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vbx000 Lhasa Shi - A travel report by Veronica
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Lhasa Shi,  China - flag China -  Tibet
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vbx000's travel reports

Adventure to Samye Monastery- Journey to Tibet

  24 votes
Page: 1 2
We walked off the plane, not knowing what to expect, our first stop was the first monastery in Tibet: Samye. The first day was a stunning blur of beautiful mountains, smiling faces, the Yellow River, and our first glimpse of Tibetan Life

Samye Monastery
Samye Monastery
This secluded monastery is off the banks of the Yellow River. We were told all rivers in East Asia start in Tibet, and this was the beginning of China's precious Yellow River. The water was wonderfully cold and crystal blue. This was the first day of our trip. We met Lhaba, our guide, and Lingqing, our driver. It was a silghtly awkward first meeting, but we warmed up to one another after a day. Lhaba was only 22 years old! Only two years older than us. He said we were the youngest group he's ever had. We had been used to our school supplied trips, where on long bus rides you have to wait pateintly if you need to use the restroom or if you wanted something to drink. We liked the change when we passed a small town, exclaimed oh crap, we need water! and Lingqing dutifully turned the jeep around to go back into town. Thats service.

Favourite spots:
Monk In Samye
Monk In Samye
Samye monastery is a compound a distance off the bank of the Yellow River. Just outside of its thick walls is a village of locals. In its mountains are a nunnery, another monastery and a mediation retreat. The ferry ride across the Yellow River was really relaxing. It was quite hot, so we covered our faces with the hada Lhaba had given us as a welcoming present. I'm not quite sure if this was rude, but we needed protection from the scorching sun and everyone still smiled at us. We didn't expect great weather, blue water, green grass and fall leaves. We thought Tibet would be a desolote land, barren of all life except the hardy Tibetans and their Yak.

What's really great:
Lhaba Resting on Luggage
Lhaba Resting on Luggage
The second day at Samye we woke up at 7am, ate a fresh amazing breakfast (at least compared to us expecting the worst), climbed into a large blue uncovered truck/wagon and were driven to the base of a mountain. It was a scary ride, at any moment we expected to tumble from the mountainside. Jing Jing and I were squeezed into the front cabin with an old Tibetan woman and the driver. It felt like a really long ride, the whole time we were holding onto the edge of our seat and trusting the driver knew what he was doing. He got us safely there. A monk rode on the luggage rack on top. Tibetans, our two male companions, and Lhaba sat in the uncomfortable back metal cage/wagon. The hike shouldn't have been difficult but it took us about 4-5 hours to do a 2 hour hike. The altitude was taking its toll on all four of us. We didn't think we'd make it.

Morning Truck Ride  to Samye Mountain
Morning Truck Ride to Samye Mountain
Back to our hiking adventure. At the meditation community we got the chance to interact with Tibetan locals. They were very kind and very curious about us- just like we were about them. A man, who lived with his mom and his son, called us into his home so he could closely inspect my eyebrow ring. His son was really cute, a little dirty- and asked for money. Instead, we gave him M&M's which everyone in the small family tried. The boy didn't seem to like them too much.

We then hiked to the highest monastery on the mountain, watched the prayer ceremoney and returned to the meditation place for more adventure. Erik and I got split from the group, an old woman invited us into her hut for a quick snack of yak butter tea (gag me) and fried bread. It wasnt too good but I would have drank a whole pot just for the experience of spending 15-20 minutes in her home, watching her make food and interacting with her- minus our language barrier.

Tibetans in the Mountains- Great faces right?
Tibetans in the Mountains- Great faces right?
At Samye we stayed in the monastery provided rooms. I think its about 10-25rmb per night. We had four beds, a table, a dresser and our room was constantly replenished with steaming hot water in the thermos.

The bathrooms were communal and very simple. There were public showers but we decided against them. The second night we used the piping hot water to wash our hair in the provided wash basin. It worked out well, we felt a little bit cleaner.

The store in our hotel like compound was really overpriced. The price of a bottle of water changed by the hour, ranging from 4 to 6rmb depending on the mood of the vendor.

