Verfasst von: rbontour | April 23, 2011

Spiritual Moments (Despite Soldiers & Kalashnikovs)

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Tibet was one of the best decisions on our long journey! Due to the protests and several bloody riots in 2008, the only way foreigners can visit is by signing up with a tour group and a guide. Although it was very unusual for us to go somewhere with a tour group, we had a brilliant and unforgettable time. It was just too short! Nevertheless, our 7 days from Lhasa to the Nepalese border (Zanghmu) were packed with many cultural and scenic highlights. We would have loved to extend our journey in Tibet, but traveling with a guide is more expensive and obviously, we were less flexible.

Political Tensions & Cultural Genocide
Tibet is very different if we compare it to China, although the Chinese influence cannot (and should not) be overlooked – especially in Lhasa. Officially, the “country” now belongs to the Middle Kingdom. However, most Tibetans still don’t want to accept the Chinese rule, which is – in our point of view – quite understandable. Tibet’s face is changing rapidly; so far, the Chinese government pumped billions of dollars into the region, which leads to more and more immigrants from the “mainland” (as they call it). Well, unfortunately, it is not the Tibetans who benefit from the prospering economic development!

Once you start traveling in Tibet, the presence of political tensions can be immediately felt. We were quite shocked, because we saw with our own eyes how the friendly Tibetan people are being oppressed in their own homeland. An absolutely unique and extraordinary culture is gradually being destroyed. Since 1959, Tibet’s spiritual leader – the Dalai Lama – escaped to live in exile in India. And with him, hundreds of thousands of Tibetans have fled from their beloved home, where they can’t enjoy religious or political freedom.

Many people call the development of the past 50 years a “cultural genocide”. The Chinese government does not seem to care about human, cultural and religious values. During the Cultural Revolution, they killed over 1.2 million Tibetans and destroyed thousands of religious monuments. Faithful followers of the Dalai Lama were not allowed to worship him publicly – getting caught with a picture from him could lead to torture. Tibetans were no longer permitted to give donations to monks in the monasteries. In addition, monks and lamas were forced to take off their robes and get married.

Apparently, today monks are no longer forced to get married, some monasteries are being rebuilt, pictures of the Dalai Lama are back, but political tensions and cultural destruction remains. To date, Lhasa has more Han Chinese than Tibetan people – about 2/3 of the city’s population are immigrants from China.

If you are interested, click here to learn more about the current political issues between China and Tibet – read how monks got killed and removed.

Important Note: We don’t intend to create an anti-Chinese atmosphere on our blog. Believe us, on our trip through western China, we have met many friendly and very nice Chinese people! True, at first we were a bit shocked – they spit, snot, burp out loud, fart and sometimes they urinate in public (wherever and whenever they feel like it). People are generally a bit rough, but that’s just how it is. You have to recognize them as a different culture and to take it as it is. What may not be socially acceptable in the US or Germany, is totally acceptable and legitimate in China. Hence, in case you feel that our travel reports about Tibet sound negative, please be reminded: we are not speaking about the general public.

Lhasa – Impressive, Spiritual & Unforgettable
Lhasa blew us away. It has always been one of our dreams – to visit the “Country of Gods” and to stroll on the “Roof of the World”. We didn’t expect that it would impress us so deeply.

The new city district is suffering from, let’s call it Chineseiation… we can only hope that Lhasa doesn’t turn into another smog-polluted mega-city full of ugly concrete blogs. Luckily, the old quarter is still wonderful – actually, there you can see some fascinating Tibetan architecture. The narrow streets are packed with pilgrims from around the region. There are numerous temples and traditional markets selling fresh food, Buddhist souvenirs and “tools”. You are surrounded by prayer flags flattering in the wind. People are praying literally everywhere; they are either carrying prayer wheels or prayer beads. The atmosphere there is so spiritual and passionate – it’s moving, impressive, interesting and very exciting.
What is very sad though is that the Tibetan quarter is full of grim-faced Chinese soldiers. Why? The government is afraid of new uprisings (the last pro-independence demos were in 2008) and therefore you have to get used to the sight of military soldiers with heavy Kalashnikovs controlling the area – sad, but true!

What we also found very interesting is the fact that Tibetans still dress in their traditional costumes – in both, rural and urban areas. Of course, in SE Asia we have also met various ethnic groups in their costumes, but we only saw them sporadically. In Tibet, however, we could see this everywhere and we found it really special.

At the moment we are in crazy Kathmandu (Nepal) and tomorrow we will start a 10-day trekking tour in the Himalaya mountain range. When we are back, we will post some more stories (and photos) about Tibet’s incomparable beautiful landscape, our truthful talks with locals and, of course, our new adventures in Nepal… BTW, Happy Easter!!

PS: This post was written in a hurry in Kathmandu, where people struggle with approx. 16 hours of power outages per day. Unbelievable! Please forgive any grammar or spelling mistakes…

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