The Monastery, the Beggars and a Change of Plan

Trip Start Jan 31, 1996
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of China  ,
Wednesday, October 18, 2006

 Drepung Monastery, built in the early 1400's, was once the largest monastery in the world. By the 17th century, 7000 monks lived there. Weathered, but still in remarkable condition, it sits terraced at the base of a mountain. Drepung, save for us and a couple of young Chinese guys, was completely untouristed. With the dress of the monks and pilgrims, I felt as though we were back in the 17th or perhaps 15th century.

Ellen, I and our new amigo Max from Germany spent a good part of the day there yesterday. Many of the locals, monks included, eagerly allowed us to photograph them. In return, they wanted only to see their images on the tiny digital screen. One monk came up to me and started patting my hairy pale arm as though I was a puppy. Another fellow saw my equally hairy exposed back as I removed my heavy sweater, looked in awe and said simply "yak".

With the new train and obvious influx of tourists, begging has become almost as popular in Lhasa as it is in Toronto. But they haven't quite got the hang of it. The other day we saw a gold-toothed woman with her left hand out saying likely her only two English words, "hello please".
In her right hand she held about an inch and a half of Chinese paper currency. A four or five year old child stood beside her. He was also saying "hello please" as he clutched a transparent green plastic bag half filled with money.

Most of our time in Lhasa has been spent trying to find a way to get to Mount Everest base camp. Our original plan was to do base camp and a monastery or two, then take the train back down the mountain into southern China and onwards to Hanoi, Vietnam. Our experience on the train trip up here derailed the idea of returning on it. Yesterday, Max suggested that we go with him up to base camp and onwards through the Himalayas to Nepal. We found another guy, a Finn, whose name I'm not quite sure of yet, who will come along with us and help share the cost of this five day journey in a 1985 land cruiser. Ellen has always wanted to see Nepal, so Nepal it shall be.
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dpbaril on

Catching up
Hey Jack!

Finally catching up on your TravelPods since St. Petersburg. Wonderful! The writing is lively and full of humour and the photos are fantastic. I loved the shot of you in shorts and barefoot sandals in the snows of Siberia and the comment about 'smelling' at your companions on the train! I also appreciate that you are telling us a bit more about the people you are meeting along with the great descriptions of the landscape, architecture, etc.

Ciao for now - looking forward to hearing about Nepal.


p.s. Is the Tungsten helpful?

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