highway. We spent hours on this road, but well worth the view we were able to soak up. I have never seen so much open space before.

In the middle of one of our trips on the Highway, we hit this freak hailstorm. It went from blue sky to thick hail for about 6-7 minutes straight and then stopped just as abruptly. Even our guide said he had never seen anything like it. It just kept hitting our van, so we pulled over and got some shots of the craziness.

We hiked up a bit in the Himalayas. We made it to about 17,000 feet before we puttered out like a VW bug running on fumes.

So the government makes you sign this health waiver before you enter into the plateau. Click on this picture and read the whole thing. We didn't stop laughing for hours. I can't decide whether C or E is my favorite.

Lovely Tibetan colors adorn the holy sites.

Check out some real Tibetan clothing. People dress traditionally all over, especially the women.

This was how much cash I dropped for my share of the price of the Tibet trip. 6,000 quay and worth every one.

Prayer flags are all over the place in Tibet. The Tibetans believe the wind carries the prayers, which isn't such a bad thing considering how windy it gets.

Prayer barrel. There are Buddhist prayers in these, and when the people spin them, they feel as it is almost like repeating the prayer. These things are all over the holy sites, and get used constantly.
This is the Dalai Llama's cat, or at least the cat at his palace.

The temple at Lake Namsto, the highest lake in the world. Below is our crew on the shore of Namsto.

Me at the main monastery where the monks take their examinations and where the Dalai Llama received his doctorate in philosophy. This place was amazing!

21 August 2010

Quote of the yesterday #5

"How is my SIN?" - Sister H

16 August 2010

Seven Days in Tibet - Potala Palace

Behold, the Potala Palace! This palace was the main residence of the Dalai Llama himself (until he was exiled in 1959 by the CCP government) and was built in the center of Lhasa almost 400 years ago. It sits right on a mountain that is visible from almost anywhere you go in the city.

For years this palace was both the religious and political center of Tibet. Thousands of people in Lhasa come to make a pilgrimage around its walls everyday.

Our Tibetan guide and his sidekick. These guys not only 'rocked house,' they gave us tours of the Dalai Llama's house!

A view of downtwon Lhasa from the top of the palace steps.

Us walking up the stairway mountain to the door of the palace. They only allow a few thousand people in everyday, so we had to wait until our wave of people was accepted into the grounds.

This is what the rest of Lhasa looks like when you get to the top of the palace steps.

This section of the palace is where you enter into the main halls. There are 1,000 different rooms in the palace, and the Dalai Llama used only a few regularly. Because the Dalai Llama belongs to the 'Yellow sect' of Buddhism, many of the things relating to him are yellow. At the top of this picture you can see a yellow window. That is the window he would come out to address the people, and see the cool stuff in the courtyard.

These guys were laughing at their buddy who was posing with people that wanted to take pictures of real Tibetan looking men. They just couldn't get enough of how their friend soaked up the attention. I didn't want them to feel left out, so I snapped a photo of them.

Here is our crew after we finished our 90 minute tour. We were officially stoked about the cool ideas of Tibetan Buddhism by the end of the 90 minutes, and couldn't wait for another dose.

This is the main courtyard of the Potala Palace. You can see the brown yak cloth that is draped all around. You can see two of the 'auspicious symbols' in Tibetan Buddhism- the eternal knot, and the dharma wheel (the symbol of political power for the Dalai Llama).

The door of the Potala Palace!

Look mom, white people! Look Sam, Chinese people!

One of the protector dieties painted on the wall near the door of the palace. Most every major monastery or temple has these painted inside to protect the building from evil spirits.

Me at the end of my first experience with Tibetan Buddhism. We couldn't take any pictures inside, but we saw all sorts of cool stuff, and probably like 900 Buddhas!

Some of the dorms outside the palace proper, but still on the grounds.

10 August 2010

Seven Days in Tibet - Train Ride

Our "7 Days in Tibet" trip started from Chengdu a few days after I arrived. We weren't even sure we were going to get a government permit to Tibet until about 3 hours before we left. But with a little help from our hostel manager Mei Mei aka the 'Mistress of the House' we were successful in convincing the Chinese government to let us in the fabled Tibetan Plateau. The train we caught is billed as the "Highest Train in the World" because it reaches an altitude over 14,000 feet. They actually pump oxygen into the train cars to help you cope with the change.

The train line travels from Chengdu to Lhasa, the Tibetan capital city, and takes about 46 hours per trip. This equals a ton of time to take pictures (and for me to ace the Sam-man at our favorite card game of the ages about 37 times). Here are a few of the better shots.

At the train station before the longest train ride of my life!

Off we go into wide expanse. I love how you can see Aaron's walking sticks that he got blessed by a Taoist priest and carried them around with us for the rest of the trip!

A shot of my half of our train cabin, and half of Sam's legs.

This is what we did for a good portion of the 46 hour long trip. Sleep on Sam!

I got a bit tired myself from time to time. Good thing the ol' iPod had lots of Jack Johnson and Johnny Denver to lull me to sleep!

You might not be able to tell, but my box of Choco Pies was having an intense reaction to the alititude. Unfortunately, one of the individually wrapped treats couldn't handle the metaphorical or literal pressure and burst on me. Fortunately, it was loaded with so many preservatives, I couldn't taste the fact that it had been exposed to air days before consumption.

We treated ourselves to a celebratory dinner on the food car of the train one day. The whole thing cost us about 20 bucks for all four of us. Matt treated us to some orange drink, and there was much rejoicing.

Our delicious meal after we became acquainted with it.

Our fellow Tibet explorers sit down to dinner. Aaron always got us the best dishes by using his awesome Mandarin vocab powers to dazzle the waitresses into submission. This caused lingual envy between us and fellow travelers, but prevented us from getting ripped off too.

The Tibetan Plateau in all its window-view glory! We had 2 straight days of breath taking scenes of open ranges and farmland with the occasional city.

I like this one because you can see the horse herder in action. Cool stuff eh?!

End of the line: Lhasa Railway Station!!

Yeah, here we are reveling in the fact that we just took a 2 day train ride to Tibet. It took us like 2 days to come to grips that we were all half-way across the world from home, but it took us like 2 seconds to realize we were totally hardcore.

I'm not sure what face I was trying to make, but before you mock or hate remember that I made it in TIBET!!! When was the last time YOU made a stupid face in Tibet???? Yup...thought so.