Lhasa is for lamas...
Trip Start Jul 26, 2006
109Trip End Apr 01, 2008
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I take it as a truism that absolute power over others is a corrupting influence, and religious leader or not, it's frightening to consider what common Tibetans could have been subjected to by a corrupt feudal theocracy
On the flip side, I've heard enough stories from Tibetans in recent weeks about the horrors of China's occupation that I feel as if, to quote Chinese farmer and environmentalist Tian Guirong, "when I die I will not be able to close my eyes." If this is what "liberation" looks like, I reckon I'd stick with the devil I know.
So yeah, the rain. It turns out that this is Tibet's rainy season, although judging from the barren landscapes I've seen surrounding Lhasa, that phrase must be quite relative. According to my travel guide, Tibet, or at least this part of Tibet, is one of the driest parts of the country
The great thing is that the train leaves early in the morning, so I should get two full days of sunlight to view the Chinese countryside. I love trains, and this should be the momma of all train rides, taking the most luxurious seat on the highest railway in the world. This particular route has only even been running for a little over two months, and the new train station in Lhasa is impressively large and modern-looking. In addition, given some of the safety concerns I've heard voiced recently, better to take the ride now than later when it's had the chance to degrade a bit. Actually, I've heard concerns about the train from a number of fronts. Some people are concerned about the train's safety, given that it's at such a high altitude and was apparently built at least partly on permafrostFree Tibet movement (who's website I can't access here--must be the "Great Firewall of China" at work) have called for a boycott of the train, because it advances China's occupation and integration of Tibet.
These are all serious concerns, and I don't want to minimize them. At the same time, I *really* don't want to spend a few days on a bus just going from Lhasa to Golmud, and at least from an environmental perspective, it seems difficult to argue against a train when your other options are a bus or a plane. As for the concerns of the Free Tibet movement, that's a bit trickier. For one thing, I don't think there's unanimity within even the Tibetan community as to how things should proceed and how foreigners can act in solidarity. And while I think China has been guilty of some absolutely heinous crimes in Tibet, and that international pressure should be brought to bear on the country to change its policies (e.g., stop the heavy-handed interference in the practice of Tibetan Buddhism), it also seems, at least from this end of things, that Tibet is a part of China for the foreseeable future. And as part of China, it should reap the same benefits of development as the rest of the country, an adequate transportation structure primary among them. So I don't know, probably a lot of faulty, self-serving logic employed there, but one can't help but focus on pragmatism on a rainy day in Lhasa.