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lamagonzo (not verified)
Got my Visa for Tibet...

...While the Chinese don't make it hard, they do make it very expensive -- $200 for the privilege of entering a country thaty has been rapped.

While I'm happy that after many years I am finally go to be able to visit the famed "Land of Snows" in a few days, it is still with a heavy heart that I'll be taking a most critical look at what changes the Chinese have wrought on the Tibetan plateau.

In many ways the Tibetans exemplified what a country could do if the population followed a unified course aimed at the further evolution of the human mind, as opposed to the further development of all disciplines aimed toward the goal of material wealth and comfort.

In many ways it will be sad but I'm taking it as a challenge to see how the Tibetans maintain their thousands of years old culture while still having to live up to the rigors of the mind-numbing drubbing of the human psyche through political indoctrination.

The ultimate irony is that the Chinese feel they are giving a helping hand up to a backward cousin trapped into a feudal condition. Unfortunately the Chinese are the like rich uncle who has everything but peace of mind.

Alaskahead's picture
Joined: Jan 5 2009
Lamagonzo, you have friends of like minds

Water on the Mountain.
In preparation for overcoming an obstacle, perseverance furthurs.
In the midst of the greatest obstructions, friends come.

marye's picture
Joined: May 26 2007
be careful out there gonzo...

come home safe after fine adventures.

lamagonzo (not verified)
Have hooked up with old, evil friends... may be a while before anything intelligible is uttered from these lips.

The Chinese may have a problem with my Tibetan visa because I used to be a monk in the Dalai Lama's Gelugpa order for 12 years.

lamagonzo (not verified)
A unique Asian city...

Kathmandu is a city like no other in Asia. It is very hard to describe without it's own unique flavor, it's own eau de humanity. It is essentially as mix of Mongolian hordes that swept West and left a lot of genetic stock scattered around in different pools gene pools populates by Genghis Khan

The Mongolians are overwhelmingly Buddhst, usually of the Nyingmapa, Kagyupa and Gelugpa sects. The other predominant religion is, of course, the Hindus, who are rather a sad and pathetic rag-tag lot, struggling to keep up thier main temples. There is also an old, animistic/shamanistic tradition called the Bon-{os which can be said to account for up to no more than 10 percent of the population composingb this aministic religion. The rest is split 60% Buddhist and 30% Hindu.

Yesterday, Monday, there was a general strike because the Hindus wanted to go back to having an exclusively Hindu holiday calender, non of which make any sense but they were still ab able to pull off a mass general strike and shut down the city for a day, all for the cause of being an excvlusiveley Hindu state.

That, along wuth the rolling blackouts, makes life much slower and sedate. It is this relaxed state of bering depressurized from the West that I find most interesting.

cosmicbadger's picture
Joined: Jun 13 2007

for the travelogue Gonzo..looking forward to the next episode

safe travels to you!

lamagonzo (not verified)
Days in Kathmandu

One notices the gridlocked traffic on the way out from Tribhuvan Airport in Kathmandu. Our taxi makes it's way slowly, crawling through the 6pm end-of-day traffic. I am struck by the thick knot of vehicles of every kind and description that surround us, especially the ubiquitous motorcycles that fill every available inch of space on the roadway between trucks and cars and pedestrians seeking to cling to a safe edge to the road. It always amazes me that there are extremely few accidents given that all are passing within centimeters of each other in an imperfectly orchestrated dance of chaotic movement. I thank god I am not behind the wheel having to negotiate this craziness. Somehow we make the journey safely to the home of the brother of my wife in a neighborhood called Battisputali, which means "32 Butterflies". I have yet to decipher the meaning of the name for this middle-class area which is part of Metropolitan Kathmandu, the 32 butterflies have long since fled. 100 years ago it must have been a very beautiful place.

I have helped my wife's brother complete their home and as it is now almost finished we are given a very gracious and warm welcome. My brother-in-law has three kids and cares for both his very elderly parents in what used to be a very small 4 room house. Now it has three floors and he has moved his own bed to the top floor bedroom for us to use during our visit. I am very moved at this spirit of hospitality and wonder if I would have done the same had the roles been reversed. I would like to think so...

Nepal is a country of 32 million people, yet it seems like everybody knows everybody else. It is common for strangers on the street to address each other as dai (brother) if a man and didi (elder sister) if a woman older than oneself and bohini (younger sister) if a woman younger than oneself. The common courtesy and respect shown to each other in this, the 13th poorest country in the world, is truly moving. I will never forget the time I dropped a one rupee note in a 10 person capacity common taxi (known as a "tuk-tuk") and a young man ran after me to return it. I looked at him and asked why he had bothered for such a small amount? He looked to me with innocent eyes and said "It doesn't matter the amount, it belongs to you!

The Kathmandu Valley has been designate by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site because of the many examples of ancient architecture and art scattered throughout the valley. Millions upon millions of dollars have been poured in to the country through government and NGO and UN grants. Unfortunately, Nepal is also one of the most corrupt countries in the world and perhaps 90% of the money has been raked off by government officials on the the take. As a result there has been little done to preserve the common heritage of Nepal's incredible artisans, not to mention building an infrastructure that would ease the burden of the ever-increasing population and showcase these treasures. The UN has now classified Kathmandu as the prime example of what not to do in a 25 year plan for sustainable development.

The valley itself is quite small and studies have shown that the maximum sustainable amount of motorized vehicles is 25,000. At last count there was more than 60,000 plying the pitched and potholed roads throughout the valley. As a result of petrol shortages, greedy gasoline dealers have mixed kerosene with the petrol to stretch it for more profit. Unfortunately this has the effect of creating a deadly pollution in the atmosphere and fouling the catalytic converters of cars. Now, one in three denizens of the valley has a respiratory disease and this percentage can only increase. One would be foolish is they didn't wear some kind of mask having to daily breathe in the polluted air. It is unfortunate that only about 1 in 10 choose to don some kind of protection. My own wife's scarred (from tuberculosis) lungs would already have given out had I not moved her from her native land.

I am now in the process of checking many different tour operators for getting the best price on a trip to Tibet. Anybody trying to plan such a trip would be well advised to buy their ticket to Kathmandu and then shop around for the best price. Buying a trip from a travel agent in the states or Europe is hideously expensive. It is no problem to spend 10-15k for a group tour of three weeks to Tibet (inclusive of airfare from the West). Right now I am pricing out a trip of 6 nights somewhere in the range of $1500. This will include the airfare from Kathmandu to Lhasa, airport transfer, the tour guide, 3 star hotel, breakfasts, entrance fees, admissions, and transport to several outlying areas by car. It can be difficult to know who to trust but if you do your homework and check references independently you can save a significant sum.

Next time I will describe some of the main attractions to see in the Kathmandu Valley as my trip to Tibet will not start till March 2nd.

TigerLilly's picture
Joined: Jul 2 2007

I can't wait to read more too! I hope you brought your camera with you.
By trying we can easily learn to endure adversity -- another man's I mean.
Mark Twain

Joined: Aug 26 2009
On the road to Tibet....

What a treat,thank you Lamagonzo.When you wrote of an upcoming travelogue I was thinking virtual,a literary slideshow of past experiences if you will....Now I find that you are there, on the road to Tibet....Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and oservations along the way.

Om Namaha Shivaya

P.S. I have to tell you my seat got a little tense when I read the account of the approach into the valley,wheeee!

marye's picture
Joined: May 26 2007

can't wait to hear more! Safe travels to you guys.


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