For those who want to go to the base camp of Mt. Everest, they have to go to Shigatse first. Shigatse is the second biggest city in Tibet. I am not a city person so it didn’t really matter to me. So, the itinerary of the first day of our tour was, journey to Shigatse. 😊
I woke up early and met my two other travel companions at the travel agency. It turned out they were friends travelling together.
The tour was unexpectedly better than I thought. It provided three meals a day and the food was not bad. Chinese food mainly. The driver was really good. I can tell you, some roads within Tibet weren’t really that smooth. We stayed in motels. I liked the buns they served in the morning. It was my first time to eat green steam buns. (I later ate quite a lot when I was volunteering in Cambodia. Not sure if it was because they put pandan in the buns.) The congee was a bit bland though but it was ok. I am talking about food again. 😀 I should stop!! 😀
The driver was concerned about our health conditions, so he prepared some oxygen bags for us.
The journey to Shigatse took around 7 hours. Of course, we had some breaks. Only for a few minutes.
At one refreshment, my travel companion and I went to a bush beside a river. I needed to wash my hands at that time so I put my hands in the freezing cold but crystal clear water of the river.
Then, something happened.
The moment that I put my hands in the water, I felt that not only my hands were washed, but my soul was cleansed.
Instantly, somehow, I felt that I didn’t need to worry about tomorrow. Everything had been arranged for me and everything would be fine.
I later found out that the river was River Lhasa. This river is considered as a sacred river in Tibet.
We continued with our journey and visited Tashihunpo Monastery.
Like in Potala Palace, there were many tour groups inside this monastery. My travel companions and I listened intently to their tour guides (our driver was not a tour guide) to learn more about Dalai Lama and the reincarnation stories and the gods worshipped in the monastery.
We then went into a temple. It happened that another tour group with their tour guide went in as well. She was talking about the gods inside that temple. I was so tired that I sat down on a bench. A lama came in and listened with a smile on his face. I really wanted to take a picture of him if I was allowed to do so in a temple. Before this, we went into another temple. My travel companion was a devoted Buddhist. Before she left for Tibet, her teacher (a monk) gave her a pendant engraved with the Buddha figure. A lama walked past us and saw it. He held the pendant in his hand, took a very close look at that pendant. Curiosity filled with his eyes, with an innocent smile on his face. That was another time that I wanted to take a picture inside a temple. If I was allowed to, I would have taken that.
The tour guide said to her tour group, ‘now, you can make a wish in front of the gods. If you believe them, your wish will come true. But before you make your own wish, make a larger wish first, like “peace on earth”.’
Suddenly, I felt that something had entered into my heart. My heart was calmed.
I can’t really remember if I made a wish. I only remember that I felt peace inside me.
We continued with our journey to Shigatse which was very close to the border so we started to see soldiers on trucks on the roads.
On our way to the base camp of Mt. Everest, we would see even more soldiers as it was even closer to the border.
When I was asked if I was that eager to go the base camp, well, I was actually quite neutral to it. As mentioned in my previous blog, I didn’t plan anything. If my health conditions allowed me to go to more places, I’d go. Otherwise, I wouldn’t. Pushing yourself was not a wise decision in that circumstance. Being able to reach the base camp may be something that some people would brag about but I am not like them. I enjoyed the pace and the peace within me when I was there. It was true. When you go slow, you can think deeper. It sounds like meditation. Tibet makes people like me go slow. Before I went to Tibet, I thought to myself, what if I couldn’t get used to the high altitude? If that’s the case, I’d just stay in Lhasa for the whole time. Just watching people at a balcony of a restaurant would be fine for me.
In fact, when I write this now in 2020, I am sitting in my flat, the very flat that I lived in before I went to Tibet. I am now looking through the window. I didn’t actually know how to start writing the first post about Tibet and I find it hard to continue too. I look out of the window again. My mind is full of all the memories that I had in Tibet but I just don’t know where to start. It was probably the hardest one for me.
When something is very dear to you, you don’t want to ruin it or destroy it. You want to present its best to other people. It applies to things, people and places.
This is called love.
My trip in Tibet was indeed a very spiritual journey for me.
Just having it lingered in my mind has a healing effect on me.
In my first solo photo exhibition, I exhibited some photos I took in Tibet. It wasn’t held in a gallery. It was in a café. My photos stayed there for a month and I occasionally visited that café. A customer sitting at a table next to mine was looking at one of my photos hanging on the wall. He didn’t know I was the person who took it. He was staring at it for a long time. I could see a smile on his face and at that moment, his mind travelled to Tibet… until he got interrupted by his companion. Now, as I am gazing out of my window, I feel the same too.
My mind travels back to Tibet.
The Tibet that I remember in 2005.
9 October 2005