For our spring break (yes, homeschoolers get spring break), we decided to head north and explore Tibet. We landed in the capital city of Lhasa which is at an altitude of 3,600 m (about 12,000 ft.) We would be staying in Lhasa for a couple of days to acclimate to the altitude.
Our hotel in Lhasa was a restored home of a Tibetan Lama. It was stunning! Traditional Tibetan décor is so colorful and unique. I really loved our accommodations.
The hotel had a rooftop porch with views of the city and the surrounding mountains. Almost every Tibetan home has these prayer flags flying atop.
We also had a great view of the Potala Palace, the most iconic structure in Tibet.
My most favorite thing about Tibet is its people. They are physically beautiful, with their high, rosy cheekbones and smooth complexions.
They have easy, bright smiles.
They are gentle and kind, even though the harsh environment requires them to be rugged and tough.
Still, they maintain their sense of humor and sweet disposition.
I love how the women weave bright colors into their braids.
They are also very devoted Buddhists. Buddhist pilgrims flock here from all over the world to worship. This is the Johkang temple, the holiest Buddhist temple in the Himalayas.
You can see the pilgrims worshipping outside the temple. They prostrate fully face down on the ground and then stand up again. We saw these little old ladies doing this over and over again.
As a believer in the One True God, a part of my heart breaks for them that they do not know Jesus. But I found their devotion also to be indicting and inspiring to me and it made me reflect on my own faith and the outward demonstration (or lack) thereof.
You can see in these ladies’ hands the prayer beads they hold as they continually recite their prayers. Our tour guide also held these beads and I could tell when he wasn’t speaking to us that he was murmuring breath prayers.
As I go through my day, I don’t think I pray continually as the apostle Paul instructs us to do (“Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Instead, I get caught up in the busyness of day-to-day life.
These are prayer scrolls which have scripture written on them. As worshipers walk by, they spin the scrolls as if to release the scripture into the atmosphere. Some pilgrims walk around with miniature versions of the scrolls. They are mounted on top of a stick and the holders whirl them around as they go about their day.
It reminds me of the scripture scrolls that Orthodox Jews wear on their foreheads (“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:6-9). I don’t think I need to wear scrolls with scripture on my forehead, but I certainly could do a better job of memorizing more scripture so that it is more “on my heart.”
Now, I know Jesus instructs us not to pray just for the show of it or to yammer on and on (Matthew 6:5-8) and I am not advocating that, but I certainly think I could be more conspicuous about my faith. I’m always too afraid of offending or making people feel awkward. But, our tour guide, who was a devout Buddhist, openly said he would pray for us and he asked that we pray for him. I wasn’t offended when he said those things to me and I didn’t feel awkward. I just said I would pray for him; and I did and I do. I want to be more bold like him in sharing my faith.
Another thing I loved about Tibet is the ubiquitous yak.
The Tibetans rely so heavily on this animal for their daily life. Yak meat is a staple in the Tibetan diet. It tastes like a mix between beef and lamb. I quite liked it. We enjoyed yak burgers.
The milk of the yak is used to make butter…
Yes, that’s cheese on a string and it is hard as a rock. Seriously, when I first popped a chunk into my mouth I tried to bite down on it and nearly cracked my tooth. Our guide told me that I needed to suck on it for awhile and it would get soft. It did…eventually. It had a sweetish flavor and it reminded me of parmesan cheese.
Yak butter is used in a popular Tibetan drink, butter tea. The tea is creamy, but salty. Webley describes the taste like a liquid pretzel.
Tibetans even use the yak’s dung to heat their homes during the cold winters.
I watched as shovelfuls of the stuff were dumped into this stove. Surprisingly, it doesn’t stink and it certainly makes a warm fire!! Nothing goes to waste in these parts!
Tibetans also make offerings of yak butter at the temples.
The scent of burning yak oil permeates the air inside the temples. I enjoyed the smell of it, but Benjy and the kids weren’t so keen.
Isn’t this yak beautiful?
4 thoughts on “Seven Days in Tibet – My Favorite Things”
Good read! Do they have any vegetables up there? What do the yaks eat ? I hear they give pink milk? Is that true?
It’s such a baron looking place. How high did y’all go? How’d you do with the high elevation?
Hope this is not too many questions.
Thanks for sharing.
They do have vegetables, but not much. Most of what we saw in the markets I think were brought in from Mainland China. The people farm the land; we saw farmers tilling the soil with a wooden plow and horse. The ground looked rocky and I didn’t see any irrigation, so I’m not sure how much crop they actually produce. It’s a tough life for sure. As far as I saw, yak’s milk is white like cow’s milk. It is slightly gamey tasting, but I thought it was good. We spent most of our time at around 12-14,000 feet. We got as high as 17,500 ft. We took altitude medicine which helped tremendously (although it didn’t eliminate the headaches and shortness of breath). Otherwise, I think we would have been hurting pretty badly.
This might be my favorite blog post yet! What a beautiful country, people and insight as you observed….
Hey Tala and family, This trip is one of your most interesting due to the many different things you have come across and the physical stress on the body you tell us you must endure. I was wondering if Yaks are the size of water buffalo as Aida had in the Philippines? (They kind of look small as the other cow-like bovine animal which has a hard head of horn materiel along with short horns and encircles the young and their human friends to protect them; their belly hair/fur is used to make fine warm clothes; I forgot their name.) Thanks again for all the sharing; your kids are going to grow up to be super-duper travel agents !!!