Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My Tibet Adventure 7 - Summer palaces, even more food adventures, a foot massage and our departure.

The final chapter....
A palace at NorbulingKa
Ah, lets go to the Summer palace

The next morning we go to the NorbulingKa.  Which, as the entrance ticket describes it is: "the traditional summer residence of the successive Dalai Lama.  Originally built by the 7th Dalai Lama in the mid-18th century, it was later renovated and enlarged until the beginning of the 20th century.  There are several separate palace complexes inside." We're fortunate to be he the first thing in the morning, so the area is not yet crowded and the cloudy skies make for excellent photography conditions and the palace complexes provide rich material.  The story of the palaces are interesting including the one that the Chinese government built in order to try and appease the Dalai Lama.  He apparently refused to live in it after declaring it too decadent. 

From there we’re off to visit a Museum of Tibetan History.  This plan gets quickly derailed when we arrive at the gates only to find we're denied admission because some visiting government official is visiting the site today.  We quickly reconfigure and decide this is a good opportunity to go visit the bazaar and stores around the bazaar.  I'm once again grateful for Rene and his wife, Debbie, who are experienced in buying in these environments and know where and how to find both good merchandise and pricing.  They greatly help me with a couple of minor jewelry purchases and the acquisition of a new duffle bag (a counterfeit I'm sure, but it's sole mission is to get the booty from this trip home).  At less than $10 for a good size bag, I'm indeed, a happy buyer.  As we navigate the streets of the bazaar, Bob continues to discreetly photograph people while the people continue to find this group of western tourists fascinating.  After our little shopping expedition we catch the penny taxis and head off for dinner.

The "Ice Cream" Dinner

Our hosts have another formal alumni dinner this evening, but we've declined feeling it inappropriate for us to attend yet another alumni function.  Beyond which of course is the fact that we'd much rather find some normal fare to eat.  Rene has again located us a promising choice and the penny taxis drop us there.  

As we enter it's a good looking restaurant with lots of rich mahogany wood furniture, white table clothes and well-dressed staff.   However, as we've so often found with restaurants here, appearances can cover a variety of underlying service issues and this one would prove no different. 

The menu does indeed offer a wide variety of western choices including Haagen Dazs ice cream.  Our hopes rise.  Bob and I order spaghetti and I request extra sauce as I always find restaurants only give you enough for the top 1/2 inch of the noodles.  As the waitress collects all of our orders, she notices us pointing to the Haagen Dazs sign on the table and asks us if we'd like some and we tell her yes, but only after we've completed our meals. 

While we're waiting, Rene gets a call from CT asking where we are as he'd lost track of us in the bazaar and he and our guide would like to join us.  Rene provides them the needed directions and asks if he should go ahead and order for them, which he does after hanging up.   By this point some 20-30 minutes has passed since we'd placed our order, during which some of the soups ordered have arrived.  Which is nice, except of course that we have no silverware.  We point out to the waitress we were going to need some silverware and we watch as she brings us just enough to cover the soups ordered (two settings).  We promptly pointed out that we would need two more sets just for the people already here, not to mention we have two more coming.   She looks befuddled.  She clearly understands English, so this seems a straightforward transaction.  But we know how that goes, don't we? 

It takes two more attempts for her to get the required number of settings to our table.  In parallel to this exercise, a server brings out two orders of ice cream (we'd ordered four).  We promptly send him back with ice cream in hand, explaining we had clearly said this was to be served at the END of the meal.

The first orders out are the steaks for the two people who aren't there yet.  The waitress doesn't take them back and put them under a heat lamp.  When we point this out, she just leaves them setting on the table.  Of course, the rest of us are marveling that the main courses we'd ordered thirty minutes before the steaks aren't there yet, while the ice cream is now being served.  Did we enter a time warp?  Had we lost 60 minutes of time during which our meals were served and we consumed them?  Or, are we simply en-route to another one of those experiences?  The answer comes quickly. 

CT and our guide arrive and promptly dig into their meals.  While the rest of us watch and wait.  In fact we watch them consume their entire meals, while we continue waiting for ours.  Our guide goes back to the kitchen and tries to shake loose our meals.  This brings forth our waitress to assure us they are working on them and to ask if we want our ice cream?  We emphatically state: "NO, we don't want our ice cream until AFTER our meals!!".  While there, she visually notes the empty soup bowls, but does nothing about them.  So Bob gathers them up into a stack and heads back towards the kitchen to deliver them personally (and a not too subtle hint).  That brings forth attendants to relieve him of the stack, but does not get properly interpreted as a rapidly growing frustration with the level of service we're receiving. 

