I am writing this in a typical Tibetan restaurant, I am the only foreigner, and when I came in, babies and toddlers were lifted up to gape at the white woman. How shall I ever get used to normal life again? Tibetan tea also needs some getting used to, it’s made of yak butter and salt, may not become my most favourite drink ever.I was looking forward to the flight over the Himalayas, had managed to grab a window seat on the correct side (that’s row A when coming from Kathmandu) and had prepared all three cameras, but the Himalayas were in hiding, and only granted me brief glimpses of the roof of the world – although, with a bit of goodwill, one could think that I did manage to take a photo of Mount Everest.I also took photos of Tibet – I must admit that I didn’t think it would be so barren, in a strange way it’s very beautiful (with the exception of Lhasa, not really a beautiful city, but the Potala palace and the big monasteries are really impressive).
It is a fact well known that one can’t take a Lonely Planet Tibet into Tibet, because it sports a picture of the Dalai Lama, and tourists could of course corrupt Tibetans with a Lonely Planet book (I was thinking if the Chinese have heard about ebooks, but I didn’t try to obtain the answer when entering Tibet). It is less well known that one can also not take in a Lonely Planet Nepal, because the Dalai Lama is mentioned on some page – oopps. Shame about the book. How the x-ray machines detected the book hiding in the luggage is sort of impressive.
Subversion is a challenge anyhow. I was not surprised that Facebook does not work in Tibet, but that I couldn’t access my own blog did surprise me – I thought I was a peaceful, non-political person. Technical innovation be thanked for VPN, now I can be as subversive as I like.
Altitude sickness is a real problem in Tibet. Lhasa is on 3650 meters, and it takes a few days for the body to get used to the height. It is recommended to drink 3-4 litres of water a day the support the adjustment. Not a bad idea, but unless one is a camel, the water needs to get out again somehow. Here, Tibet has a new (for me) form of the water closet – both the front door and the rear of the cabin are missing – providing a nice look into nature, and nature can take an interested look back – and instead of a hole in the ground, an entire canal is flowing underneath the squatters… I had visions of building little paper boats and let them float…Since Sri Lanka, my neck has given me a little trouble. I therefore booked a massage in the „Lightroom Blind Massage“ – seems to be a Tibetan specialty, I’ve seen a number of „blind“ massage parlours. Options were: Tibetan massage – „very relaxing“, Chinese massage – „a bit tougher“, and foot massage. I am tough – I opted for the Chinese massage – you could probably hear my howls all the way to China… My neck still hurts, just differently.
In Tibet, you best travel as a group. We are a group of four – a young Canadian woman, a mother/son team from Germany, and myself. The mother/son team was hailing from China and spoke about the wide-spread tourist scam operated there:„I am a student and would like to try out my English“. The unsuspecting tourist is then taken to a tea house, and afterwards threatened into paying a horrendous bill. I couldn’t quite believe it when only a short while later I was stopped in the street by two young girls: „I am a student and I would like to try out my English“. Maybe they really were just two young girls who wanted to try out their English, but I didn’t risk it. I hate it – I don’t travel to hasten from temple to temple, but to meet and talk to people, and it’s not always easy nowadays to be an open, trusting traveller (but perhaps it was never really any different).