Answering the big question…Was it worth it???

December1

Our stay in China has come to an end after 5 months. It has been an interesting and valuable experience. Medically speaking, I feel that the treatments have had some benefits. I did not get the miracle cure that I once may have hoped for, but I found other things. I found out how to better manage my condition; what makes it better and what makes it worse. I found out that I get results when I stick to my regular strengthening exercises, and that when I slack off it shows. I have learned that daily meditation is my greatest ally and that my brain needs to be ‘turned off’ for a while every day. Most importantly, though, is something that I already knew was confirmed; a positive mindset goes a long way to healing and feeling better. When doubt or anger or impatience clouded my mind, I did not show any progressive results. When my thoughts were positive I did. So I am happy to be at more or less a similar state as I was 5 months ago, which in my opinion is a positive when all I have been promised in the West is a steady decline of health. I am continuing my daily herbal tea (or capsules) and hope to continue on this path of positive progression.
Also, it is always worth it. The things that my family and I have experienced, seen, tasted, touched and lived were like no other in our lives. As always, life is an adventure…!
There is beauty in life

Faces of Tibet

November4

The Tibetan people are very beautiful, both inside and out. I found them to be very kind, quick to laugh, and gentle. They seemed to be very contented and peaceful people. Here are a few of the faces and wonderful clothing we spotted. Many of these people have come on a pilgrimage to these temples that we are visiting from remote parts of Tibet, wearing their native dress.

Very, very long braids, all fastened together at bottom:

A high mountain shepherd:

This monk took many photos of the girls:

A blind musician:

Some of the braids have intricate cloth and metalwork attached:

At a mountain pass at 4700m (15,000 ft.), many women wear a mask to protect their cheeks and mouth from the cold, dry air.

A truly beautiful smile:

Some women braid coloured thread into their hair and fold it over their head like this:

The servers at the Snowland Restaurant in Lhasa:

Our guide, Pema, wearing a traditional Eastern Tibetan hat:

Our driver, Lobsang, with his infectious grin:

A photo is worth a thousand words…

October19

No time for stories, here’s a few pics…
Drepung Monastery, Lhasa
Drepung monastery
Dalai Lama’s Summer Palace
Dalai Lama's Summer Palace
Debating monks
Debating monks
Yak ride
Yak ride
Beautiful ladies living at 4700 metres
Beautiful ladies living at 4700 metres
Monastery in Gyantse
Monastery in Gyantse

Potala Palace – Jokhang Temple – Barkhor Square

October15

Today we visited the beautiful Potala Palace, traditional winter home of the Dalai Lama.
Potala Palace
Of course he is in exile in India so the palace remains mostly empty. After a fairly strenuous climb up the Red Hill and it’s many steps, one reaches the palace proper.
Lhasa from palace
Heading down from palace
It is divided into two parts, the white palace, which is mostly comprised of the living spaces of the Dalai Lama and the other monks that once inhabited the palace. The second part is the red palace, which houses mostly religious artifacts. There are literally thousands of statues of Buddha and other deities. Some very, very small and the largest is probably about 10 metres high. Some of the more beautiful rooms house the tombs of the past Dalai Lamas, they are covered in gold and encrusted in jewels. The Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of China, at the time, named Zhou Enlai had his guards protect the Potala Palace during the Chinese cultural revolution so all of the beautiful artifacts were saved from destruction. Also interesting were the many, many volumes of scriptures written by the past Dalai Lamas; all housed in little niches in the walls, from floor to ceiling in the large rooms. There are many Buddhist pilgrims walking throughout the palace, leaving offerings of food or money at the various statues and adding melted butter from their thermos’ to the butter lamps. These lamps are very large clay pots, the size of a witch’s cauldron, filled with yak butter and maybe 12 or so wicks. Mixed with the incense which is lit all around, they have a peculiar but not distasteful smell.
Palace gate
Emily at Palace
Maddie at Palace
After lunch we went to the Jokhang Temple, the most sacred temple and spiritual centre of Tibet­.
Barkhor Square and Jokhang Temple
Today is a special religious day, Palden Lhamo, named after the protective deity of this temple. Needless to say it was packed. Fortunately the Buddhist pilgrims form a line on the left and the tourists may pass on the right, otherwise it would have taken hours to get through. There is a central assembly hall where the monks gather each morning and night. Surrounding this are many small ‘chapels’ or rooms that have different statues within. The special thing about this temple is that it holds the Jowo Shakyamuni Buddha statue, perhaps the single most venerated object in Tibetan Buddhism. We only got a brief glimpse of the statue because it was so busy. The rooftop of the temple afforded us great views of the Barkhor square below and the palace beyond. Emily especially loved the decorative golden parts of the roof. She commented that she wished she had lots of golden toys to play with. Wouldn’t we all?
Jokhang Temple

Arrival in Lhasa

October14

We settled into our gorgeous hotel in Lhasa and headed out for some dinner. We went to the highly recommended Snowland Restaurant which serves up some really good Tibetan and Indian food.
Tibetan cheers
We tried yak dumplings (very yummy), lamb stew and some delicious garlic naan bread. We were early to bed to aid our acclimatization.
Strange magical place

Climbing to new heights

October13

Our next adventure was a 46 hour train ride from Chengdu to Lhasa, Tibet. We travelled in relative comfort, in a self-contained cabin with 4 beds. They are called the ‘soft sleepers’ but soft is NOT how I would describe the beds. The train ran along the recently completed world’s highest railway line, at a cost of 4.1 billion USD. The Chinese government certainly has some cash to spend. During the last 24 hours the train elevation averaged about 3800m, topping out at 5070m. During this section the train has supplemental oxygen piped into the cars, but not enough to prevent the usual headache. There were several interesting travellers in our train car, and we spent some time chatting with them in the dining car. We were the only foreigners who had any sort of ability to speak Chinese, so we were asked to help with meal ordering by many of the others. Amazing how even a 30-50-word vocabulary can be immensely valuable.
Breakfast in the dining car
The landscape that we passed through was breathtaking. It began as desert-like peaks, similar to Kamloops, BC but larger, then we climbed up to the wide-open plateau with short grasses and turquoise lakes.
Desert mountainscape
Lake Qinghai
Climbing even higher brought us through a rugged, forbidding landscape; high winds, ever-present snow and little vegetation. Throughout the train ride were tiny settlements, where people eke out a living with their cattle, yaks and sheep.
Barren landscape
Descending down towards Lhasa we arrived back in the treeline. The settlements turned into small villages and agriculture supplemented the livestock.
Mountain village
Arriving in Lhasa, we were warmly greeted by our Tibetan guide, Pema, and our driver, Loksam and our shiny new Mercedes van. Looks like our overland tour is going to be pretty comfy!

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