CT starts yelling at the restaurant staff across the room, pointing out we've now waiting nearly an hour.  This gets the attention of the other diners as well as the restaurant staff.  They begin racing back and forth across the restaurant, like fish in an aquarium (i.e. lots of activity), but food does not appear (no results).   After another 10 minutes or so, our spaghetti dinners finally arrive.  Being somewhat hungry at that point and having some at the table already done with their meals, Bob and I devour ours in a hurry.  So, now we're ready for our ice cream and we flag down a server to indicate such.  Bob has ordered a scoop of vanilla and chocolate and I have ordered a single scoop.  Given they've tried to serve the ice cream to us two or three times already, we're expecting a quick turnaround here.  Silly us.  Time passes, no ice cream appears.  Once again, we start grilling the staff on where the ice cream might be?  Again, this results in much scurrying of restaurant staff back-and-forth in what Bob terms, quite appropriately, "communal chaos".  CT again takes to the floor, in a high-energy effort (and volume) to obtain our desserts.  Finally, two plates arrive, each with a single scoop.  As mine gets placed in front of me, we point out Bob is supposed to have two scoops.  His plate of ice cream gets passed under his nose and is promptly withdrawn by the waitress.  She is headed back to the kitchen before he can grab it.  So close, yet so far.  More time passes and I'm thinking we deserve an perseverance and humor prize for our handling of this because at some point, probably far earlier than I realized, this became a contest of will.  And we're determined to win.    These people are dealing with pushy Americans and the odds are simply not in their favor.   Rene decides that given my report that the ice cream is good, we should further up the ante and he orders a scoop as well.  In the interest of speed, we offer that they can simply bring the scoop, minus the decorations if that will speed things up.  Which has an interesting result.  Bob's two scoops show up at exactly the same time as Rene's single scoop. Bob's fully decorated, Rene's not.  Yet obviously prepared side by side. The Twilight Zone has nothing over this place.

Let me be sure I have this right.  We're paying you to beat us up??

Our meal finally concluded, our psyches and sides aching from the experience, coupled with bodies aching from the day's travel, CT insists we join him in getting a foot massage.  Having never done one before, I thought what the heck, my feet are tired and that might feel good, so I indicate I'll join the group.  So the five of us remaining head off to a spot CT recommends, a short walk from the restaurant. 

Upon arrival, we're lead to a room with six side-by-side beds, each with a tub at the end.   We each take a slot, removing our shoes/socks and waiting while the Olympics play on the TV in the room.   Soon, in proceed six young Chinese ladies who start pouring hot water in the tubs at our feet and directing us to place our feet in them.  Then to my surprise, the young lady climbs up on the bed and sits behind me, indicating I should lean back towards her.   Well, OK, but my feet are at the other end....  It turns out the phrase "foot massage" is only a description of where they end up.  

We get turned over and over like BBQ on a spit while they work there way up and down our bodies hammering away on us.  When the ladies start climbing across people's backs both with their knees and feet, you can hear the groans (or in CT's case, the snoring.  He obviously finds this very relaxing).  The lady working on me takes my legs and folds them up like she is trying to turn me into her personal Origami project.  My groans border on screams of agony and I wonder if she's taking a bit too much delight in this folding and mutilation experience. 

The lady working on Bob reads his feet and tells him he has a bad stomach, apparently as does Debbie.  The precise implications of this are left ambiguous, but what isn't ambiguous, is when she finds a couple of old injuries on Bob's body from the days of his youth (yes, we're talking OLD injuries here :-), and applies pressure to these points.  This entirely removes whatever thin oxygen he had left in his body at this altitude and leaves him gulping like a guppy.   

As the ladies wrap up the sessions on our bodies, I vow to learn how one spells the word "sadist" in Chinese, so I'll be better prepared to read the signage on establishments we enter in the future.  I consider this an important step in being able to properly calibrate one's expectations with one's experiences.

Leaving Llhasa

It's always hard to leave a place when you've been so captivated by the people, their land, history and culture.  Truly, Tibet has left me breathless in every sense of the word. 

