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Published: September 21st 2010
Where to begin? Tibet is everything you can imagine and more.
Lhasa, Tibet's capital acts as a magnet for people from across Tibet and makes it the ideal place to just sit and people watch. Those in the know can identify which parts of Tibet people are from by their clothes, jewlery and head dresses. I have been particularly taken with the Khampa men who are the rugged Tibetan equivalent of cowboys and walk about with bright red or blue thread plaited through their hair, large daggers and heavy yak cloth shawls. They form part of the crowd of pilgrims that have come to the Jakhong temple, which must be walked around in a clockwise direction. For the most devout walking is not enough and with every step they prostrate themselves on the floor. Some have journeyed for many months in this manner and you can see the cuts on their noses and chins where they have misjudged the distance between their face and the floor.
Surrounding Jakhong temple, the spiritual home of Tibetan Buddism is the Barkhor which is a bazaar, selling prayer wheels, prayer flags and all manner of bright coloured trinkets. Monks and Nuns just about
out number the guards with their AK47's who impose on every corner.
While having pictures of the current Dalai Lama (number 14 ) can land you in prision, the Potala palace, home of Dalai Lamas' fills the horizon acting as the elephant in the room. It currently acts more like a mausaleum in that it is home to the stuppas (coffins) of past Dalai Lamas. Our guide seems particularly proud of these stuppas and repeats a number of times that sky buriels (chopping up the dead and feeding them to vultures) water buriels (chopping up the dead and throwing them in the river) and tree buriels (don't think I fully understood this but basically inserting dead bodies into hollow trees) are just for the common people, Lamas it seems are given special treatment.
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