Tibet: The Land that Time Forgot

Profile picture of
Helen Winter

View Profile All Posts
Written by: Nicholla Carroll

Two Weeks of Time Warps and Tough Terrains in Terrific Tibet

I had always dreamed of going to Tibet. I wasn’t sure what would be waiting for me when I stepped off the plane, but I knew I had to go. I already want to go back there, just to check that it really does exist.

Entering the Tibetan capital

There was something mysterious and enchanting about Lhasa, Tibet’s capital. It felt as though there was something different in the air, although that could have had something to do with being 3,500m above sea level, the striking scenery literally taking my breath away. Glorious mountains, colourfully-decorated streets, and Tibetans dressed in what looked like very elaborate theatrical costumes, never seemed to be too far away.

Walking through the small Lhasa villages I couldn’t help but feel as though I had stepped back in time. Round-faced, dark-skinned and rosy-cheeked, the women’s long, black hair was braided with turquoise and amber beads. Instead of money, the most valued necessity are the timid, long-haired yaks, used for clothing, food, fuel and travel, joined on the road by horses pulling carts.

Situated so high up, Tibet isn’t the warmest place in the world, so it’s important to wrap up warm. For my Tibetan adventure I had packed thick socks, a coat, hat and gloves, but most things were available in the local shops, including bottles of oxygen.

Exploring the Tibetan temples

All around Lhasa you see monks in their robes, some saffron and some burgundy. At first it seems strange to see so many of them walking around. To catch them texting on the latest mobile phone or sporting Nike trainers is even more bizarre.

In Lhasa’s central square stands the famous Jokhang Temple. Outside, Buddhists pray with their mats laid out before them, bowing respectfully and then standing again, for hours on end. A flow of pilgrims walk clockwise around the outside of the temple in what’s known as the Barkhor Circuit, often having travelled from remote parts of Tibet with all their family and sheep.

The pilgrims were easy to spot as they looked rugged and wore clothes made from animal skins: they could almost have come from another age. The joy of being at one of the holiest places in Tibet is written across their faces. On the Barkhor Circuit we passed through the Muslim quarter which is fascinating to see. As you wind through the alleys, I could hear the call to prayer coming from the nearby mosque, and the spiritual importance is even available to buy from the stalls lining the streets, offering everything from prayer wheels to precious stones.

Once the circuit is complete, you come to the entrance of the Jokhang Temple. The pilgrims rush past you trying to gain a place in the queue which navigates around the different rooms inside the temple. Each room contains holy shrines and figures of gods, an overwhelming sight for long-distance travellers.

The pilgrims chanted and offered money or yak butter to each god. At one point we came across a wall of prayer wheels which the pilgrims spun as they passed. It was the roof where I found my spiritual moment though. Here I could see the wonderful view of the square, the town and the surrounding mountains. On the right-hand side was the famous Potala Palace in the background, the home of the Dalai Lama before he fled into exile. It was just one of those moments that I will be able to remember perfectly, no matter where I go or what I do.

Wandering the landscapes

After I had adjusted to the thinning air and Tibetan way of life, I decided to explore more of this fascinating country.  Joining up with four other travellers, we hired a jeep with a driver to tour around the countryside.

My first impressions of Lhasa had fuelled my curiosity to see what else this fascinating country had to offer, and I was not disappointed. Our seven-day road trip took us past the mighty snow capped mountains of Nargaste, the intriguing temples in Gyantse and Shigatse, both technically a region of China, known as the Tibet Autonomous Region, and of course the unmissable Everest Base Camp, as well as the pointed mountain region of Lhatse.

Tibet it is so unique and so raw; it is a country stuck in a time-warp and long may it last. If the Western world had never reached their land, I am sure the Tibetans wouldn’t have minded. They appear to be content with their yaks, pilgrimages and untouched landscapes and I hope it stays this way for a very long time, despite the odd pair of Nikes here and there.

Check out these top travel experiences

Search

26 Week Teaching Adventure

from £2795

182 days

China

Start in Beijing with a group of like-minded participants and embark upon a 4 week TEFL qualification with added classroom...

Entrepreneur Internship in Shanghai

from £3000

28 - 180 days

China

Learn from successful entrepreneurs in one of the most important cities in Asia. Launch your career while discovering Shanghai.

Shanghai to Sydney

from £729

From 30 days

Australia, China

Take advantage of China's recently expanded 72 hour visa-free transit quota on your way and explore Shanghai before taking in...

International Hospitality Internship In China

from £835

30 days

China

China has shown tremendous economic growth in recent years and one of the driving forces behind this is their rapidly...

Summer Teaching Programme in China

from £350

14 - 49 days

China

Positions in Haining, Huzhou and Xuzhou, for 2 or 7 weeks, open to all students, no degree required.

International Marketing & PR Internship In China

from £835

30 days

China

China maintains one of the largest economies across the globe and is a prime destination for students and young professionals...

5 Months TEFL in China

from £400

120 days

China

Teach in a Chinese state school for one term and get a taste of what life is like in this...

Trans-Siberian Adventure

from £1099

30 days

China, Japan, Russia

Ever fancied doing the Trans-Siberian railway? Well, this is your chance. These flights are the perfect way to do that...

Jobs in China with TEFL training

from £549

120 - 330 days

China

Positions all over China, including in Shanghai & Beijing, Monthly salary of £650-£1650 depending on location, Online TEFL course &...

Giant Panda Center in China

from £990

7 - 7 days

China

Assist in an essential and rewarding program with giant pandas in China. Make a real impact in safeguarding this captivating...

Search

Bhutan Adventure

from £1784

Imagine a country where a land’s worth is measured differently – think Gross National Happiness instead of Gross Domestic Product....

India’s Golden Triangle: Yoga & Bollywood Edition

from £930

Follow the famed Golden Triangle on this adventure to India’s premier cities – Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Peel back the...

Bhutan Discovered

from £2205

Bhutan is the little secret of Asia. Overshadowed and nestled between China and India, it is a relatively new travel...

Everest in Full Picture – Basix

from £995

Travel to Nepal and head to the Himalayan hills to get the full picture of Everest. Fly to Lukla then...

Tibetan Journey

from £2865

It could be a combination of the mist rolling off the chilly peaks or the light breaching between the mountains,...

Local Living Thailand—Hilltribe Independent Adventure

When most of us think "Thailand," we think bustling Bangkok, fresh and spicy Lanna cuisine, and flamboyant Buddhist temples. This...

Highlights of Borneo

from £1449

We believe Borneo is for lovers. (Lovers of wildlife and adventure, that is!) You’ll traverse caves, trek through Gunung Mulu...

Delhi to Kochi by Rail

from £1449

There’s never been a lack of monuments and highlights to see in India, and this 21-day Rail trip hits them...

Essential India

from £783

From the intricate saris of Rajasthan to the beautiful symmetry of the Taj Mahal, this compact journey is a photographer's...

Thailand Family Holiday with teenagers

from £1695

Explore the busy streets of Bangkok and Chiang Mai on this energetic family adventure in Thailand. Zipline through treetops, cycle...

Find more articles like this

Search
[contact-form-7 id="4" title="Contact form 1"]