Tibet is a land of contradictions and of competing forces as well as visions for the future.  You'll see fiber optic cable being laid in front of nomadic herders living in tents.  You'll find cell phone signals in valleys ringed by 17k ft tall mountains and where the only people are those passing each other on a roadway that varies from semi-smooth, to axle breaking ruts and pothole encrusted, gravel detours.  A place where history is best left to be interpreted by the listener after asking some probing questions and gathering some facts.

We all realize as we board the bus for the airport, that we came together, in many cases with little more than the knowledge of each other as names in emails or heard in phone conversations.  Yet during the course of a little over a week, we've come to know and respect each other as friends and colleagues, forged around what is probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience and a shared vision of the potential of education and for future colleges/universities in China.  Furthermore, our professional circle has been expanded to include some family members and most certainly, our guide as well as our driver.  Our departure at the airport check-in desk is sincere and heartfelt.

However, Llhasa has one final request of us.

No deposit, no return...

We get our boarding passes and head towards the gate on the second level.   Only the escalator is out of commission.  Over the past week, we've become more accustomed to the thin air, but now both Bob and I are carrying our fully loaded camera bags and duffle bags packed with gifts we've bought or been given, including some very beautiful, but very heavy books.  It's not a light load.  By the time we get to the top of the stairs, we're both heaving for air.  Oh well, we didn't have any oxygen when we got here, and I suppose this makes sure we're not taking any with us.  When we reach the top of the stairs, the rest of the group waves us down to tell us we're actually at a gate on the other side of the airport down on the first level.  After repeated inquiries, they assure us they're not kidding.   So off we go, running, on a complete oxygen deficit, until we arrive at the proper gate and board the plane.

What a beautiful place, what history, what people and culture.  We board the plane bringing to a conclusion an experience of a lifetime.  

If you want to see more pictures from the trip, you'll find them on my FLICKR site


Monday, August 27, 2012

My Tibet Adventure 6 - Turquoise Lake, Glaciers, more food adventures and a show.

Note:  If you didn't read the firstsecond, third, fourth and fifth posts about Tibet, you might want to read those and then come back to this one.
Turquoise Lake, Tibet
Hawkers are just trying to make a living 

The next day we’re off to Turquoise Lake.  The lake color is, as described, a beautiful, deep turquoise green. The hawkers at the photo stops around the lake are like Velcro.  One woman zeroes in on me and will NOT give up.  I circle the van; I tell her "no". I ignore her.  I go join another group of people.  All to no avail.  She is determined to sell me a necklace.  I can only shed her by returning to the inside of the van and taking a seat.

This lake is huge.  We drive for miles and stop again at another photo shot location.  You can see the glaciers in the background from here.  It's a largely unspoiled view of such grandeur that words and photographs utterly fail in describing or capturing it.  Suffice it to say the combination of colors, scale and elements makes for a memory one is unlikely to ever forget. At lunch we encounter a whole new round of aggressive hawkers.   They come into the restaurants and work on us around the table. These are even aggressive enough to come into the bus.  CT proves an easy mark for them.  The restaurants obviously get very frustrated with this behavior, but apparently there is little they can do about it unless they're native Tibetans.  If a Chinese, or other nationality, owner tries to stop them, their establishment apparently becomes a target of protests and are all but shut down.   But it does make for one of the less pleasant aspects of touring in Tibet. 

A 23K ft glacier with nomads at the base
Thats a LOT of ice.

We stop in front of a glacier to shoot photos.  Water flows off the glacier into streams, down numerous pathways and towards the mountain base.  It makes for incredible photos.  On the other hand, it is a sign of global warming, as the guide tells us.  This glacier used to extend to the base of the mountain, now it only covers about 50% of it.  Were talking about a glacier that is 23,303 ft tall.  As we return to the van and head out, we're faced with what must be thousands of acres of open land, ringed by mountains, many with glaciers on them.  The only place back home I've seen anything close to this is in Montana.

Maybe "Club" sandwiches are named for the instrument needed to obtain one? 

