Friday, October 31, 2008

Lhasa, Tibet AR, 27/09/08 -

At lunchtime we visited the Tibet museum. It was built about two years ago (anyone spotting a pattern?) and had some interesting stuff, but was just what you'd expect.

The guardian of the cemetery.

Coral mask.

A loom - I thought this was excellent, but the lighting didn't allow for a clear shot.

This shot is a little clearer.

It was at about this point that we stopped listening to the recorded 'guide'. The rest was a little hard to stomach, especially the 'natural mineral resources' room (which was annotated, but not in English or Tibetan).

Tibet has ever been an attraction of visit in its unknowns . The "No-man's
Land" to the north of the plateau is ever more unknown . It is described as a
natural treasure owing to its bright future with its particular geographical cond-
itions and rich natural resourse . Since the peaceful liberation of Tibet , parti-
cularly since the reform and opening up , by the tender care of the Chinese Co-
mmunist party Central Committee and by the highly concern and correct leade-
rship of the Tibet Autonomous Region Party Committee , including the help of
the sister departments , the "No-man's Land" in Tibet's northern pla-teau has
undergone a remarkable change in its protection and establishments , in its sci-
ence and technology achievements , in its protection of science , and a good
foundation is laid for its proper opening of natural resources.
This exhibition , chiefly of a selection of photos and samples provided by
the Tibetan Traditional Medicine Circles ( including samples provided by Tibe-
t's other regions ) is to help people directly to understand the fascination of
the "No-man's Land" in Tibet's northern plateau of Nakchu , To improve und-
erstanding the protection of wild life , and to accelerate the protection ,
development and establishment of the "No-man's Land" in Tibet's northern
plateau of Nakchu .

Nuff said.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Lhasa, Tibet AR, 27/09/08 -

Seen on many market stalls were these hats:

I was a little taken aback, but now deeply regret not getting one.

We walked along the pilgrims' walk this morning and saw stupas and prayer stones and pray flags. You can see the cosmos in this picture, under the flags.

Even prayer yak skulls. And buddhas and bodhisattvas.

The carvings and flags and offerings made me feel bewildered. The sky made me feel prayerful.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Lhasa, Tibet AR, 26/09/08 -

In the afternoon we visited Norbulingka, the summer palaces of the 7th, 8th, 13th and 14th dalai lamas. 9th through 12th didn't get a chance to build summer palaces because they all died young.

I was fascinated by these symbols. If the legs are clockwise they are symbols of the Buddhist faith in Tibet and if they are anti-clockwise the are symbols of the Bom faith that was replaced by Buddhism in Tibet. This one is outside the summer palace of the 7th dalai lama

Norbulingka was lovely and cool. And flat.

This was the entrance walk to the palace of the 13th dalai lama.

And the fanciest was that of the 14th dalai lama. We couldn't take pictures of the inside, but it was pretty fancy in a faded-glory 50s sort of a way.

Outside was this awful park-thing that was built about two years ago. The paving was already falling apart and it was all kinds of ugly. But if you looked up you saw crazy prayer flags. Apparently the higher they are (the more dangerous it is to put them there) the better the prayers.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dancing Moss -

I started a new hat today (cause I need another one) cause I saw a great pattern and have this really great yarn.

It is even likely to fit someone given the timely observation by my house mate that it was enormous with an extra pattern repeat in it. This time I listened sooner and ripped after four rows.

I want a kitten, please.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Lhasa, Tibet AR, 26/09/08 -

In the morning we went to Jokhang temple. It was right by our hotel and is one of the holiest places in Lhasa. It was also very pretty.

On the roof was this Buddhist symbol, I remember being told the explanation for the deer and the wheel, but it is lost in the dim mists of waay too much information about sects and hats and panchens and compassionate bodhisattvas.

On the roof we met an American traveller who told us about an earthquake in Shigatse (the town we were supposed to go to in two days time). It turned out it was in Shigatse region, not the town, so it was all fine fine and if you didn't do things in Tibet because of the earthquakes it would be like not doing things in Dorset because of the rain.

In one direction you could see the Potala (yes, I made it to the top of that red bit - I have no evidence or memory of it, but I did get there.)

In the other direction... mountains (if I had moved the camera slightly to the right, you would be able to see all the army guys with guns. Army guys standing around on the rooves. Watching the crowds. With big guns.).

I could have spent the whole trip looking at the mountains.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Spring -

My second favourite time of year. I love the flowers.

I love the green that new leaves have.

I keep getting distracted by the pretty colours and have to go over for a closer look.

But there is no colour more distracting than the outrageous pink of the pigface. I have no time for this colour, but on the pigface it works.

Mustaa villaa asked the hard questions today: "What do you think? What would be the ideal amount for you? And how much sock yarn do you have?"
I think she has a lovely collection of sock yarn. I think the ideal amount for me would be enough for eight pairs. I discovered, after a quick Sunday-morning yarn audit (and it seems I missed two skeins hiding in special places), I have enough sock yarn for 32 pairs...

Of course, I don't intend to use all the sock yarn for socks, so, if you take out the stuff intended for other projects, it is only 15 pairs. But I think this is a timely reminder not to buy any more sock yarn. No matter how pretty.
Lhasa, Tibet AR, 25/09/08 -

This was still at Drepung. The pink flowers you can see at the back were everywhere, monasteries, roadsides, hillsides. I didn't know what they were, but Bev told me they are Cosmos. I am tempted to sneak some into the front of the apartment to make it all pretty.

