Journal

Archives: June 2009

Tibet (Day 10) – Drikung Monastery, Hot Springs, & a Nomad Tent 30 June 2009

First full day in Drikung – waking up to dogs barking, yak bells tinkling, and a great breakfast of fried egg sandwich between a lovely chapati- or naan-like bread made with onions, and bananas, watermelon, and apples. And surprisingly, the instant coffee is quite good!

monasteryToday we visited the Drikung Til Monastery, one of the oldest still functioning in Tibet. Buddhists believe this valley to be one of the power centers of the world with 108 sacred springs, and it is also the most sacred sky burial site in Tibet. Those who can afford the time and expense bring the bodies of their loved ones from the far corners of Tibet. (more…)

Tibet (Day 9) – Lhasa to Drikung 29 June 2009

We left Lhasa around 11 am in a 9-seater van (with Lester and I in the back, and we learned the shocks are completely shot!).

One thing I have not yet mentioned is that the boom town of Lhasa has a very strange and mysterious traffic flow system. Many busy 4-way intersections have great lights, but one of the MAIN 3-way intersections at the heart of the city has NO streetlight, and it is LITERALLY every vehicle AND pedestrian or bicyclist for itself, going in every direction imaginable. In addition, there are almost no horns heard, and it is as if drivers have a sixth sense for other vehicles or pedestrians. It is quite amazing how people drive – not just here, but everywhere in China we have been. On a two-lane road, everyone drives in the *center* in order to leave room for pilgrims, bicyclists, and motorcycle carts on both sides, and weaves continually around slow and between oncoming traffic. On a four-lane road, usually the outside lanes are blocked by parked traffic, and it is quite common to for vehicles to move all the way over to a far, oncoming lane!! We see vehicles coming straight at us all the time – I am astonished that we have yet to witness an accident, and wonder what the vehicular death rates are. (more…)

Lhasa (Day 8) – the Jokhang, Barkhor, and a birthday picnic! 28 June 2009

jokhang Today’s wanderings took us to the nearby Jokhang temple, the most sacred site for Tibetans…we passed by here Friday night after dinner at Dorje’s, and were fascinated by the pilgrims performing ‘kora’ – pilgrimage circuits around the temple. They come from all walks of life, though most are in traditional Tibetan dress, and of all ages, many, many of them carrying and twirling beautiful, ancient hand-held prayer wheels. Some may come here on pilgrimage from hundreds of miles, prostrating every step of the way. Walking slowly through the temple, it is clearly still quite ‘alive’, and even more beautiful than the Potala, with literally hundreds of exquisite icons. (more…)

Lhasa (Day 7) – Potala Palace & Sera Monastery 27 June 2009

potalaToday we toured the Potala Palace – the seat of Tibet’s government and home of the Dalai Lama from its construction in the 17th century until 1959. What an incredible structure. It literally dominates the city, built on a hill in the center of the valley, and rises from the valley floor with imposing but graceful white- and red-washed walls. It is massive, quite beautiful, and very exotic. We climbed the hundreds of stairs on the front outside, and were allowed to take pictures anywhere outside. Once we entered the palace, no more photographs were allowed. Every surface, from floor to ceiling, is incredibly intricate, with finely filigreed molding and trim and brocades that are almost hard to believe, and the colors are vibrant and primary. Red does dominate, but the ceiling is yellow with bright blue beams, and green and gold are everywhere. The number of Buddha and bodhisattva and lama icons is mind-boggling. (more…)

Hello from Lhasa! (elev. 12,000′ / 3650m) 26 June 2009

(Did I mention that we are now grandparents?! -grins- )

tour group with buddhaI CAN’T BELIEVE that I forgot to ask for a south-side window seat on the airplane, with an Everest-view possibility, but it didn’t matter anyway, because it was socked in with clouds. Can you imagine?…it would have been nearly at window level! We did see several impressive peaks (> 7000m/23,000′) that were marked on the China Air map, and the Tibetan terrain is incredibly rugged – FAR more so than I had imagined. I think of a ‘plateau’ as flat – so wrong. (more…)

Chengdu: Pandas, pandas everywhere…and the Leshan Buddha 25 June 2009

bicyclesWe took it easy on Wednesday (103 degrees in Beijing), enjoying the idea of being grandparents and checking my iPhone frequently, hoping for more photos and stories! After meeting a business acquaintance in the morning, we packed and headed for the airport for our flight to Chengdu, in Sichuan province, an industrial city of over 10 million in the center of the agricultural belt of China. We were met by our tour guide for the next day, Andy, and one of our Tibet Tour group, Frank. (more…)

WE ARE GRANDPARENTS!!! 23 June 2009

Welcome to the world, Talia!!!!! Congratulations, Aren and Steph!!

Beijing’s Summer Palace, Forbidden City & Temple of Heaven – in 95 degrees! 23 June 2009

A whirlwind day, all while grinning and wondering if we would become grandparents, and checking my text messages about once an hour in anticipation… LOL!
long corridor
Liu picked us up at 8:30 am, and after a 30″ unscheduled stop at Olympic Village to see the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube, we spent about 4 hours wandering around the beautiful grounds of the Summer Palace, then stopped for tea in a traditional tea house, and noodles for lunch in a noodle house. Then still terribly hot, we just drove around Tian’anmen Square, but did spend several hours walking through most of the Forbidden City, finishing up with the Temple of Heaven.

WHEW – tons of walking, brain and eyeball beauty overload – what a day! To the left is ONE of the 200+ photos I took today…of the Summer Palace’s Long Corridor built for the Dowager Empress Cixi so she would not be exposed to sun getting from the dock to the palace. It is 728 meters long, winds around the lake, and has over 8,000 paintings of scenes from Chinese folklore!

Beijing: “Let me take your temperature!” 22 June 2009

Yep – we are here, in Beijing, CHINA!

But not without humorous hiccups already… After flying for 13 hours, straight over the North Pole, Russia and Ulan Bataar, we landed and were relegated to a remote corner of the huge international airport, and not exactly close any terminal. Just before landing, as the crew handed out a second health card form everyone had to complete, we were given some hint (I don’t recall what exactly) that we may not be able to get off the plane immediately, and we were thinking about the planeload of students recently held in a hotel for a week… (We had even commented on the fair number of folks wearing surgical masks, including the three American college-age girls behind us.)

Sure enough, as soon as we landed we were told, graciously, “Please stay in your seats everyone – a team of white-suited people will be boarding to take everyone’s temperature. They will put a gun to your forehead (at THIS point everyone on board laughed nervously!), and shoot an infrared beam aimed at your forehead.” And on they came – young, slender, efficient technicians, about 20 of them dressed literally head to toe in white, complete with hoods, booties, gloves, and full face masks, carrying a bag and ‘guns’ – it felt like being inside the movie ET! (more…)