We spend the night at the Tashi Choe Ta Hotel in Shigetse.  We check in and upon arrival to our rooms, find them very well decorated.  In fact this one even has a mattress that depresses a little.  Wow.  However, we're lacking safes or refrigerators (given my experience with the refrigerators so far, not a big loss, except that when one is carrying insulin, one is supposed to keep it cold).  Of course, as usual I find the bathroom toilet roll to be nearly empty so I make a mental note that when we meet for dinner in the lobby, I'll need to ask them to deliver a spare roll.  Upon meeting in the lobby, it is apparent our hosts, have taken note of our desire for some Western food and have decided to find a restaurant with that offering.  Our hotel restaurant claims to offer such, so we head over there.  We're quickly disappointed to find it consists solely of lamb shops and steaks.  So we get up and head out for another restaurant nearby.   When we sit down here we're greeted with English menus that offer something approximating Western fare (i.e. localized western fare).  We find burgers made of Yak (given their size we dub them Yak sliders), but we also find pizza and a club sandwich; which is what I order.  I'm thinking; something light, two or three slices of toasted bread, lettuce, tomato (which are very good here) and some meat, it'll be quick.  Right?  Well, as we learned the night before with the Hawaiian pizza, it's best not to jump to any conclusions.   The food starts arriving and our hopes quickly rise, as the soups are quite good.   The Yak burger arrives and is as near perfect as one could expect, a bun, burger, lettuce, tomato and even fries with a bottle of ketchup.  It looks quite good and Dibble assures us it is.    Other dishes arrive; all hot dishes and all get thumbs up.   However, the simple club sandwich is nowhere to be seen.  I mean nowhere.  We inquire and they assure us they've not forgotten it.   Bob begins theorizing that perhaps I have the same effect on restaurants that I have on airlines .  Everyone finishes eating and the club sandwich still has not appeared. 

Me and the infamous "Club Sandwich"
When it finally does, we're definitely NOT talking a traditional club sandwich. In fact I'm wondering if Bob (a native Texan) has played a role in what arrives, as it is definitely a Texas style club sandwich with bread slices each an inch and a half thick, the three layers of bread stuffed with a wide assortment of goodies.  It brings laughs from the entire group as they enjoy the thought of watching me trying to fit this into my mouth, much less finish it.  Neither will happen easily.  Massive compression to the sandwich is needed to make it fit a human mouth and I try to eat a good portion of it, but am simply unable to do so.                   


Monasteries on my left, on my right, everywhere I turn..

The next morning we're off to visit the Tashi Lhumpo Monastery, founded in 1447 by the first Dalai Lama.  This monastery contains some of the largest Buddhas I've ever seen (I'm guessing 5, maybe 8 stories tall), covered in gold and precious stones.  It is a large, beautiful complex.  We get many excellent photo opportunities. Of course a steak house will have steak.  Right? Last night we went to the Tibet Steak House here in Llhasa.  Again, this location offered Western food, and we could order individually.  Which by this time in this story you might be tired of hearing about, but in the land of the parched and thirsty, we greet this sight like a water wagon.  I order my first Yak burger with fries and a Llhasa beer, wondering with trepidation if last night's club sandwich experience will haunt me again.  Dibble orders a Yak steak, Bob a Yak burger and Rene and Debbie some Thai and noodle dishes.  All of which arrive over the next ten-fifteen minutes - except Dibble's Yak steak.  We start quizzing him: Did you order a Club sandwich?  As we start finishing off our meals, which are quite good, Dibble questions our waitress about where his order might be?  Her English is clearly not good, but it is way better than our Chinese or Tibetan, but she seems to get the question and scurries off to find out.  She comes back and tells Dibble they've run out of steak.   Which leaves us so dumbfounded. She leaves our table as we all set there in dumbfounded silence with our mouths agape.  Really?  Why didn't she come back and tell us that before we asked?  Better yet, as Bob puzzles aloud; how do you run out of YAK steaks in a Tibetan STEAK house!?!?  Yaks surround us. Weve seen hundreds today alone. 

It turns out to be a communication issue based on her limited understanding of English and the way we asked the question.  So, Debbie and Rene gather up remainders from the food ordered and assemble a leftover, but decent meal for Dibble.  Meanwhile, I must admit to basking a bit in the light of the fact that these kinds of things don't happen to me alone.  It's a little bit like welcoming someone to a leper's island to take delight in seeing someone else share in the mishaps I regularly endure, but as many of my friends have pointed out, I seem to have uniquely bad luck when traveling.  Its nice to have some company for a change.                         

Happiness is on the way.  A show?  A statement?  A policy?

