INTERNET CAFE AT SNOWLANDS HOTEL
Favorite thing: snowlands hotel along mentsikhang lam is just around the corner from the barkhor. just inside its gate (on the left side after the reception area) is an internet cafe with good rates (Y5/hr) and a friendly and accommodating proprietor named nga. he'll gladly make sure you get everything you'll need to go online. they are open until very late at night.
Fondest memory: it was always great to see different kinds of people from all over the world hunched over the computers inside this internet cafe. when passing by (i wasn't peeking!), you'll just be able to notice that practically everone is logged onto yahoo - thing is, each computer has the yahoo homepage in a different language! amazing!
i just found this so cool. here we are at the top of the world and everybody is reporting back to their corner of the globe in their respective languages - and i'm sure we're all saying the same thing, tibet is awesome!
Favorite thing: if you're looking for things to do and/or people to do them with while in lhasa, check out the bulletinboards/corkboards at the lobby of hotels and guesthouses - these will almost always contain posted notes from other travelers looking for companions to complete a tour group (which will inevitably make the tour cheaper for them and you if you join).
they will also contain tour offers from local tour companies and guides - the informal kind anyway.
they may even contain notices of items for sale such as used backpacks, hiking boots, etc.
whatever the case, these boards are worth checking out. it's a good way of getting info that might turn out to be valuable.
the board in the photo is from the lobby of snowlands hotel, just a few establishments down from the barkhor along mentsikhang lam road.
Fondest memory: it may also contain a lot of funny stuff! i remember one note looking for a left hiking sandal, size 9 - just the left! hope for the guy's sake that he found it!
Yak Yak Yak Yak Yak!
Favorite thing: In Tibet, you're going to see yaks everywhere. Yak butter, yak cheese, yak horn ornaments ("hornaments?"), yak sacks (wool bags) and even yak T-shirts all remind you of that animal which you actually got excited about when seeing it for the first time from the train window.
In Lhasa restaurants, the word beef (niu rou) means "yak meat" whether you're in a Tibetan, Sichuan, or Shanghai style restaurant. It's nearly impossible to get ordinary cow meat, what people outside of Tibet normally consider as "beef" in Lhasa.
If you get tired of yak meat, there are plenty of non-Tibetan restaurants in Lhasa but unfortunately the overwhelming majority of these are Sichuan style. So if you don't like spicy food then there are only a few choices left. I ended up going to the same "Hangzhou Xiao Long Bao" cafe every night over on Beijing Zhong Lu because I could not find any other decent alternatives for dinner.
Fondest memory: One of my fondest memories of Lhasa was enjoying the traditional "yak dance", a performance by two Tibetan boys inside of a yak costume which is often done when greeting guests. (see additional photo)
- Farm Stay
- Food and Dining
Photos: Should we ask permission from Tibetans?
Favorite thing: Go ahead, try it! Ask permission to photograph a Tibetan and you'll get one of three responses: "Yes", "No", and "Money". What you won't get is their natural expression, so my advice is to just take photos and not worry about any formalities.
I took pictures of topless Tibetan women bathing in the Lhasa River and monks in the midst of prayer, however I was careful to take only tasteful portraits that I would not hesitate to show my mum. Only once did I succumb to the begging hand of a Tibetan who sought payment for her picture. I got so many good portrait shots at Barkhor Bazaar that I resisted the urge to photograph Tibetans who sat near me on a public bus or who I encountered during other non-tourist activities. (See my Barkhor Bazaar travelogue for more photo tips)
Fondest memory: One of my favorite photos is of this old Tibetan woman at Sera Monastery. You will see elderly people in Tibet who look like they are 100 years old. I like how she has her hair in long braids and the look of devotion on her face during prayer. There was no way I was going to ask permission to take this photo, but I think Tibetans in Lhasa are used to tourists taking their photos. She ignored my presence, and I got this great photo as a result.
Of course not all Tibetans will ignore you. The ones who walk by you in front of the Potala might ask for money, but I also saw Tibetans who cheerfully posed with tourists there without any request to be paid. Use your best judgement and try to avoid the money trap. I think there are enough Tibetans who don't mind being photographed and when you combine this lot with those who aren't even aware that you zoomed in for their portrait then you'll have plenty of pictures for your collection.
Pilrims in the mist
Favorite thing: It is really worth visiting the Barkhor Square first thing in the morning, the atmosphere really is magical! There are many more pilgrims than any other time of day, and also many of the devotees will light fires in specially constructed ovens in order to create a misty effect. And the result is surreal. It has to be seen to be believed.
