We would like to bet that every person who admires (‘worship’ is the word, really) the Himalayas dreams of travelling to Tibet at least once in their lifetime. ‘The Roof of The World’ is an autonomous region of China and has one of the most humbling landscapes in the whole world. By Shubhanjana Das
The people, its culture, and even their daily life activities seem to be stuck in a 70s time period, which, not to mention, is an experience unlike any other. Sharing Mt. Everest with Nepal, Tibet also lays claim to some other towering and imposing peaks, and its topography is one that is outwardly, to say the least. However, you ought to remember that Tibet has had an oppressed past and nobody, and we mean NOBODY, can get away from the endless cobwebs of permits that a traveller has to face before even thinking of laying foot on Tibetan land. However, once you’re there, the warmth, humbleness, generosity, and the ever-smiling faces of the people will, more than anything, give you a softer perspective to look at life, no matter how harsh it may be.
If there’s one thing that you can completely rule out as far as a Tibetan expedition is concerned, it is independent travel. The iron-fisted Chinese rule in Tibet doesn’t allow foreign travellers to go by without a local guide, or avail local transportation. So, you would need to do your share of research on finding yourself a good package fitting your convenience from a local travel agency. Once that is done and dusted, next comes THE most crucial part of getting into and going around Tibet — the visa and the permit. But we’ll get to the unpleasant part in a bit.
Lhasa is a queer but amusing sight to behold for any outsider. Along with glitzy neon lights outside Chinese chain eateries and restaurants are also the hermetic devotion of the old people who haven’t let their ingrained beliefs and identity be disturbed by any external forces. Just strolling around Lhasa is like looking at the tip of the iceberg. The real deal is when you start to form friendships with the locals in the small eating joints or simply sit for a chat with a monk in the monastery over some butter tea. The Tibetan people know how to extend their welcome despite every compromising situation that their national identity has been subjected to.
The geography of Tibet is somewhat like an earthly adaptation of that of the moon. Mountains so high, they can’t be seen entirely from the windows of your car, rugged roads, barren landscape, yet something so bewitchingly beautiful that your eyes will never get tired of it. You will be welcomed by the fluttering Tibetan prayer flags no matter where you go. The highways, the imposing glaciers, the rich turquoise lakes — don’t bother capturing all that in your camera, it won’t ever do justice to what your eyes will witness.
Now, here’s a question that had put us in quite some dilemma — would visiting Tibet mean supporting the Chinese government’s authoritarian regime in the region? But then we realised, it could be quite the opposite. Wise people have said that to educate yourself about something, you must see it for yourself. So, we figured that by visiting Tibet, not only do you get to know the harsh reality of things, the struggles of the locals, and the ground reality of the harsh regime, but also be very pleasantly taken aback by the hospitality of the Tibetan people.
Now, let’s get to the unpleasant part of your Tibet trip — the visa and the permits. If you’re not a resident of Singapore, Brunei, or Japan, you will be required to get a Chinese visa, which you must attain at least a month prior to your trip. Remember, without a Chinese visa, your local trip operator will not be able to get you the TTB (Tibet Tourism Board) permit for you to get to the country. You’ll need separate border passes for a number of areas that aren’t open to visitors or travellers. (All the best!)
But, if there’s one thing we can say for sure about Tibet, it’s this — there’s hardly any other like it, and it’s worth every effort.