Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Slow Boat Through China (To Tibet)

Market, Lhasa
Prayer wheels, Lhasa
Monastery, Lhasa
Potula Monastery, Lhasa, Tibet
"Mr. Wong's (King's in Chinese) Little Book", Cheng Du
The Peoples' Park, Cheng Du
The Peoples' Park, Cheng Du, China
Bangkok, Thailand

After two days being chased by monsoon rains in Bangkok I boarded a morning flight for Cheng Du (Cheng what? I hear you say...). A town by Chinese standards with just 10 million inhabitants!

One may imagine China as a third world country void of many things that we, westerners, take for granted, this does not describe Cheng Du (Or even the rest of China, for that matter...); high rise building, cell phone touting teens, Internet cafes on every corner, a population being moved around by electric scooters and a bureaucratic system which is not possible, for even the Chinese to understand! Areas in town which are fondly known by some as "Las Vegas" and "Disney Land" have these names for good reasons! Fashionably dressed youngsters weave their way in and out of the traffic in a way that boggles the mind of any new comer to the country. A taxi ride will be best taken with your heart in your handbag as right turns are made without even the slightest glance towards on coming traffic, the funny thing is, it works!

The peoples park is an experience in itself! Tai Chi going on around every corner, sward practice, chinese dance, music, fish feeding, fish watching etc. The pictures show just a little of it...

Having ordered a wake up call for 5 am this morning, I wake suddenly, it's 5.18! My ride to the airport leaves in two minutes! Dressed in under 30 seconds and out the door (poor guy in my room) I arrive at the front desk to be told to wait, 10 minutes go by before I am ordered onto another bus, then removed from that bus because my "permit" is with the other driver.

Travelling to Tibet is quite an exercise! To board the plane, one must have a "permit". After paying a significant sum of money, I fully expected to receive a nice piece of paper stamped by at least 5 important people. In fact in China a permit is in the form a man I meet at the kerb side at the airport who will be my "tour guide". It is "not possible" to go to Tibet without being with an organised tour! He escorts me through security before leaving me to fend for "tour" lasing a total of ten minutes and a total distance of 200 m!

I'm in Lhasa, at 3700 m, I am feeling the thin air (and smelling the yak butter everywhere!) This place is special, there is nothing more to say...if you ever get a chance (or even if you don't) come here! More on Tibet next time...