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The best Tibetan rap video I have seen yet.

Tibetan children are almost too cute to function.

Things are looking pretty good in Tibet!

Perhaps the most famous part of Tibet, the Potala Palace  was our first tourist stop. It was just as beautiful as the pictures, if not more so. It was massive though, a good couple hundred meters I think, more that two football fields (I don’t know any exact measurements, but my friends said this). If anyone was wondering, all it takes to befriend Tibetans is:

  1. don’t be Chinese.
  2. Have a massive beard and some piercings.

And that’s it. 

The Palace was amazing, but I was completely disgusted to find many people stealing money from the altars. Luckily the Americans had the sense not to, but all sorts of Tibetans did this and then prayed to Buddha. Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems pretty sacrilegious to steal money from an altar. Seeing that left me pretty irked for the rest of our time in Lhasa.

My favorite restaurant in Lhasa. I ate so much yak it’s not even funny. I’m thinking of opening a yak stand.

At the Tibet Steak House, there was a fish with only one eye. He was so creepy…

These are my first glimpses of Lhasa. I was amazed right from the start.

Arriving in Tibet after a 25 hour train ride was still exciting. The first chance we got, everyone ran outside in their PJs and ran around. A lot of people became winded quickly, but the fresh air was nice.

Welcome to Lhasa

So after the 25 hour train ride to Lhasa, following our visits to Luoyang, Xi’an, and Xi’ning, we finally arrived in Tibet. At first, it looked like Denver. The sloping hills nearby and the snow capped mountains in the distance reminded me of of the suburbs just south of Denver and Aurora. The yaks however, stood out a lot. In fact, we were all so fascinated by the yaks that we made sure our first meal in Tibet was yak meat. After wandering around the market and enjoying (on my part, and no so much my friends’) the fresh thin air, we found a Tibetan steak house and everyone ordered yak something. I had the most amazing yak curry ever. It was so amazing and filling and warming (though it’s warmer in Tibet than it is in Xi’niang!) and I wish I could have more right now.

I did the one thing that one should never do in a foreign country: I pet two puppies. One was in a box, clearly up for adoption or something. My friend joked it was dinner. I really hope not, otherwise, so help me I will take that dog and bring it back from Tibet with me. The other was a sad stray puppy with a scarf around its neck. Some little boy kicked it in the head on his way into a shop and I decided that the poor thing could use a little bit of kindness. However, once I pet it, the puppy tried to follow us. Someone called out to it and it stopped, but it was heartbreaking.

When the sun started to set, we all went back to the hotel, worried about potentially lethal colds at this altitude.

When it got dark, the screaming and howling started. 

Having wandered around the city all afternoon, we couldn’t miss the absurd number of police officers and military personal. Every corner, every block, ever few stands, there was someone with a gun. We saw them marching back and forth across the city square, and they occasionally stopped us to make sure that we weren’t taking pictures of them. If we had been, they would take our cameras and we would never see them again. Naturally, when the screaming started, my teacher and I were terrified and we hid in our room occasionally peeking out to see if we could catch a glimpse of what was happening. We couldn’t see anything from our room, and even though the screams sounded joyful, and the banging sounded like drums, we were definitely scared. After a while, my teacher went downstairs to ask if we needed to evacuate Lhasa, and learned that they were celebrating the lunar eclipse! She said that they were just throwing a huge party in the street, but there was still a huge military presence, so no going out tonight.

That was certainly my most interesting night in China.

Xi’ning, though beautiful, was perhaps the city I enjoyed the least on the trip. It was very cold, and there wasn’t as much to do as say, Xi’an. The altitude of the city was somewhere around what I am accustomed to, so that was nice, but it was cold and not nearly as populated as anywhere else we’d been. However, the Ta’er Temple was beautiful and the cold air gave us some motivation to keep moving. We only stayed one night, and then we hopped on a train to Tibet.

Another of my favorite places in Xi’an was the City Wally. Rest assured, there were a lot of South Park jokes about this location. It was completely amazing, a definite contrast of East and West, old and new. The wall seemed to go on forever, but it would be nice to just sit there on a warm day and read. However, it was not a warm day when we went and we were all freezing and starving. If I ever go back to Xi’an, I will certainly return.