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Tibet: The Land of Snows

Rating :
''Everest Base Camp provides incredible view and a sense of grandeur of Mt. Everest''

Tibetan culture has been quite prominent in Dehradun, the place I belong to and so urge and curiosity to see what Tibet is all about was always there. Luckily I got a chance to experience their life closely when I did D.Phil. thesis on happy and passionate refugees while pursuing lectureship in History Department of MKP College, Dehradun. It is also known that Dalai Lama who took refuge in India in 1959, spent his first year of refugedom in Mussoorie.
We drove almost 1,000kms within Tibet and the countryside was extremely serene, with beautiful rivers, lakes, agricultural fields, villages and passes. The road Chinese have built in this area of Tibet is called Friendship Highway to connect these cities. Innumerable shops and wayside peddlers selling everything from prayer flags to yak skulls gives a feel of being in Tibet.

GETTING THERE : One can fly to Kathmandu in Nepal and then take a flight for Lhasa in Tibet. Or one can head to China first and then into Lhasa. All travelers visiting Tibet requires valid China visa & a special Alien Travel Permit. Indian passport holders don't require visa for Nepal but they must carry an identity proof such as passport, election card and/or driving license.

BEST TIME TO GO : In the months of April, May and June and September and October.

STAY OPTIONS : Jardin Secret Hotel: 86-891-6936666 (Front desk) 86-28-85227275(Office)
Brahmpputra Grand Hotel: 86-0891-6300583 (Front desk) 86-028-61811579 ( Office)
Four Points by Sheraton Lhasa: 86-28-61811579 (Office) 86-891-6348888 (Front desk)
Lhasa Manasarovar Hotel: 86-891-6301111 (Front desk) 86-28-85227275 (Office)
The Xinding Hotel: 86-891-6808555(Front desk) 86-28-61811579 (Office)
Tibet Hotel: 86-891-6834966(Front desk) 86-28-61811579 (Office)
Yak Hotel: 86+891-6300008(Front desk) 86+28-85227275(Office)
Shangbala Hotel: 86-28-85227275 (Office) 86- 891-6323888 (Front desk)
Cang-gyan Lhasa Hotel: 86-891-6305555(Front desk) 86-28-61811579 (Office)
St Regis Lhasa Resort: 86-891-6808888 (Front desk) 86-28-85227275 (Office)
New Mandala Hotel: 86-891-6338940 (Front desk ) 86-28-61811579 (Office )
Tibet Gorkha Hotel, Lhasa
Banak Shol Hotel, Lhasa
Lhasa Hotel
Yabshi Phunkhang Heritage Hotel
Shangri-La Hotel, Lhasa

PLACES OF INTEREST : MAJOR CITIES:

Lhasa:
The cultural, political and economic centre of Tibet and also the abode of Dalai Lamas. The places of interest in Lhasa include the Potala palace, Norbulinka palace, Jokhang temple, Sera and Drepung monasteries, etc.

Shigatse:
Shigatse has long been an important trading town and administrative centre of Tibet. Places that are of interest include the famous Tashilhunpo monastery and the traditional market.

Gyantse:
Known for Gyantse Dzong or fort, and its magnificent tiered Kumbum of the Palcho Monastery. The Dzong is a fort dating back to the 14th century. It was here that the Tibetans bravely fought the British invasion by Colonel Younghusband in 1904. The Mandala-shaped Kumbum is a large gold-domed stupa and its many small chapels house an impressive array of Tibetan Buddhist murals.

POTALA PALACE:
Standing on the red hills of Lhasa, it’s an extremely breath-taking historical piece and one of the highest palaces in the world. It is also considered as a treasure house of Tibetan history, religion, culture, and art. It has served as the residence of the Dalai Lamas. Potala Palace is a 13-storeyed monastery and its walls are all made of granite and the roofs of wood. The time allotted by Chinese to tourists here is two hours so one has to literally rush through the palace. The gold and silver stupas which contain the mummies of past Dalai Lamas are studded here with rubies, emeralds and other precious stones. Many parts of the palace , now turned to a museum is open for the visitors.

JOKHANG TEMPLE:
Jokhang is situated at the heart of the old town of Lhasa and is considered the holiest and most active of the Buddhist temples in Tibet. It was built by the Tibetan King Shrong Tsong Gompo to house the Buddha image brought from Nepal by his Nepalese wife Bhrikuti. The Jokhang Temple is a four-storey timber complex with a golden top. The statue of Sakyamuni sits in the middle of the hall, which is decorated elaborately with jewels.

