Everything Tibetan

The Chinese just know how to make traveling simpler and more comfortable. We had bought bus tickets for the city of Xining (pronounced Shinning) which would hook us on to our next destination Xiahe, a small Tibetan city not too far from Tibet. The bus we entered was none like we'd ever seen before. This was a sleeper bus with top and bottom bunks laid out in three rows. Each bed's head rest was tilted and accompanied a soft pink blanket. Geniuses. Even though our 19 hour bus ride turned into a 24 hour one due to the bus getting stuck in the mud for one hour, 2 hours of bumper to bumper traffic due to a truck spilling piles of sinks, and the frequent toilet stops (Chinese drink a lot of green tea...), the sleeper bus made it bearable and fun.

After spending two nights in Xining since the train tickets sell out quickly, we hopped on another bus to Xiahe. This was definitely one of my favorite places in China. Xiahe is a small Tibetan city in the Gansu province and is bustling with locals selling yak meat, handmade Tibetan art, traditionally dressed women in bright colors with neatly tied hair braids, Tibetan men with oversized warm coats, and the most sweetest adorable looking kids with red cheeks skipping and hopping as they follow their parents.

The buddhists here are very much into their religion and throughout the entire day one can witness buddhists walking clock-wise and chanting prayers along the kora which is the sacred path outlining the Labrang Monastery with prayer wheels. After walking for a few on the kora and spinning the prayer wheels with the locals, we arrived at one of the entrances to the monastery. Descending down to an open square, we heard a heavy voice from a monk as he recited prayers followed by a courtyard filled with monks chanting afterwards. We listened and observed from a distance as monks in their magenta and maroon colored robes continuously flowed into the square and took their seats on the stone covered floor.

We were lucky to see some ceremonies being performed inside the monastery grounds as well. We let our ears guide us inside the grounds and entered many buildings where different ceremonies proceeded. The monks in these ceremonies wore elaborate head pieces, chanted prayers in heavy humming voices, blew large horns as monks of all ages from 7 years old to an elderly monk walked around with colorful prayer flags in hand. Strolling the monastery grounds gave us a sense of peace aside from the random cow or sheep sighting. The monks here completely erased another false perception of them being serious and all about work/religion. We saw monks getting each other into headlocks, walking around and laughing with fellow monks and just being playful. One monk by the name of Giden stopped us and spoke to us for roughly an hour. Giden wrote the prayer that buddhists chant as they spin the prayer wheels and asked us to recite it. When we did, his face glowed with excitement. His English infact was quite good and self-taught during his stay in India. When asked if monks could marry, he chuckled and simply replied "no no only alone".

As evening neared we found a local place to eat a hot bowl of noodles as the weather in Xiahe was quite chilly. Two monks sat inside sipping green tea (but ofcourse), and after the owner served us, he without hesitation asked if we had seen the Dalai Lama. After saying 'no', and his eyes lowering as language was again a barrier and the conversation couldn't go further, he went by our Lonely Planet book and pointed to 'like' or 'don't like'. When we nodded in sync that we liked the Dalai Lama, his face gleamed and he laughed openly with enthusiasm while relaying it to the monks.

No comments:

Post a Comment