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Published: November 2nd 2013
FACES OF TIBET.
Some places you go because you have to...some because you need to...some because the opportunity arises...some because the road leads you there...some because you dream that nags your soul...and some because you can.
Tibet was for those reasons and more...one of those destinations I dreamed about but never dreamed I could.
Then one day I just did.
I'd had two trips to China...one with friends to a number of provences that put the taste of adventure deep in my psyche...one with Denise that I planned and led myself...that my Chinese friends said was to bandit country, putting Denise into danger...zig-zagging the country...fantastic times.
Could see my kids growing in front of my eyes...18 and 20 then...want to do something special for them before they move out...something they'll remember me by...something they'll never forget.
So I decided to take them to Tibet.
But it was going to be in January...the middle of winter...mind numbingly cold I figured...no other tourists stupid enough to be there at that time...yep...sounds good to me!
Best time to go...best time for my David Hoo Tours philosophy..."Your travel experts with minimum experience but
maximum optimism"...yep...the best time to be in Lhasa as it turned out.
Christmas & banquetting in Beijing, walking the Great Wall, skidding on frozen lakes...catacombs, bussing & exquisite carved grottos in Chongqing...dinosaur bones, climbing mountains, ancient carvings & forests in Sichuan...off to Chengdu for our flight to Lhasa.
Peaks of the Eastern Himalayas jagging above the clouds......excitement building...getting ready for lack of oxygen and mind numbing cold.
Then descending out of the clouds...Gongga Airport...surrounded by vegetation bare mountains...only minus 7 degrees Celsius outside...surprisingly mild.
We were met by our Tibetan guide Neema...checking our entry permits...me not silly enough to try to enter Tibet without correct paperwork as security is tight...our Tibetan driver...why are most drivers called Mr Lee?
65 kms to Lhasa...past icy marshlands...Tibetan villages...into the inevitable tunnel...an 11th century giant orange Buddha rock carving on the side of a hill with a worshiper pressed hard in adoration against it...my first turquoise prayer flagged lake...I am here...air thin but invigorating...feeling chuffed and surreal.
Pass the Drepung Monastery way up there...the large stupa at the entrance to Lhasa...the massive Potala Palace on our left...plenty of time to explore it later...into the
Tibetan Quarter...a narrow lane to our hotel...the Shambala Hotel.
Second Floor...key used to operate the lift...only time we were able to use the lift as it turned out...checked in then all passed out and slept for a few hours...instructed it could take 4 hours to adjust to the altitude so taking it easy today.
At 6pm I went for a walk.
Denise was feeling a bit nauseous, Simon & Anne-Louise feeling a bit dizzy...so I went alone.
I walk out of the hotel...turn right...busy narrow street...monks sitting in a circle chanting on the footpath...a big square...stalls of vivid cloth, dried fruits, knives, nicknacks...the odd policeman wandering through the crowds.
I was drawn into the square...rows of rustic clad men & women standing...bowing forward at two small stupas in front of an ancient temple...then prostrating themselves on the cobbled floor...many on mats...then rising again...doing the same over and over again...small children playing around them.
A river of people streaming towards me...pass me by...leathery skin indicating a hard life...jet black eyes...black or ashen hair adorned with plaits, red strips of material, turquoise stones or beads, embroided silk headpieces...concentrating to stay within the banks of this ribbon
of people...flowing right to left...circumambulation around.
Then it hit me...like the first streaks of dawn entering the de-oxygenated vacuous space I call my brain.
I'm in the Barkhor...the square in front of Tibet's most holy place...the Jokhang Temple.
No more than 60 metres from our hotel is the Barkhor...David Hoo Tours has triumphed again...won't the others be pleased to see this.
I pulled out my trusty pocket camera...my Nikon S-10 point & shoot...aim it towards the sea of people...one stepping out...a monk in red...then others...arms around my shoulders...asking me to take their photos.
I was the only Westerner in the Barkhor...there until the shades of dusk descended over the square...with warriors from Kham and Amdo...pilgrims from far reaches of Tibet...coming by horse, cart, on foot or months in prostration.
I've never made so many friends as I did that evening in the Barkhor...until maybe the next evening when Denise, Simon & Anna-Louise joined me.
To say they were a hit with their blonde hair is an understatement!!!
As it turned out there were only about 12 Westerners in Lhasa when we were there...yep no more than that...and thousands
of pilgrims from all over Tibet on pilgrimage as the icy ground was too hard to till their fields.
Many were happy to grace my lens...and some were not...those others wild eyed and fearful as if I was carrying shamanic magic.
My love of portraits had been born...and those of you that enjoy my portraits...enjoy these tastes of where it all began.
Relax & Enjoy,
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