- Thursday, 22 February 2018 10:30
Last summer, I went on an eight-day trip to Tibet to explore this mysterious plateau region.
In order to save travel time, I took a four-hour direct flight from Shenzhen to Lhasa instead of transiting in Chengdu. Upon my arrival, I picked a guesthouse, Tashitakge Hotel which is popular among western travelers. It has a charming rooftop restaurant that offers sweeping views of Potala Palace and the mountains.
Lhasa is far more than just a sightseeing destination. There's plenty on offer for visitors, from commercial decorations to traditional temples on Barkhor Street. The Jokhang Temple is a must-see. Pilgrims prostrate along nearby roads to show their veneration. I also visited Sera Monastery and Drepung Monastery to see the giant Buddha, heritage wall paintings and spectacular Thangka paintings. Norbulingka which means 'garden' in the Tibetan language, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located on the edge of Lhasa. One can take a stroll in the complex which houses the Dalai Lamas' summer palace and a garden full of flowers, grass and trees.
After a two-day stay in Lhasa, I took a coach driving along the Qinghai-Tibet Highway for a glimpse of Lake Yamdrok. Located over 4,000m above sea level, it is one of three holy lakes in Tibet, besides Lake Nam and Lake Manasarovar. Lake Yamdrok is turquoise when the sun shines on it. The lake reflects different hues of blue as the angle of the sun's rays changes. On the next day, I did another 12-hour round-trip to visit Lake Nam which is located even higher—over 5,000m above sea level. Hundreds of colourful prayer flags reveal the Tibetans' respect for this holy lake. Though it is a long distance from Lhasa, it is worth visiting once in a lifetime.
On my first night in Lhasa, I immediately suffered from altitude sickness due to the thin air at high altitudes but luckily I recovered from the headache the very next morning. This is the reason behind the advice to slow everything down and keep taking deep breaths. In addition, one is advised to bring along a face mask and disinfection supplies for insanitary dry toilets in Tibet. Last but not least, it is also a frightening experience when you have to share the road with large trucks and coaches on the Qinghai-Tibet Highway.
Tibet is attractive not only because of its natural beauty, but also because of the religious belief that pervades all aspects of daily life there. When I was in Drepung Monastery, I saw an 80-year-old lady accompanied by two young women walking along a steep and narrow staircase to pay respect to Buddha. I could not but admire and respect those Buddhists who undertake the "three steps, one bow" pilgrimage or those who turn a prayer wheel with their hands on Barkhor Street. The trip has not only shown me the beauty of Tibet, it has inspired my life. Once a person experiences Tibet from a different perspective, a lot is certainly gained.