Destination: Tibet

In the Abode of the Gods

Jeffrey Tayler treks a Buddhist pilgrimage route through China's remotest, high-altitude domains

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Lover’s Moon

Lover’s Moon iStockPhoto

Pico Iyer on the power of travel to make a forgettable Glenn Frey song last forever

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New ‘World’s Highest Airport’ Planned for Tibet

The AFP reports that the new facility will be built in the Nagqu prefecture, at 4,436 meters (14,554 feet) above sea level—102 meters, or 335 feet, higher than the current record holder, also in Tibet. (Via @alisonbrick)


China Closes Tibet to Foreign Travelers

Why, you ask?

According to the AP, the closure is designed to ensure stability during celebrations of the 60th anniversary of communist rule in China, which will be marked Oct. 1. The closure will remain in effect through Oct. 8.

Officials have also curtailed kite flying in Beijing.

Critics will shake their heads, but I can think of no better way to celebrate authoritarian rule. Nicely done, China.


Photo We Love: Two Faiths, One Prayer

Dalai Lama REUTERS/Pichi Chuang
REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

The Dalai Lama listens to his interpreter as Cardinal Paul Shan Kuo-hsi of Taiwan’s Catholic church says a prayer during a religious dialogue in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.


Things I Didn’t Know About the Dalai Lama

Things I Didn’t Know About the Dalai Lama Photo by reurinkjan via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by reurinkjan via Flickr (Creative Commons)

I dropped by a lively discussion last night on all things Dalai Lama, by World Hum contributors Eric Weiner and Pico Iyer, and learned a few things about His Holiness’s travel habits: he always flies business class; is addicted to the BBC World service and feels out of sorts when he can’t tune in; and prefers to spend his downtime on trips visiting local high schools. 

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Tibetan Monks, In Nine-Part Harmony

Here’s a new way to express support for Tibet, if you’re so inclined: Pick up a copy of this CD, produced by the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart, of the Gyuto Monks Tantric Choir, chanting in multiple overtones at once (similar to the Tuvan throat singers).  National Public Radio has a fascinating story about how the CD was produced, based on a rare 1960s recording of Tibetan monks in northern India made by religion scholar Huston Smith. NPR has a sample of Smith’s original recording online. Apparently the trained ear can discern up to nine harmonies sung by a single monk at one time; to me, the only word for it is “otherworldly.”

Proceeds from the CD support the New York-based Tibet House and the Tibetan Gyuto monastery-in-exile.


The Great Everest Clean-Up

The Great Everest Clean-Up Photo by Kappa Wayfarer via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by Kappa Wayfarer via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The climate-change watchdog group Eco Everest hauled off 2,100 pounds of trash and human waste from Mount Everest last year and is now paying visitors $1.00 per pound for waste removed from the mountain, according to Outside and Rock and Ice magazine.

The Nepalese have recently tried to prevent dumping by withholding a $4,000 trash deposit from climbers who leave rubbish on the 29,028-foot peak. But there still a lot of waste up there from previous expeditions—enough to inspire a documentary and an artist who recycles discarded oxygen bottles into eco-provocative bowls, bells and ornaments.


This Week in Tibet: Bad News, Good News?

This Week in Tibet: Bad News, Good News? Photo by mckaysavage via Flickr (Creative Commons).

News out of Tibet this week has been bleak. Thousands of Chinese troops descended on the plateau in anticipation of protests marking the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s exile; the Dalai Lama charged the Chinese government with making Tibet a “hell on earth,” and foreign tourists have been banned from the area. Since Tibetan protests erupted in March 2008, tourism in the region has suffered a steep drop and doesn’t look to recover anytime soon.

Until political tensions ease, we’ll have to make do with this small piece of good news: China just announced new restrictions on construction and advertising near Lhasa’s Potala Palace in an apparent attempt to preserve the complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. UNESCO has criticized the growing number of shops and restaurants near the palace in recent years, many built to cater to domestic Chinese tourists. 

So, why the announcement this week? China’s official news agency—in reply to the Dalai Lama—asserted that Tibet is in fact a “paradise on earth,” and paradise needs protecting, right?


Morning Links: Mexico Travel Alert, Mardi Gras Tips and More

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Interview with Michael Buckley: Searching for Shangri-La

Frank Bures talks to the author of a guide to a place that may or may not exist

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Morning Links: Walking Across the U.S., Rebranding France and More


‘Beyond the Great Wall’: Exploring China’s Edges

Inspired by a recent New Yorker profile of the food writer/adventurer couple Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford, I ordered a Christmas present for myself this year: the duo’s wonderful cookbook and travelogue, Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China. It’s an affectionate look at the cultures and foodways of China’s outlying regions, including Tibet, Yunnan and Xinjiang.

The recipes, for simple dishes like Ginger and Carrot Stir-Fry, are surprisingly low maintenance. But my favorite sections are Duguid’s and Alford’s recollections of traveling in China in the mid-1980s, when the country was just opening up to foreign tourists. Alford, who taught English in Taiwan in 1982, remembers the mystique China held for Westerners at the time:

“Every once in a while I’d hear a story about someone visiting ‘the Mainland,’ traveling independently, but it seemed very hard to believe. The rumor was that a visa could be arranged in Hong Kong from a travel agent in Chungking Mansions, a low-life building full of bottom-end hostels, Indian restaurants and drug deals. It all seemed a bit unlikely—it was ‘Communist China,’ after all.”

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Health Experts: Go Easy on the Incense

Photo by alexik via Flickr, (Creative Commons).

The use of incense dates back thousands of years, yet when it comes to incense in American cities these days, I associate it with Indian restaurants, yoga studios and head shops hawking bongs and tie-dye T-shirts. I also think of the glory days of the hippie trail, when young Western kids set off through Asia and, as Rory MacLean writes, “lit sticks of incense, strummed their guitars and read another chapter of Siddhartha, then stepped off the bus to help push the decrepit vehicle over the Hindu Kush.”

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An Official Press Tour in Tibet: ‘Far From the Ideal Way to Gather News’

As we noted yesterday, Tibet has just been reopened to foreign visitors for the first time since March. The Globe and Mail’s Beijing bureau chief, Geoffrey York, was one of a select group of journalists invited to the region during the lockdown, and in this grimly humorous blog post he recalls the “unsolicited wake-up calls,” “official minders” and the dreaded “man with the megaphone” who made his official press tour not-so-pleasurable.

Photo by mckaysavage via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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Tags: Asia, China, Tibet