We have been driving by van through Northern China into Tibet, stopping at monasteries, and meeting people. Today I saw the Yellow River, which looks just like Chocolate Milk/Yoo-hoo! We also saw dead bodies hauled from a landslide. The soil here is really clay, so when it rains a lot, as it did last night. The mountainsides just tumble down.
My first impression of Northern Tibet was as follows:
I was surprised that Xi Ning is actually a big city and reminds me more of Shanghai than of any idea I had about Tibet. Here there are many Han Chinese, Tibetans, and Muslims. The Muslims all wear white caps and are very courteous.
The Chinese have been building massive amounts of infrastructure in Xi Ning, so the city feels made for 40 million instead of the actual four million that live there.
Today, we are much deeper in Tibet after a 7-hour van ride with many stops due to the bad roads, and there are only Tibetans here with many monks and sheep. So far, we have been staying in the monastery hostels, which are nice and clean but minimal. The air is clean up here, but dusty and very cold!
We have been eating in mostly Islamic restaurants. The food is good and I am eating a lot of vegetables, mostly spicy cucumbers, and bread with cumin. The beverage of choice here is a lovely tea with 12 kinds of dried fruit in it. It is sweet and filling as you eat the dragon eyes and dates from it after drinking the tea. They also serve many kinds of lamb. All the food is halal [and kosher], so the restaurants/tents are thankfully clean.
One surprise, did you know that sugar helps you deal with altitude changes? Drinking sugar in your tea prevents problems when moving into dramatically higher altitudes "“ a good tip to know.
We spent six hours touring famous temples in Northern Tibet. All that walking and hiking was difficult in the high altitude, no air! Each temple I visited is dedicated to a different Buddha and an amazing history. A young monk who he gave me a leaf from a sacred tree led around us.
The story is as follows: The Buddha gave his mother a seed and told here to plant it so that she would always remember him. She planted it outside of the temple where he was born and on the back of each leaf is his image. This is open to interpretation as far as I am concerned, but it is a special leaf. I saw many people crowded around this poor tree scouring the ground trying to find a leaf!
I am so glad that I have come on this trip. It is long and I have had a great deal of difficulty finding any time to complete schoolwork for back home, but I think it is an amazing time for the baby and me to bond. Also, the energy in the temples is so serene and peaceful. I know it's too early to feel the baby move, but I’m definitely feeling an energy in the womb (wow- first time I ever used that word non-religiously!) that is new and wonderful. I think this baby will be spiritual and like a roller coaster as the van ride has been quite the adventure.
I’m using a monk’s laptop!
Written and photography by Eileen Moran
Stay tuned to In The Know Traveler more of Eileen’s China experience. -Editor-