Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Historic Center of Lhasa

We spent our first few days in Tibet in the capital city, Lhasa. The city's historic center, Barkhor Square, is a vibrant quarter featuring an eclectic mix of Tibetans walking the kora around the Jokhang Monastery, a multitude of Tibetan arts and crafts vendors and shops, tourists taking in the sights and sounds, and numerous open air yak butcher shops. Just wandering around the meandering streets was an absolute delight.

Some of you may also know that we attempted to bring home a few packs of Yak Jerky as souvenirs, but had them confiscated by the Canada Border Services folks when we landed in Vancouver. It's a good thing we didn't buy the vacuum packed, ready to eat 'Yak Whip Meat' (which I would quickly discover was actually yak penis), or that would've been an embarrassing encounter at the customs counter. But yet, had I attempted to bring home some decorative yak skulls instead of the jerky, apparently, we would have been allowed to do so provided we made efforts to have them properly 'treated'. Sigh... #skullsbeforejerky #saywhaaaaat?

Anyways, I wanted to share some street photos taken of life and sights in and around the Barkhor area.

Barkhor Square-13
Tibetans prostrating themselves inside the Jokhang Monastery.

Barkhor Square-14

Barkhor Square-15
Prostrating outside the Jokhang Monastery.

Barkhor Square-16

Barkhor Square-1
Open air yak and goat meat butcher shops.

Barkhor Square-2

Barkhor Square-3

Barkhor Square-4

Barkhor Square-5

Barkhor Square-8

Barkhor Square-9

Barkhor Square-10
Yak head

Barkhor Square-11

Barkhor Square-12
Decorative yak skulls

Barkhor Square-17

Barkhor Square-18

Barkhor Square-19

Barkhor Square-20

Barkhor Square-21

Barkhor Square-22

Barkhor Square-7

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Punching Your TV

For those of you that didn't watch the third and final US Presidential debate tonight, congratulations, you spared yourself an hour and a half of wanting to punch the the left side of your TV screen where Donald "Bad Hombres" Trump was positioned. Unless of course, you're actually a Trump supporter. In which case, I would question how it is that we're friends, because my friends aren't morons. #dontbeamoron

Anyways, if you did watch the debates and you need something to take your mind off of this election news cycle, here's a scribble I made of a dog in a suit and bowtie. Which would probably make a better president than either Clinton or Trump.

Mr. Tubby-2

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Mt. Kailash Trek

I've curated my first set of photos from Tibet for you. These were taken from our 3 day, 52km trek around the Tibetan holy mountain, Mt. Kailash. The trek started in the remote village of Darchen, at 4575m above sea level, and over the next day and a half, we would trek (more like 'struggle') up to Dorma La Pass which tops out above 5600m, before descending back down and eventually ending up at our guesthouse in Darchen. At these altitudes, hiking the route was like trying to breathe while having a 300lb yak sit on your chest. But despite the difficulty, the views and vistas were incredibly stunning, and there was something spiritually enlightening about trekking amongst the numerous Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims.

I will relate one humourous story before I leave you with the photos: with about 4km to go on the final stretch of the third day, I was grumpy with fatigue, surprisingly short of breath, and was struggling to put one foot in front of the other, when I was awoken from my robotic daze by a pilgrim from India. <--Side note: like Tibetans, Indians also consider Mt. Kailash holy, and come as pilgrims to complete the 3 day kora. However, unlike Tibetans who complete the pilgrimage on foot, they opt to sit on rented horses, and simply have Tibetans lead those horses around the kora for them. --> So this Indian lady, on horseback being pulled by a Tibetan guide on foot starts barking at me, "Hey, American, how far to hotel?" repeatedly. I was bagged, hungry, and sore from a blood blister on my heel that popped overnight, so you'll have to excuse my distaste at her repeated badgering, as if she was the one struggling mightily. Had my brain not been so oxygen deprived, I might have made a "Get off your high horse" pun, but instead could only mutter an irritated 'How the frick would I know?!' before resuming the long death march...

Okay, on to the photos. When I look back at these, they help reframe the memory of my trek from that of a mighty struggle, to one of such breathtaking beauty.

Mt. Kailash Trek-19

Mt. Kailash Trek-1
Along the route, pilgrims had left thousands of painted rocks carved with mantras. Beautiful to see this devotion.

Mt. Kailash Trek-2

Mt. Kailash Trek-3

Mt. Kailash Trek-4
Some of the many Tibetan pilgrims we would encounter during our trek.

Mt. Kailash Trek-5

Mt. Kailash Trek-6
The beautiful valley and creekbed we would hike along for the majority of day 1.

Mt. Kailash Trek-7
Click to view large... worth seeing big.

Mt. Kailash Trek-8
Some of the mountains backdropping our day.

Mt. Kailash Trek-9
Yaks, used as pack animals to carry gear and help re-supply the guesthouses, teahouses, etc.

Mt. Kailash Trek-10
This pilgrim asked me to take his photo, to which I happily obliged.

Mt. Kailash Trek-11
The picturesque snow-covered top of Mt. Kailash.

Mt. Kailash Trek-12
Sunrise hitting Kailash, as we embarked on day 2.

Mt. Kailash Trek-13

Mt. Kailash Trek-14
Prayer flags at Dorma La Pass, 5600+m above sea level. Uber thin air.

Mt. Kailash Trek-15
Pilgrims crossing Dorma La Pass.

Mt. Kailash Trek-16
The impressive vista that awaits those that crest over Dorma La Pass. Again, worth clicking to see large.

Mt. Kailash Trek-17

Mt. Kailash Trek-18

Mt. Kailash Trek-20
Our third day of trekking was the easiest, but the views were equally majestic.

Mt. Kailash Trek-21

Mt. Kailash Trek-22

Mt. Kailash Trek-23
Pano of our route on the final home stretch.