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Published: October 9th 2010
I woke up at 4:45 am to get dressed and brushed and washed. Everything was already packed. I ascended to the third floor to share breakfast pastries with Clare and Audrey. Maria was on their couch drunk. She did not sign up for the Tibet trip, so she had gone out drinking the night before and was still awake. She told us that Qiang had been at Panam (a French themed bar) the night before. Qiang is the guy from English corner who kept texting me. He doesn't anymore.
The plane took off more than an hour late due to air traffic, so while we were sitting in the plane that wasn't moving they served us breakfast. Glutinous rice with pickled vegetables. I read Journey to the West for most of the flight.
During the flight, Scott ate an almond cookie that Jhanica offered to him. It must have had peanuts in it, because he had an allergic reaction. His skin was bright red and itchy for the rest of the day.
We went to the bus. The tour guide and bus driver put white scarves around our necks. Like Scott said, "like leis, only better."
we went to Lhasa, which is an hour and a half away from the airport, we stopped at a buddha carved and painted onto a hill. I left my camera on the bus. Not having my camera made me realize how ridiculous we all look carrying our cameras around and taking photos, not really looking or being at the site. Just taking photos and looking at them later. I wished that I could not take photos at all, but I do want to share my experience with other people, and visuals are a big part of that.
We continued to the hotel and got our rooms. The hotel is really, really nice. The beds are actually soft. The room is big, with a sitting area and a flat screen television and beautiful carved wooden furniture.
We ate lunch at the hotel, buffet style. The buffet had spaghetti, rice, soup, beef, chicken, fried potato things like tater tots with veggies in them... none of it was very Tibetan, but it was good.
At 3:30 we met in the lobby and walked to Zhokang Temple in the middle of the city. It is surrounded by layers and layers of
vendors, restaurants, and shops. It definitely caters to tourists. Today, the tour guide (Penbo) just led us in a circle around the temple. On the way, everything tempted me. The booths have prayer beads and flags, traditional clothes and accessories, statues, knives, yak horns, shoes, shirts, scarves... everything a tourist or a monk (many do shop in the square) could ever want.
After we walked around the temple once, Clare, Audrey and I decided to walk around a second time, shopping on our way. I bought prayer bead, Tibetan pants, and a fedora (for the sun). We recently watched Darjeeling Limited, and in this movie the characters perform a ritual ceremony with peacock feathers. So we all three bought peacock feathers. We got lost for a while in the back alleys. We tried some yak butter because we thought it was cheese.
People kept staring at us and saying "Hello." The vendors say, "Take a lookee. Take a lookee. Cheapy, cheapy." One old lady patted me on the butt. A lot of the Tibetans also speak Mandarin and broken English. There are also Chinese police and army men in camo with guns, all over. Audrey tried to ask
a young woman with traditional clothing and hairstyle if she could take a picture of her, but the girl ran away and clung to her friend's arm when Audrey touched her on the shoulder. A Han Chinese man on a motorcycle told us, "Tibet is very dangerous. Be careful."
We got back and went to dinner with the group at 7:30. They eat late here. The dinner was another tourist affair that was not nearly Tibetan. We started with tomato soup and flat, tortilla-like bread. There was also sweet rice, noodles, yak, coleslaw, pizza, and chicken curry. No lazy susans in Tibet. Instead they bring smaller dishes for four people to share.
After dinner I walked around with Clare, Audrey, Scott, Kate and Nick. Nothing really exciting happened. We came across a few Dicos, walked toward a red glowing thing that looked like the Eiffel Tower. The streets are very empty and quiet at night.
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