Tibet Off The Beaten Path Tips by tiganeasca
Tibet Off The Beaten Path: 32 reviews and 41 photos
“Wel-come to Everest Lodge and Restuarant.”
About thirty minutes south from Rongbuk Monastery, the road opens into a wide gravel plain. Everest lies a bit over seven miles away, straight ahead, dead center. Base Camp itself is a completely unprepossessing place: a wide shallow stream on the right side of the road, a handful of large square tents on the left and, beyond them, a large herd of grazing yak. The yak are almost all saddled and tended to by several dozen Tibetans. Only a few other vehicles are there and a handful of other tourists; no expeditions gearing up for an assault.
Ahead of us is what appears to be an abandoned windowless concrete building on the back of which is a crudely painted announcement: “After Everest B[ase] C[amp] all the tourist are not permitted to go up. If any want then contract B C staff. If any tourist group without contract B C then we punish (fine) 200 U S dollar.” Another wall sports a bright red “STOP” followed by a few lines in Chinese. Halfway up the glacial ridge on our left is a long squat stone building housing Chinese authorities. Outside it is a tall flagpole with the bright red Chinese flag.
More welcoming is a blue sign with hand-painted lettering: "Wel-come to Everest Lodge and Restuarant." There is a brief line in Chinese above. Underneath, in smaller lettering, is the caution, “Base Camp Altitude (5200M).” There is even a homey touch—a big old saucepan hanging from the signpost.
The best vantage point for the object of all this travel, by the way, is a small hill no more than a hundred feet high. It offers a slightly more elevated and completely unobstructed view of Everest.
One evening as we sat enjoying our dinner camped one night on the plain at Tingri, we were surprised by eight freshly scrubbed children--in and of itself a surprising sight--bearing their schoolbooks at the open flap of our tent. They stood quietly, looking in to our tent. When asked, they said that they wanted to have pens for their schoolwork. The leader, no more than 7 or 8 years old, had the most devastating smile I have ever seen.
Attractive when she wore her serious face, her smile truly lit up her face. It would have been hard to resist a demand for anything when that smile appeared. We could spare only one or two pens and had long since learned that money only brings more beggars. Nor did we have candy or gum or any other the other common gifts we had been giving away.
Keen to offer something, I recalled a tip I had read before leaving home: people will often welcome even pictures of Tibet itself for many of them have never been far from home. So, after checking to make sure that this was true, I ripped out all of the picture pages from one of my guidebooks. I silently thanked the editors for ensuring that my book had exactly as many pages as there were children. They were thrilled. Candy, money, and toys aren't the only thing these children want.
Yumbulagang is variously called a palace, a fortress, and a chapel. According to legend, holy texts fell from the heavens onto its roof, proclaiming the appearance of Buddhism in Tibet. Whatever it may have been originally, there is no question that the Chinese completely destroyed this stunningly located thousand-year-old structure in 1969. Without knowing its history, most visitors would probably be surprised to learn that the structure there now was completely rebuilt in 1982. The faithful replica is maintained by a handful of Geluk monks.
Yumbulagang sits in the Yarlung Valley atop a rocky ledge. Although it is not particularly high (the walk up the ridge takes a lazy half hour), the brightly painted buildings present a striking profile, silhouetted on a rock spur against brown cliffs and rocky overhangs. The higher one climbs within the complex of buildings, the broader the vista. Soon, the entire valley is laid out before you in both directions, terraced fields looking like a patchwork quilt and the lonely road so rarely hosts a vehicle that civilization dwindles into insignificance.
The chapel itself is a series of interconnected small buildings. (Re-)constructed of stone and wood, Yumbulagang boasts bright yellow roofs and more prayer flags than I saw anywhere else in Tibet. After climbing up and down simple log ladders--it seemed more like treehouse than religious building at times--we eventually walked down the long path again.
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