Apart from modernity, reverence and old world charm
were covered in dust, too.
The image of this woman lying in the middle of a busy shopping street in Barkhor Square in Lhasa has abided deeply in me after a trip to “the roof of the world” to attend the Tibet development forum.
As she stood up, joined her palms together and again prostrated herself on the road in front of Jokhang Temple, the holiest site for Tibetan Buddhist, I began to understand why Tibet is so special.
Outwardly Lhasa, with its gleaming highways, shopping malls and fast-food restaurants, including a KFC, looks like any modern city, but it still has an old-world charm.
In front of Jokhang Temple, the faithful pray and prostrate themselves -– some prostrating themselves for more than one and a half years on the road from their hometowns in Sichuan or Gansu provinces to Lhasa.
Inside the red and white Potala Palace, the jewel of Lhasa, the smell of incense, the passageways that are so narrow that only one person can walk at one time, the rows and rows of ancient scriptures stacked on the walls and crimson-robed monks sitting on thick mattresses chanting prayers transport the visitor to a different era.
Then there is the magic of live-action drama of Princess Wencheng, an epic show that tells the story of marriage of a Chinese princess to a Tibetan king. It is held in the open air at the foot of a mountain every night. The whole spectacle — the 800 dancers and singers, the princess’s golden outfit, the drums, the display of lights on the slopes of the hills — has to be seen and heard firsthand to appreciate its scale and grandeur.
There was a time when traveling anywhere in Tibet was a back-breaking experience, but not anymore.
Cruise to Lhasa’s neighboring areas of Shannan and Tsedang on highways surrounded by the Himalayas on one side and the Nyenchen Tanglha mountain range on the other. The spell of the sky-high peaks is only broken periodically by the crystal-clear waters of Lhasa River, a tributary of the Yarlung Zangbo River (Brahmaputra River).
A practical tip: Make sure ladies answer nature’s call beforehand or stop the vehicle near bushes otherwise, like my colleagues, they will have to walk a long way to find a suitable spot.