Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Tibet

Hmmm.... Seems Savannah is a little less popular after that last post. As group leader maybe I am to blame. Honestly though, take it for what it really is, the frustrated rantings of a 15 year old that is being dragged around the world against her will. She's actually been really good and is enjoying and learning a lot. Read her other posts. Besides, an opinion is an opinion and even an open mind doesn't always accept all it sees. I'd rather have a blog that is honest than one that is politically correct anyway.
Heh, now for my opinion.......
To be perfectly honest, I didn't like Tibet. It was a major disappointment. Everyone seems to think that it is some holy magical place and you will instantly feel this or be transformed by it all. Truth is, it's just another mess like anywhere else. The expectations are too high and I'd suggest that everyone not bother wasting their money unless they are hell-bent on going in the first place. I've had much more enlightening experiences in monasteries and talking to monks in other parts of South East Asia. Because of it's reputation, Tibet has become a tourist trap for all the tourists coming up to see it. The worst part is that it is completely run by the Tibetan Tourism Mafia that makes up all sorts of crazy rules and has everyone paranoid or is a scammer. See below for examples. It's a better deal just to see the Tibetans and Tibetan culture from areas neighbouring it in China or Nepal. The people are nicer and things seem more authentic actually.
I'm glad I went, I saw lots, I come away with a better understanding than I had before but don't ask me to go back because I never will. In that regard I put it in the same category as Vietnam, the only other place I won't go back to. Lovely place but like Tibet, I couldn't stand the way the system is set up to rip off tourists. It's a little bit of an exaggeration but it honestly felt like every Tibetan was a graduate of the "Hello, Money" school of annoyance. Beggars everywhere, the pilgrims, old people, villagers, and even a few monks greeted us with outstretched hands saying "hello, money". Yes I know Tibetans are poor and oppressed by the Chinese but if you think they are the only people with this problem on Earth you are sorely mistaken. The Burmese and people from numerous other poor countries I've been to (with the exception of Vietnam) did not do this to the same extent. I don't really care and it's not that which bugs me per se (otherwise we might as well completely skip India) but it seriously detracts from any "holy" atmosphere and turns something that could be really cool into a headache. Unfortunately I was expecting something very cool but never got any good vibes from the people or the place. Just the way it is.
For the record, Lhasa had the most rats openly running around than I have seen anywhere else. Don't know why, as it wasn't really that much dirtier. Kyrgyzstan (Bishkek and Osh) was also pretty bad for that with big fat ones on the streets.
From Lhasa we took a local bus to Shigatse. It's the 2nd largest Tibetan town but is very Chinese now too. I hate to break it to you, but we started looking for Chinese places to deal with because they were more trustworthy (ie. would actually give you a decent amount of food and then not try to rip you off). From Shigatse it's not possible to take local transport any further toward the border so you have to organize something else. The agencies know this so totally try to rip you off. If you talk to anyone else you'll be lucky if they don't run away screaming at the mention of the border. Seriously, they get all twitchy and paranoid.
We ran into four Swiss guys with the same problem as us. They were so mad at Tibet it was funny. We went to Gyantse together an hour away to see another big monastery. I think technically we needed a permit to go there but who knows the rules. In any case we didn't get one. On our way back to Shigatse we were dumped off the minibus just outside of town because they were afraid to take us past the checkpoints whether we had a permit or not. Like I said, paranoid. We searched Shigatse for a ride for 2 days before finding something almost reasonable. 2 jeeps for the 8 of us with 2 locals going as well. They tell you that you don't need permits to go on the road, that it is all perfectly legit, but you can't have more than 5 people in a jeep because it is illegal. If all that is true, why were we sneaking past the checkpoints with all 8 of us temporarily in one vehicle? After 2 days of driving on the worst road of the whole trip (and there are a lot of bad roads to compare to so far) they dumped us an hour's walk outside of the border town and made us walk so they didn't get busted by the checkpoints there. By the time we got across and on our way to the Nepal border the Swiss guys were seriously looking for a Chinese flag to burn on the way. By then I don't think we would've stopped them either. At least we got to see Mt. Everest from a distance on the way to the border......
Whereas Tibet is totally barren and like driving through a gravel pit, Nepal was immediately green, tropical and really humid. Such a dramatic shift was unbelievable.
Right on the other side of the border it looked like India (the people, smells, buildings and accents). They are really nice compared to Tibet.
Nepal has the Maoist rebels so there are checkpoints all along the road but the soldiers will actually smile, wave and even joke with you, unlike the stone-faced chinese guards. Much nicer feel right away. It certainly helps that they speak quite a bit of english out here too. We caught another jeep to Kathmandu where we are now. Talk about craziness. They are nice (maybe too nice) though. Everyone here is trying to get you to go trekking and if you aren't careful you'll be stuck having tea with someone in their shop. Ha, it's great. We will be here for the week getting organized until Bre's friend Brittany arrives on the 26th. Then the 5 of us will take off up the mountain to get to Everest Base Camp.
Ammon
PS. We are actually in good moods even if the blogs don't sound like it.

2 Comments:

At 5:20 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Take it slow on your way to the everest base camp I here it's really easy to get altatude sikness. Lets face it you don't want that again. whill you're on you are there you got to tell me what it's like I've wanted to know for awile now. So write with lots of detail okay.
Love you all
Amanda

 
At 6:57 AM , Blogger Sandra said...

Great pictures! The sunday market looks so unreal! Wow... Girls all look good and healthy, but Ammon.. Umm ..haha!... Anyways, pictures are SUPER good! I will certainly look at the pictures again later. If you 'feel like' you are having altitude sickness (Bre, either in "good " way or not) slow down and rest. Don't kill yourself or each other.
OK bye for now and take care!
lots of luv,
Sandra

 

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