 We race from the restaurant to the site of the theatre show we're attending for the evening, called; Happiness is on the Way.  It's a lovely dance performance, in a fabulously decorated theatre, with numerous twists, reminding one at times of some of the mountain roads we've been navigating. Sometimes performers emerge from the floor mid-theatre or even in the back, sometimes in openings high up on the wall, but mostly of course, on stage.  It's a colorful, musical performance and thankfully, act summaries are posted in English throughout the performance so we can keep track of what the story is about, which is basically that of life in Tibet and the role that Earth, wind, water and fire play in the life of Tibetans.   At one point, between acts, they bring a silk sheet down from the stage and raise it above our heads as they move to the back of this large theatre.  One is apparently part of this piece by raising your arm and extending a single finger for the sheet to glide across.  In any event, it makes for an unusual way to distract and entertain the audience while the stage crews prepare the stage for the next act.    It's a long performance, on top of a long day, and closes with a not too subtle display of a Chinese flag as the stage curtain and the message: "Happiness is on the Way".  The irony here is remarkable as we've just celebrated Tibetan culture for over two hours, but we're going to be reminded at the end, who is in charge and what we, as the audience, should be thinking when we leave.  One can only wonder if the Tibetans would agree with this? 

Tomorrow, the final chapter in this adventure covering summer palaces, even more food adventures, a foot massage and our departure.

If you want to see more pictures from the trip, you'll find them on my FLICKR site

Sunday, August 26, 2012

My Tibet Adventure 5 - Food adventures in Tibet and a King’s Palace

Note:  If you didn't read the firstsecond, third and fourth posts about Tibet, you might want to start there and then come back to this one.

We stage our own Cultural Revolution

Upon return to the city, we decide to stage our own small Cultural Revolution.  We let our hosts know that we, the American/Taiwan team, are heading out for some fast food. Rene knows where some can be found (Dico's) and then he lets us know he is headed that way with Debbie.  Bob, Dibble and I quickly chime in that we wish to join him.  The others are headed to a traditional Chinese restaurant and they try hard to convince us to join them.  We maintain our stance that we're in need of some of our traditional food.  We arrive at Dico's and find it specializes in buckets, or sandwiches, of chicken, kind of like a Kentucky Fried Chicken.   Good enough. We devour our meal and start to walk back to the hotel before deciding to take the penny cabs back.  

Now, penny cabs are two passengers, rickshaw like devices with a bicycle frame underneath.  It turns out to be a lovely way to see the city up close, although intermingling with traffic proves a bit scary, as cars/trucks dont give an inch.  Navigating through traffic intersections keeps your adrenalin pump running like a finely tuned machine.  Cars finally give space when it is clear that a collision is about to result.  Give the Tibetans credit, their spatial relationship skills are excellent as I saw car bumpers and grills stop literally inches from our vehicle and I do mean inches.  I saw that not once, but many times.  I finely learn to handle it by invoking some wisdom Rene & Debbie shared that came from one of their grandchildren:  "You get what you get and it is what it is and don't throw a fit".  Indeed, words of wisdom that is perfect for this situation.

The “Screaming Manager” Lunch

The next day were off to Tsedung, Tibet, outside of which sits the Kings Castle.  Along the way we see another large beautiful lake, although lacking the lovely turquoise color of the others, with what appears to be a Buddhist shrine as an overlook.  It again makes for some snaps and soon were back on our way into Tsedung to check in to our hotel and reconvene for lunch.  

The restaurant proves an interesting choice.  Its a place run by a very vocal lady, one we come to call the "screaming manager".  CT makes a stop before the restaurant at a shop, and follows us into the restaurant by several minutes.  His purchases in hand, he promptly asks for plates upon which to deposit them.  This includes chopped duck (and I do believe it was the WHOLE duck), pigs ears, yak stomachs stuffed with ham and several other items Ill leave to your imagination (although Bob tends to verbalize his descriptions with terms that are far more colorful and descriptive than the proprietor who sold them to CT).  It's enough food to feed a small army of people and Bob and I note to each other this kind of act gets you thrown out of most American restaurants.   Well apparently we weren't far wrong as the "screaming manager" arrives at our table and in a manner best compared to a baseball team manager-umpire argument in a baseball game, begins screaming at CT.  He yells right back and apparently they reach some agreement.  Shortly thereafter the food that had been ordered from the restaurant starts to arrive in infrequent and uneven intervals punctured by the screaming manager yelling at her staff.  As the food arrives, the American portion of the team finds themselves politely declining dishes.  