We spent the morning at Drepung then went to a carpet factory. It was lunchtime so it was deserted, all the weavers were off eating. The carpets were heartbreakingly beautiful and worth the (several thousand dollars) money that they were asking. Each piece had so much work in it, and they were desperate to sell something. They have had no income because there have been no tourists, so they just kept dropping the price. We didn't know how to explain that we weren't that sort of rich, white tourist that has a spare seven grand, even for the most beautiful silk carpet they've ever seen.

I was feeling more and more sick with a cold in the head and the hard sell we were subjected to wasn't helping.

We went straight from there to the Potala Palace. I had stopped drinking on account of needing a, um, rest room and we didn't stop to get lunch. We weren't allowed to take water into the Potala (security, blah, blah).

This picture is the only one I took of the Potala Palace and pretty much all I remember about it.

Apart from the neverending stairs. All I could concentrate on was taking twenty more steps then stopping to breathe. Twenty more steps then oxygen. Get to the corner and you can stop for air. Just these eight steps and then breathe.

The guide, bless him, had a wealth of knowledge, but kept stopping to tell us about it in these dark little rooms full of people and yak butter candles and incense and no air. I didn't think I was going to die because the only thing I had room for in my brain was getting my lungs to work.

That night we met up with my friend and she took us to her place to meet her family and have some dinner. Her mum has an excellent garden and the house was an amazing example of how (apparently typical of Tibetan architecture) people can live in harmony with their environment. Most Tibetan houses have a south facing 'glass room' that catches the light and is comfortable and warm for most of winter without heating, and most have a room that is built facing north so that it stays cool and pleasant through summer without needing airconditioning.

Her mum doesn't really like going out and prefers to stay home and potter in her garden.
Given people were being taken off the street and disappearing for months with no word, it is hardly a surprise. I would stay home, too.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Lhasa, Tibet AR, 25/09/08 -

This was the view from breakfast.

The first monastery of the trip was Drepung. This is the monastery where the troubles started earlier in the year.

You can see in this picture, on the balcony thing, one of the solar stoves. Every monastery and many of the towns and villages had these. There is a lot of sun in Tibet, so it makes a lot of sense. They stick a kettle on the holder in the middle.

The walls were very thick, every window was painted around with black (good luck? keep away the bad spirits? I can't remember), and most window sills had pots of flowers. There were many geraniums and chrysanthemums.

This place has been here for hundreds of years, surviving plateau winters and earthquakes. It was closed down by the government from 14th March until shortly before our visit. Many of the monks were taken away on the train line (the one they just finished building?) and no one knows what has happened to them.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Lhasa, Tibet AR, 24/9/08 -

We were supposed to spend the first day resting - to help acclimatise us to the altitude. Of course we went exploring instead, following the pilgrims on their path around the Jokhang temple. It is usually much more crowded, but, with the region closed to foreigners for the better part of the peak season, Tibet's tourism industry was crippled this year.

When I lived in China, I shared the foreign teachers' dormitory with a Tibetan girl. We kept each other sane while we each dealt with homesickness and the weirdness that is Beijing. Now, seven years later, we have seen each other again. We have made tentative plans for her to come and holiday in Australia, assuming passports and things can be arranged.

This is a rather crappy photo (late at night, etc.). I made her a Birch to try and tell her a little bit how much she means to me.

She is doing amazing things.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Lhasa, Tibet AR, 24/09/08 -

We flew in to Lhasa airport. We flew up the valley *between* the mountains. Mum was pretty worried about acute mountain sickness. We hadn't been able to get on the train - they'd told us it was booked out.

It seems like they tell all foreigners that it is booked out, but that is not true. Two women we'd met in Chengdu had managed to get on to it by employing persistent nagging.

Flying in worked out well in the end, though - we didn't get acute mountain sickness, in spite of flying from 500m to 3600m above sea level, and were only delayed 5 hours in the Chengdu airport on account of a thunderstorm there. We saw the women who took they train and they were delayed 18 hours due to a landslide over the tracks.

The Chinese put in the train line about two years ago and don't seem to have thought about the frequency of earthquakes on the Tibetan plateau and the constant shifting of the mountains. Or perhaps the continual landslides are a sign that Tibet, she don't like the train line.

We were shown to this cafe, a part of the Snowlands hotel, on the first afternoon and drank sweet masala tea. It became something of a home away from home while we were in Lhasa.

And we found some medicine in our hotel room. You will notice it "relieves the headache, insomnin, anorexia, nausea, dizziness of acute mountain sickness."

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Chengdu, Sichuan provence, 22-23/09/08 -

It reminded me of Kaylee.

We walked to Wenshu temple. Until this point I'd just felt I was waiting for the 'real' trip to begin.

But the gardens around the temple were incredibly peaceful and much cooler than the rest of the city.

And we ended up spending a great deal of time there. I couldn't order spicy Sichuan food, mum wasn't interested, but the monks made a great lunch for us. Then we drank tea in the tea garden, I got to speak to lots of Chinese women who liked my knitting.