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