Travel in Tibet 2: Experience Lhasa

Our guest house was very close to the Jokhang temple, a very popular touristy place in Lhasa. We threaded through the crowds and gathered in a well known local restaurant to check out the Tibetan breakfast. If you are a food adventurer, this is a must-try,though I was shocked at the first sight: people crowed all rooms and it was even a challenge to look around for an empty table without crashing into someone. This place led my mind to the story line of “The Tea House”, a well known novel by Lao She in the early 19th centurary. Actually, even the Tea House would be more modern than this one, I thought.

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Finally, we got a corner of a table in the furtherst room. The Tibetan family sitting next to us was quite friendly,  they budged a little bit and spared us a little more space. Disgusted by the untidiness, Wucong furrowed her eyebrows and decided to only drink some milk tea. Caiyu and I were the opposite. We rushed to the counter and waited for our first Tibetan meal: the Tibetan noodles and the milk tea. Unlike fancy Chinese food in other regions, they were simple but with lots of  fiber and high energy, which were said to be very good for tourists who had to adapt to the high altitude region quickly.

I settled down all the dishes then turned around in the tiny space to get on my seat, not even realizing my cloth already knocked over a senior Tibetan’s tea cup and poured the milk tea all over the table. The old man muttered a little bit, almost unnoticeable  under a burst of apologies from me, cleaned the table , poured himself another cup of tea  then resumed his enjoyment like never being bothered.   This was Lhasa, a relaxing and peaceful place that I didn’t expect at all.

Xiaoyu was proved to be well connected again. Her third or even fourth level connection brought  a backpacker to our breakfast and offered to guide us around Lhasa. While I was puzzled about why the young man’s mismatched appearance, all other girls already started to complement his handsomeness and laughed out his identity: he was actually a solider.  Soilders like him were required to dress like travelers when going out. In Tibet, there are many soldiers not dressed in uniforms, they were everywhere. In other words, Tibet was one of the safest place for travelers, which made me quite relieved.

After breakfast, we followed the “backpacker” to the street. He was talkative and willing to share whatever he knew about Tibet, including the “secret” that there was no such thing called “Tibetan red flowers”  sought after by all travelers. It was kind of harsh to say that so many people were paying a high price for the plants that actually grew somewhere else.

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It was about lunch time, the “backpacker” insisted to treat us a big lunch in the modern shopping center. If I didn’t have a little headache, I would’ve forgotten we were in Tibet.  Stuffed with a good meal, we strolled around the square facing the potala place. It was indeed magnificent. Everyone was cheering up and figuring the best postures for a good picture with the potala palace backdrop. I sat down at the bench, watching the Tibetan women braiding Dengfenglai and Xiaoyu’s hair, and,  let my mind drift away. This was so relaxing.

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Yao Wang mountain is the place to shoot the perfect picture of the potala palace. It is also on the 50 yuan currency. You’d be surprise at the number of people crowded at the spot and fought for every inch of the territory for a good picture. Exhausted by navigating around the small area and finishing the photography task, we went to another dinner treat hosted by one of Xiaoyu’s connections. The host was very efficient, he invited guests from three different parties to this dinner, which felt quite awkward at first. However, no one would complain about a free dinner. In no time, we chatted like old friends and toasted for everyone’s luck, health, and wealth. Actually, no one really cared, rather than for a good meal and a great drink. It was said that drinking some wine would help the altitude sickness, I happily joined the drinking group and went back to the guest house,  heavy-headed.  A good sleep was necessary, I told myself and figured that burning myself down before the real journey was really unwise.

That day, I also learned a sad fact: booking a ticket to the  potala palace was not easy. You either had to pay a premium to buy tickets from the dealers, hire a guy to book the tickets for you in a line at midnight, or join a tourist group that had mandatory shopping requirements. The latter option was the last thing I wanted to do.  Xiaoyu’s connection managed to get there tickets for Xiaoyu, her best friend, and her sister in law. How about us,…, I went to bed and decided to worry these things latter, at least, when my headach went away.

Wucong and I started to chat about the hot Chinese news. Soon, she fell in sleep, while I was still struggling with my headache.  Her breath was not even, actually pretty heavy occasionally during the night, I started to realize  why she was not that enthusiastic about the planned stay at the Everest base camp.

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