- Arts and Culture
Favorite thing: This Temple is one of the holliest places in Tibet. It was established by the first buddist tibetan king, Songcen Gampo. He had two wives, one from Nepal and one from China. They both were buddist. Chinese wife, when she came to Tibet, brought a holly statue of Budda with her. That was the statue of Jowo Saqyamuni, depicting the crowned 12 year prince Sidhartha (that is the name of Budda). This princess, she was an astrologer. And she said that buddist faith would have a lot of problems in Tibet as there was a giant demon - godess who lied on Tibetan plateau. So the princess made some calculations and said that a temple should be built in Lhasa to neutralize the demon. The temple should be built in the center of the lake, as, according the calculations, that was the place where the heart of the demon was situated. And the water was the blood of the godess. The lake was drained and the Jock-Khang temple was built. Now You can see that statue of Budda here.
- Religious Travel
Budweiser, the Tibetan king of beers in Lhasa
Favorite thing: One way to amuse yourself during a bus tour of Lhasa is by counting the number of Budweiser signs. The American beer company sponsors signs for restaurants and bars in Lhasa, so you'll see Budweiser's logo everywhere in town including a big billboard behind the huge bronze yak statue on Beijing Boulevard.
I also saw an outdoor "Hall of Budweiser" at the Dalai Lama's summer palace (Norbulinka), perhaps used for wedding parties and other cheerful gatherings.
Fondest memory: ********************************
In Lhasa the lamas say "Cheers"
when they drink their Budweiser beers
One might mistake monks
for mischievous punks
when burps are all a tourist hears!
- Beer Tasting
Favorite thing: I used the ATM at the bank of china. It is just a little west of the potala palace. The ATM is inside the bank so the bank needs to be open. I don't know if they have one outside.
They say a Bank of China ATM is on the east side of the potala square on khamadong lam (kangang donglu) but I never found it.
If you use a US debit card, you should call your bank before you leave to let them know you will be using it overseas. Otherwise, they may not allow you to use it in China. The same for credit cards.
Please rate this and my other tips when you find them useful.
A room with a view!
Favorite thing: As we settled into the room, David called me over to the window and said: “come and have a look at the view Grete”. There, looming over the city like a wedding cake was the Potala Palace! To say I became emotional is an understatement. I didn’t just well up, I cried. I sobbed. I became so overwhelmed by emotions relating to this wonderful piece of architecture with such poignant history, that I couldn’t control myself. I wept for several minutes, and every time we went back to the room, I would be drawn towards the window and this magnificent view, and every time I would feel overwhelmed by emotions. I have wanted to see the Potala Palace for so long, and the final ‘pilgrimage’ if you like, was just so incredibly powerful!
Favorite thing: When you visit Lhasa in july or august you can expect some rain, as it is the rainy season in that period. We had rain every day in july 2004, but almost always only at the end of the day. So if you go sightseeing always take you umbrella and/or raincoat.
The old tibetan part of Lhasa
Favorite thing: Lhasa has two different parts of the city. Most of the must see things like the Barkhor and the Jokhang are in the Tibetan part of town. The Tibetan part is the eastern part and can be recognised by its colorful houses.
The chinese (western) part has the more expensive hotels.
Favorite thing: The city now is divided in two parts - the chinese and tibetan one. You can see the Tibetan quarter on the picture. This is the typical tibetan building. You can see the black squares around the windows. Ususally there are small red and yellow curtains on them. These colours symbolize three main gods of Tibet: Yellow - Avalokitesvara, the god of compassion, Read - Manjushri, the god of wisdom, and Black - the protective deity, I think, Yamantaka (I can be wrong :))
- Historical Travel
Going to the toilet in Tibet
Fondest memory: Trekking in Tibet and staying in a camp. Sometimes you have to go to the toilet and outside it's too cold and windy to do your needs.
In that case these small toilet tents are the solution. Dig a hole in the ground and build the tent, however this is mostly done by sherpa's who accompany the trekkers.
- Hiking and Walking
The Raid Gauloises
Fondest memory: Mountain biking in Tibet. That's what these people do. And not only that. A lot of groups are having a competition, called the Raid Gauloises.
They had to finish a circuit in as little time as possible. The contestants had to walk, to raft, mountain biking and a lot of more outdoor sports. On a height as in Tibet this is very heavy. They had to go through quite a lot and that could be seen on the faces.
I had a lot of respect for them doing this.
- Hiking and Walking
Gambling on the mountain
Fondest memory: Because our transport to the Rongbuk Monastery hasn't arrived yet we had to wait for a while. That was a good opportunity to write in the diary. When this was finished we had to spend the time. Therefore there was a wonderful solution: we played dice.
Enough stones around us so a 'gambling table' was made in no time. Chairs: no problem too. Some larger stones to sit on and we could play our game. We had great fun upthere and maybe this was the highest 'casino' in Tibet (about 5,000 meters).
- Hiking and Walking
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