Tibetan Plumber Asphixiated in Remote Hotel

Trip Start Sep 05, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Flag of China  , Xizang,
Monday, January 10, 2011

When light finally appeared behind the curtains this morning showing that it must, at last, be nine o'clock, I just felt relief that the terrible night was over. We had remained wrapped under 2 duvets in our freezing room since 7pm yesterday, and the night had seemed an endless cycle of waking with a raging thirst and having a drink which let the cold in, then desperately trying to get back to sleep despite a horrendous pounding headache. Mikey is still not better so I went down to breakfast without him, more to find out how everyone else had fared than any desire to eat. Only 4 of the group were down there, and all agreed they had never been so cold inside. Gemma had brought down a 2 litre water bottle from her room which was frozen solid!  

Breakfast was two fairy cakes, bread, some peanuts and a boiled egg – a welcome change from onion omelettes and Mikey managed to eat two cakes in the room before I left him to go out to the Tashimopo monastery. I arranged with the guide that we would take him to the doctors if he wasn’t better when we got back. I also got him to send somebody up to fix our non-flushing toilet which was in a dreadful state after Mikey being ill all night. When I left a poor girl was in there with an enormous plunger and Mikey was hiding from the smell with his head under the covers.

Even the 10 minute walk to the monastery was a challenge with everyone feeling so out of breath, but it was well worth it.  The place was packed with Tibetan and Chinese pilgrims who were as fascinated by us as we were by them. We went straight to see an enormous statue of Buddha – I’m not sure if it is the biggest in Tibet or China or the world, it’s difficult to remember and having not been allowed to bring any guide books  into the country, impossible to verify. It was certainly a very big and impressive statue however and the guide said it was solid gold (not sure this is true!)

 In total we entered 3 more temples each filled with a huge stupa* containing sacred remains  before which pilgrims were offering everything from butter and money to pens and hairclips. Monks in red robes and cosy Tibetan boots sat chanting mantras and blessing the worshippers.* (I think this is what they were)  Every inch of the temples’ walls were covered in amazingly intricate paintings. Apparently they depicted  4 different Buddhas – the past, present, future and wealthy. They were shown in a myriad of different poses, one even had 1000 arms and eyes and 11 heads.

Aside from seeing everything at the temple, the crowds meant it was a great opportunity to get up close to the Tibetan people. The women all have incredibly long hair in two plaits with coloured cotton woven into it and wear thick black dresses with a coloured apron to show they are married. The men had thick short black coats and some had their hair plaited as well. All had rosy red cheeks from the harsh climate and faces so prematurely wrinkled it was impossible to tell their ages. I suspect that the incredibly wizen and stooped women with walking sticks were probably only 50 or 60.  The children were absolutely adorable, wrapped up in layers and layers and the tiniest ones strapped onto a parents back in a warm woollen blanket. Many seemed to have got lost in the crowds, but were unconcernedly looking after their siblings and waiting to be picked up. I also saw that the babies don’t wear nappies they just have trousers with a hole so that they can squat and go as they need – many went in the monastery and that seemed to be just fine. Children and adults alike were incredibly friendly and smiley, some having a good giggle at us with our funny clothes and faces.

When I got back to the hotel Mikey was feeling a bit better so we decided against the doctor and I made him eat half a pot noodle. He explained that while we had been out the hotel porter had spent 2 hours in our toilet de-toxifying it and then  fixing it. He said the guy was groaning all the time! Of dear, hopefully we can find him and give him a big tip.

This afternoon Mikey felt strong enough to come for a wander round town, and we met lots more lovely locals who gave us beaming grins and shouted hello. One guy even insisted on having his photo with us in several poses. We managed to buy a hairdryer which should keep us a bit warmer tonight and also means I can wash my hair for the first time in a week. (Oh no I cant - the bathroom is a toxic area.) Apart from the shops selling prayer flags, wheels and Buddhas we saw furniture shops in which men sat painting them with the detailed designs we’ve seen in the hotels and restaurants.

After an hour walking we were absolutely exhausted and gasping for air again – a really horrible feeling. We’ve since come back to the room and poor Mikey is asleep and I’m trying to keep still and conserve oxygen!  It’s strange to think that we could have been here on bikes if we’d found a tour, but feeling this was I’m glad we’re not!
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