He [the vendor] didn't like that we spoke Chinese to him. once, he said I am Tibetan. I speak Tibetan, English and Chinese. Don't speak to me in Chinese. But that was really his best english sentence because otherwise Chinese was our only common language.

We couldn't figure out if our speaking Chinese was friend or foe to us in this new, strange land.

We watched monks practice their debate skills.
We watched monks practice their debate skills.
The hike on Samye was really worth all of the huffing and puffing. It took us a long time but we took some great pictures and enjoyed ourselves a lot. Our guide Lhaba just strolled ahead of us, watched us gasp our way to the top and rarely spoke. Both Lhaba and Lingqing were men of few words.

They would slap their hands together when they refuted someone else
They would slap their hands together when they refuted someone else
Our first stop on our hike was a nunnery. The woman had shaven heads like the monks, and at first we didn't realize they were nuns. They all looked young and pretty- but so do young tibetan monks. At the nunnery they all played horn like insturments. After chanting they brought these out and started doing something. It sounded like a 3rd grade orchestra practice, and it definitely wasn't pretty. Lhaba never really explained the noise-chant-band pracice sounds that emitted from the nunnery prayer hall. We didn't ask though.

Our second, and my favorite, stop was at the meditation retreat. Lhaba told us it was a small community of people that retreated to the mountains to pray and meditate. They would probably never leave the community. It was really peaceful, covered in prayer flags, stupas and small brick like housing.

One male monk let us peek into his hole as he was praying. The hole was so warm and cozy, which i didn't expect. He gave us some nectar, pouring into our cupped hands

The woman we had tea with in the meditation community
The woman we had tea with in the meditation community
At the monastery we ate like starved Kings. the food was fresh. Very very fresh. Like I said before, I wasn't expecting fresh food in Tibet. I don't know why but I expected a bland diet of meat, potatoes, onions or root like vegetables and yak butter. Instead, we were pleasently suprised with fresh everything- from yak meat to tomatos to fruit. Even our hard boiled eggs in the morning tasted like they were fresh from the chicken- they were still warm!

We ate a combinatino of Tibetan, Western, Nepalise and Indian food. Yak momo is delicoius (Yak dumplings) and they had a tomato/cucumber salad that was amazing. They did both pancakes and french fries especially well. We tried to sample as much as possible- hey we are growing college kids.

Other recommendations:
Local Children
Local Children
That afternoon we slept and explored the community outside. I really wanted to swim but no one would hike with me to the water. It was great seeing the locals go about their daily tasks as we snapped pictures. That night, Conor sat around a campfire inside the monastery with monks. They were roasting potatos and singing songs.

Erik and I found a few stray dogs that we befriended and fed. One dog wasn't too trusting but the other was a sweety that I would have taken back to Beijing with me in a heartbeat.

The next morning (after our second night), we toured the monastery. We listened to the monks prayer ceremony, looked through the temples and watched the woman working on the roof. They sang Superman will help us build this roof to a steady chant/beat. It was fun to watch, and funny when Lhaba translated the words. Oh Superman, you exist even in Tibet.

Published on Tuesday November 15th, 2005

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Sat, Apr 08 2006 - 06:20 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Lovely, lovely, lovely report!!!

Tue, Apr 04 2006 - 03:16 PM rating by jesusferro

I have been in Tibet and therefore can value and appreciate your report very high. Well done!

Fri, Mar 31 2006 - 01:33 PM rating by alfonsovasco

This is really a marvelous report, my God!

Mon, Nov 28 2005 - 04:07 PM rating by britman

Well written interesting report - -and a real travel experience

Fri, Nov 18 2005 - 02:06 PM rating by magsalex

Great report with great pictures. You are fast becoming one of the sites most prolific writers!

Tue, Nov 15 2005 - 08:38 PM rating by mistybleu

I really enjoyed reading this report and you have captures the essence of the monks debating. Well done. - Misty -

Tue, Nov 15 2005 - 12:39 PM rating by toribio


Tue, Nov 15 2005 - 11:19 AM rating by rangutan

Excellent stuff again!

Tue, Nov 15 2005 - 10:32 AM rating by gloriajames

hiya veronica,
this is indeed one of your better reports. well done,

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