I don’t know what Tibet was once like, but when I saw the Tibet that existed in 2012, I had no trouble imagining a happier, freer, friendlier land, with Buddhist chants in the air.
Tibet is essentially a plateau and much of it has little vegetation. As you move out of Nepal and towards Tibet, the trees disappear, vegetation gets shorter, and there are vast undulating lands with nothing more than grass and stone on them. There are animals like sheep, yaks and other mountain goats grazing about once in a while. There is a 2/3 chance of clouds dotting the sky. And you would do well to keep a warm jacket around, because the temperatures fluctuate massively, especially from night to morning.
Sunset heralds night. There is nothing to do there after Sun down. There is nothing there.
But the most remarkable aspect of Tibet is the red Chinese flags atop every building, every house, every hut you can see in Tibet. These Chinese flags follow you everywhere, from the Chinese border (where you get the coldest shoulder possible), to the rest of Tibet. These flags are not some coincidence. There are an insignia of Chinese domination over Tibet. It is a sign that these residences and buildings—which were once owned by Tibetans—are now under the Chinese rule. It is best not to ask too many questions there about where the original inhabitants and owners are now, partly because you can be thrown out of China, partly because they don’t really understand English, and partly because they really don’t like you much, especially if you are there on a pilgrimage to Mt Kailash.
In these handful of photographs I clicked in 2012, I tried to capture my own impressions and memories of Tibet. Unfortunately, not a free land, but yet beautiful. Manasarovar & Kailash were the highlights of the trip, and will be in a next post.
Tibet is not a place you forget easily. With its sparsely populated landscapes, zero pollution, hardly any humans, and all around peaceful atmosphere which masks the history of turmoil, it is a place to remember for long.