Rene has worked out a warning system for us because he understands what is being offered we all check his face when a dish arrives and he very simply and quietly mouths to us: dont eat that.  We dont ask why because weve already come to fully appreciate Renes wisdom and understanding here and know that when Rene provides this indication it means the dish consists of either extremely hotly spiced food, animals or animal parts we simply don't consume or food that has a texture closely approximating slime.  Besides which, at some point, were visually and physically food saturated and cant possibly put more food in our mouths.  

The amount of food that gets left behind at these meals is staggering.  One can only hope these restaurants give it to the poor or their staff after we leave, otherwise this represents waste that our planet can ill afford these days.

King's Castle

Living like a King

Next up is the King's Castle, the home of the first King of Tibet.  It is positioned on the peak of a small mountain and from the base is a beautiful sight (see the picture above) .  Especially so, since were here on a day where there is a delightful blue sky, with light clouds floating across it, serving as an excellent backdrop for photos.  

Were delighted to hear we'll be riding horses up to the castle, although for the truly hardy (or insane), there is a stairway.  The horse is lead by a native Tibetan.  One quickly finds this was a wise choice given the width of the trail and the depth of the fall one would take (which seems much higher from the vantage point of the saddle) should the horse decide it's time to go in the wrong direction.  

Upon arrival at the disembarking point, you realize you still have two flights of steep stairs to get up to the castle, not to mention three floors of stairs to navigate inside the castle before you're at the very top.  Very steep, very narrow stairs.  If, in the past, anyone wanted to attack this castle and king, they truly had to be motivated because they were certainly going to be weakened by the time they arrive at the front door.  However the views are stunning from here and the camera clicks fill the air.  

The history of the castle is fascinating.  We trek back down from the castle on foot, using the stairway.  It's a slow trek, as again the lack of oxygen serves as a governor on our speed.  And, it's a long way down.

A pizza dinner!  Well, kind of.

As with the night before the American/Taiwanese portion of the team decides to peel off for dinner and our very able man Rene, picks a location for us to dine in, a European Cafe in Tsedung.  A look at the menu upon our arrival makes us hopeful as we find things like spaghetti, pizza and shaved ice.  We hold unto the menu after placing our order, so we can puzzle over menu selection names, which while not at all descriptive, make for an excellent guessing game trying to determine what you would get should your order that item.

We order some beers and explain we'd like them really cold.  The poor waitress, by this time is bearing the look of a totally exasperated person.  No doubt, she is wondering how she drew the short straw for the night to have been assigned to our table.  

We finally conclude our order and soon see lots of staff running back and forth in the restaurant.  We wait quite a long time for our beers and finally inquire after them.   They explain they'd just placed them in the cooler after we ordered them and thus theyre waiting till theyve cooled before serving them (Bob speculates the running was staff heading out to buy the beer after we ordered them).  

The spaghetti shows up, but with no plates or forks.  So we're left to admire the food and it looks quite like what we expected.  After several minutes four plates show up, but we're five in number.  I only want pizza so I tell the group to dig in.  Eventually we get a fifth plate, but not a fork.  Several minutes later a fifth fork shows up followed by the Hawaiian pizza.  Which, lets be frank, is NOT a Hawaiian pizza.  Not really.  It does however include fruit; the consensus is that it apparently is, or was, a peach (but isn't Hawaiian pizza supposed to include pineapple?).  Bob suggest, quite rightly I think, that what we're being served is what we call a dessert pizza.  The spaghetti turns out to be wholly acceptable and the Black Forest dessert (it's only link with chocolate apparently being the chocolate drizzle applied to it) turns out to be beautifully done and presented.

It also features a cherry tomato on top (well, it's technically a fruit after all) and a birds head made of apple slices.  Bob eats the apple slices but notes that our official story is, if asked, that he ate a birds head so our guests will feel we dined appropriately despite our eating without them.  :-) 

We're done with our meal within an hour and a half and have time left to walk the streets and peruse the shops.  As we do so we pass a Tibetan family with two small children and the youngest, probably 3 or 4 takes notice of Bob and I (we're pale skinned people, Bob further proving interesting because he has a beard which is very rare in these parts, and Im apparently interesting because I have white hair, another rarity).  The young ones point, laugh and race around us on the sidewalk.  We stop and say hello, but they continue their laps expressing their fascination.  We've learned to expect this type reaction, as apparently Westerners are truly rare in this country.

Next, Turquoise Lake,Glaciers, more food adventures and a show.  If you want to see more pictures from the trip, you'll find them on my FLICKR site