SERA MONASTERY:
It’s a home for monks. The Great Assembly Hall is where several religious rituals and rites are conducted. Sera monastery is well-known for its almost daily 'monk debates' which are popular with visitors. The Sera Bengqin Festival is a grand festival held in the Sera Monastery on December 27 of the Tibetan calendar.

TASHILHUNPO MONASTERY:
It is one of the largest functioning Buddhist monasteries in Tibet and a constellation of red and white buildings located on a hill in the center of the city. It contains the one of the world's largest brass statue of Maitreya Buddha, which is over 80 feet tall. It is also known as traditional home to Panchen Lama, second only in religious importance to the Dalai Lama himself.

Other big monasteries to visit are Drepung Monastery, Ganden Monastery and Sakya Monastery.

BARKHOR BAZAAR:
It is here that the tourists throng most. Items selling here are displayed with the characteristics of Tibet including local folk art crafts, rugs, knives, broadswords, traditional clothes, gold and silver jewelry.

NORBULINGKA PALACE:
Housed in a quiet and beautiful garden in the west part of Lhasa is Norbulingka, meaning ‘Treasure Park’. The Kelsang Potrang, Tsokyil Potrang, Golden Linka and Takten Migyur Potrang together make Norbulingka. It used to be the summer palace of Galai Lama, where they solved the political problems and held festive celebrations. The well preserved murals, superb mandalas and frescoes are fascinating sights not to miss. One particular mural inside depicts the history of Tibet and all the Dalai Lamas.

EVEREST BASE CAMP:
Camp is one of the highlights for adventure travelers in Tibet and it provides stunning views of the Everest massif. Tibetans call Everest Chomolungma and here one is at an altitude of more than 5000 metres. The wind here blows fast and one could feel scarcity of oxygen. Falling ill is not allowed as the nearest hospital is more than 50 kms away. The spectacular Rongbuk glacier forms part of the amazing panorama.

RONGBUK MONASTERY:
At the foot of the peak is located the world’s highest temple, Rongbuk Monastery. Founded in 1902, the monatsery has a series of meditation caves which had been in use for over 400 years. The lama here traditionally blesses all expeditions aiming for the summit of Mt. Everest.

NAMTSO LAKE
Lake Namtso is one of the largest saltwater lake in China with blue and crystal clear water. It is located on the north Tibetan grassland, more than 200 kilometers away from Lhasa. Summer is the best time for Namtso Lake. Wild yaks, hares and other wild animals leisurely look for food along the expansive lake shores, countless migratory birds fly here to lay eggs and feed their young. The Tashi Dor monastery is at one corner of the lake.

MOUNT KAILASH AND MANASAROVAR:
These two places are the remotest and yet popular tourist destinations in Tibet. Snow capped Mount Kailash is a holy place for Hindus as it’s the abode of Lord Shiva. Lake Manasarovar is situated approx 30km from Mt. Kailash and is one of the highest freshwater lakes in the world. This beautiful and sacred lake is an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists and Hindus, as it is believed that bathing in the holy waters will cleanse one's sins.

EAT & DRINK : Following are a must try if looking for authentic Tibetan cuisines and beverages.

BAOZI: Traditionnal Chinese dumplings filled with yak meat.

MOMOS: Another type of dumplings filled with yak meat and streamed vegetables.

YAK BUTTER TEA: Salty tea churned with butter, A Tibetan staple.

TIBETAN BREADS: Noodle soups are often eaten with tingmo, a light and airy steamed bun

YOUTIAO: A fried bread stick mainly made of dough.

THUPKA: A hearty noodle soup with veggies or meat.

ZANBA: Roasted Qingke barley flour is mixed with buttered tea to make Zanba.

TIBETAN YOGURT: It tastes different as made from yak milk, which has a high butter fat content, using the natural way of boiling milk and fermenting.

YAK MEAT: Yak meat is very popular in Tibet and goes well with drinking Qingke barley liquor.

THENTHUK: A traditional vegetable soup served with pieces of yak meat and noodles.

CHANG: Tibetan beer made of barley, has a lighter flavor than a western-type, is often home-brewed.

QINGKE BARLEY LIQUOR: It is brewed from Qingke barley, a major highland grain grown on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau and is popular during festivals and weddings.

SHOPPING : Tibetan carpets, incense and accessories are the most popular items to take home.

LOCAL TRANSPORT : Public city bus and taxi are the main transport methods for you to get around Lhasa, as well as pedicabs, bicycles, and rental cars.


Source / Review By : Archana Shukla

Associate Professor at MKP PG College, Dehradun and an avid traveller

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