I took a small bus to start my tour around small traditional Tibetan villages.After 4 hours in an uncomfortable sit I arrived to Tongren.
Tongren felt bitter, it the sad place I have been since I arrived to China.
Is in the mountains in Tibet, the scenery to get here is quite impressive but then the rest not much.
It is an old town, that in Tibetan language it is called Rebkong. I found it very dirty and poor. I have never seen so many beggars in China as I have seen here. There are not places to stop for a cold beer or a soda because most of the small kiosks do not have fridges so there are not cold beverages or bottle of water.
The population is mainly Tibetan and there are several Muslims as well. This last community, as I have seen in Xininig, takes care of the market and commerce, while Tibetan works doing building things, cleaning, fixing, etc and obviously spend a lot of time worshiping their deities. Not chain restaurants. There is not actually such a thing to be called restaurant, but there are small family business that serve food, some with pictures. There is only one place that is a restaurant in the main street, extremely expensive and visit only by high state administrative people in suits and ties (very weird to see such a thing around here).
There are 2 big monasteries to visit here. One at the end of the road of the town, which is big, and has many temples in reconstructions and many building that are closed. It has a college for young monks; I was delight to see them with their clothing at 7 or 10 fighting and playing.
I felt I was the only person walking around this area. In the middle of my visit rains and then the suns came, but it was like being a character inside a terror movie. Some religious people show up in some buildings and they go around the temples several times repeating their mantras, moving their fingers over their malas with one hand and pushing cylindrical bells with the other hand. The place I like the most inside the area it was the Tara Temple, a female Buda deities with an influence from Indian traditions at the corner of the venue.
Most of the temples are impressive in their art, they are colorful and full of the signs I have already learn are distinctive here as a way to offer their love to their gods. Tibetan Buddhist is very different from what I learnt in US at the Shambala Center in Colorado. Here religious people bring things to content their gods in their 5 senses so you will find temples with: a repetitive music that is played alive by monks in the temples (sound), silk garment that covers the roofs and the budas (touch), tonkas and paints, and colorful, candles and oil lights (sight), mango dessert and fruits (taste), incense (smell).
The other Monastery is also the main place for art, where the big masters of Tanka do their painting. It is an astonishing place. I like a lot one outdoor colorful Stupa, but I passed with the bus and it is 6 km out of town, and I was exhausted to come back there.
My hotel is depressing, I cannot believe lonely planet suggest this. But I guess there are not many other options. Is the worst place I have being in China, I prefer the dorms with 6 people, turning lights and doing noises in the middle of the night. I will not take a shower tonight. It is cold and I will not put my feet in the horrible bathroom. I usually not that picky but believe me, if you were me, you should pass the shower as well. The double windows that were designed here were plan as a way to warm the interior of the place, especially in winter; but the system does not work because the windows do not closed. The paper in the walls of my room is light brown all scratched as cats were playing over the walls. My bed moves as it were a water mattress but it is not. The TV is from the 70, and after Yanan I guess this is the most expensive place I am staying. The best of this place is the free comb and the free toothbrush. I am happy to leave early tomorrow; my bus leaves at 8 am.
In Rebkong I saw many people in their traditional clothing, but by far I was the most exotic creature here. I have not crossed with any foreign here. Tomorrow I will go to Xiahé a place that was closed to forgings but recently was open again, it seems that is nicer than here, I really hope so.
Marika, a Russian woman that is traveling with her German boyfriend and was waiting for her permit to enter to Lhasa, have just received the notice that their visas were denied, she texted me from Xining. Not forgings are allowed to enter to TAR area, things could change, but I do not expect to see the change in the time I am here. So I guess my plan B trip is to rent a van in a group, and travel to Khan where nomads Tibetans leaves and it seems to be great scenery…and then go south to Shangri-la, Dali and Kumming in the Yunan province. It is sad we cannot go to Lhasa, (but actually is the less sad of the whole situation) , but the authorities says is for our own safety
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