04-18-2008 16:36

By Yin Chen

For many travelers to Tibet, the primary issue of concern is high altitude sickness. At an average of over 4,000 meters above sea level, many tourists get headache, nausea, and breathlessness. Scary as it sounds, I was lucky enough not to be hit too hard with any of the symptoms.

Instead, my focus was protecting myself from the intense UV rays, while looking decent infront of the camera. The sunlight is so strong here that locals all have rough skin and red cheeks. In Chinese, it’s called “Plateau Red” literally. Our assistant, a tall and built man had insisted sunscreen and hats were for sissies kept his mouth shut after he ended up with swollen, peeling arms and half-devastated facial skin. “I’m ruined!” he would repeatedly moan while looking at himself in the side view mirror of the van. Yes, the sun on the plateau is a killer. So, if you’re going to the Plateau, protect your skin.

I think it's the people themselves that make Tibet most appealing to me. I remember driving through the dusty mountains and seeing two or three people pulling all their physical possessions on a small banwagon cart. They would pull a few meters and then walk back to the starting point and prostrate that distance, making sure to cover all the land. A quote from a famous Chinese film goes,“They have dirty hands and faces, but their spirits are clean.” That is exactly what struck me. Outside the Jokhang Monastery, I saw a young woman prostrating in circles around Barkhor Street, and her toddler mimicing his mother’s movements. Although he doesn’t seem quite sure what is going on, I suppose this is how essence of Tibetan culture is slowly engraved into his heart. One day he will realize its deep culture significance, and pass it on to his children and his children’s children.


Editor:Liu Fang