TOURISM BOOM OF­FERS VIL­LAGERS NEW SOURCE OF IN­COME

China Daily (Canada) - - TIBET - By PALDEN NYIMA in Lhokha, Ti­bet palden_ny­ima@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Horse rid­ing busi­nesses, fam­ily inns, eth­nic hand­i­craft sellers ben­e­fit

As the first rays of morn­ing sun­shine crest the snow-capped moun­tains of the Ti­betan plateau, Kal­sang Dorje makes his way to the sa­cred palace of Yumbu Lakhar with his beloved horse.

Built around 200 BC atop Jomo Tashi Tser­ing Hill in Ne­dong county, Yumbu Lakhar is held to be the Ti­bet au­ton­o­mous re­gion’s first palace.

Ac­cord­ing to leg­end, it was the home of the first Ti­betan king Ny­a­tri Tsanpo, and its name lit­er­ally trans­lates as “palace built on the thigh of a fe­male deer”, be­cause of the shape of the hill on which it stands.

Like many of his fel­low farm­ers liv­ing near the palace, Kal­sang Dorje runs a horse-rid­ing busi­ness at the foot of the hill dur­ing the peak sum­mer tourist sea­son, earn­ing a liv­ing by al­low­ing vis­i­tors to ride his horses or pose for pic­tures with them.

By of­fer­ing horse rides to one of the re­gion’s most rec­og­niz­able land­marks, along­side the sale of eth­nic hand­i­crafts such as prayer beads, Ti­betan farm­ers can im­prove their in­comes and liv­ing stan­dards.

Today, there are about 70 vil­lagers en­gaged in the area’s horserid­ing busi­ness, but Kal­sang Dorje was the first to start hir­ing out his horse. His wrin­kled, sun-tanned face stands tes­ta­ment to the diffi of mak­ing a liv­ing at an at­ti­tude of al­most 3,600 me­ters.

“Horses have sup­ported me. With­out horses, my life would not be as rich as it is today,” said the 61-year-old, with a grin.

When asked how he came up with the idea of of­fer­ing horse rides to tourists, Kal­sang Dorje said it all be­gan one day 20 years ago, when he was trans­port­ing wa­ter near the palace on don­key back.

At the time, a tourist had joked that he would pay for a ride on the don­key, and the farmer was so taken by this idea that he could not get it out of his head.

The next month he bought a horse, fit­ted it with a dec­o­ra­tive har­ness and within a year he was earn­ing good money from his new busi­ness.

“I treat my horses as I would my own chil­dren. I have had five dif­fer­ent horses in the past two decades,” he said.

“Horses give me the great­est plea­sure in life — and in­deed, it is not just me, but most of our vil­lagers who are now en­gaged with the busi­ness.”

Since 1999, Kal­sang Dorje has en­cour­aged more than 40 vil­lagers to start of­fer­ing horse rides, shar­ing his ex­pe­ri­ences with them.

They have set up two teams to serve tourists, en­sur­ing that all get a fair chance to make money.

One such vil­lager is Ge­sang Tser­ing, who has been en­gaged in the horse-rid­ing busi­ness for four years.

“Kal­sang Dorje is our trail­blazer in this busi­ness, thanks to him, I have found a good way to earn a liv­ing for my fam­ily,” he said.

“So far this year, we have had fewer tourists than last year, but I hope more will ar­rive in June.”

The 40-year-old said he could earn about 200 ($30) to 300 yuan per day when busi­ness was good, as a ride costs 30 yuan.

This has helped his fam­ily’s an­nual in­come to in­crease from 10,000 yuan it was four years ago to more than 20,000 yuan today.

Ac­cord­ing to lo­cal of­fi­cials, the in­crease in tourists in re­cent years has also pro­vided other op­por­tu­ni­ties for vil­lagers to sup­ple­ment their in­come.

Be­side horse rides, many vil­lagers run fam­ily inns, and some sell lo­cal tourism prod­ucts near the palace.

“On one hand, tourism has widened the job op­por­tu­ni­ties of the vil­lagers, and on the other hand, it has in­jected a new source of in­come for the ru­ral res­i­dents,” said Luo Yun, head of the tourism bureau in Lhokha, the clos­est city to Yumbu Lakhar.

Tourism has been a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and has helped Mon­drol­gang vil­lagers im­prove their qual­ity of life, Luo added.

Khe­drub, vice- chairman of Lhokha’s Chi­nese Peo­ple’s Po­lit­i­cal Con­sul­ta­tive Con­fer­ence com­mit­tee, said the city and sur­round­ing area were en­riched with his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural re­sources.

“Many cul­tural scenes in the city are still be­ing dis­cov­ered by tourists, and this can be­come a driv­ing force of the city’s tourism in the near fu­ture,” said the 58-year-old.

PALDEN NYIMA / CHINA DAILY PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Yumbu Lakhar Palace (top), stand­ing on the Jomo Tashi Tser­ing Hill, is the first palace of Ti­bet with a his­tory of more than 2,000 years. More than 70 res­i­dents (above) iv­ing at the foot of the Jomo Tashi Tser­ing Hill are mak­ing a liv­ing by pro­vid­ing horse-rid­ing ser­vice to tourists.

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