Apart from moder­nity, rev­er­ence and old world charm

China Daily (Canada) - - TIBET -

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.

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