Journeys to ASIA

advisable routes

A proportion of the proceeds of our journeys are contributed to the Wider Vision Foundation Trust in India.

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Travelogue by Edgar Schneider, Regensburg, Germany

In August 2012 three couples of friends from Burgweinting left home for Kathmandu, to investigate Nepal and Tibet. The tour, the revenues of which were in part allocated as charity to the Naveen School in Varanasi, had been planned and was perfectly organized and accompanied by Neel and William. In Thamel, the “Nirvana Garden Hotel” offered us an oasis of peace and quiet, and from there for the first few days we explored the attractions of the Kathmandu Valley with a minibus and a local guide: the magnificent temple compounds of Bakhtapur, the temples of Swayambhu and Boudhanath, the lively Durbar Square with its temples, masses of people, and its “living Goddess”, and the sacred shrines of Pashupatinath with its burning ghats, where the deceased are burnt at the banks of the river.

Accompanied by William, Neel, and their families, we then rode a bus along the “highway” to the border at Kodari – a road which winds through impressive scenery but which is also adventurous and even treacherous at a number of places, passing by landslides, crossing brooks, and following gravel roads more reminiscent of a goat path than of an international thoroughfare.

At the border, China has her guests cross the border bridge walking on their own, one after the other, and welcomes them by ridding them of guidebooks, which they perceive as absolutely unnecessary (and actually, the fact that Tibet is a part of China remains more than visible repeatedly, most evidently displayed by regular goosestep patrols and rooftop sentries in the centre of Lhasa). We were expected by a Chinese minibus with a most friendly and knowledgeable Tibetan guide and an equally friendly driver (who was not proficient in English, however). Soon we were thrilled by the steep rise to the Tibetan plateau at an elevation of 3600 metres and more, causing uneasy feelings and adjustment problems for a while. But we were welcomed by cheerful Tibetan children and a herd of Yaks on the very first evening, in Nyalam.

And then, day by day and step by step, we proceeded along the “Friendship Highway”, which is excellently developed there, to Lhasa – with nightly stopovers in Shegar, Shigatse, Gyantse and Tsedang. We were impressed by the innumerable Buddhist monasteries which we visited, and also by the pantheon of uncounted Gods and Lamas, their names, functions, and symbols. We learned a lot about the Red Hat and Yellow Hat sects, about Buddhist beliefs, wisdom and prayers, and thanks to William’s daily “Gods quiz” for breakfast we are now able to pronounce names like Avalokiteshvara quite fluently, and we know how to identify the God with the Rat (… and actually, what was his name after all …?).

One of the most impressive experiences was an extended encounter with a nomad family on the side of the road. We were stunned by the giant Tashilunpo monastery, the seat of the Panshen Lama, and also by many most beautiful smaller monasteries such as Sakya, Shalu, or Samye, by the Yambulagang, the first king’s palace of Tibet, by the radiant bluish-green waters of Lake Yamdrok (which, sadly enough, is too holy for fishing), or by the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra River, which we crossed on a raft.

And finally we reached Lhasa – modern and spacious, and still offering a sense of the old Tibet to the visitor in its many historical monuments. A visit to Potala Palace was tightly timed, unavoidably (and, strangely enough, also constantly surveyed by a surprisingly large number of Chinese “firemen”); in the Jokhang Temple we were able to observe young monks practicing the art of verbal debates; and of course Lhasa has its share of Buddhist temples which we had to go and visit as well (Drepung, Sera, …), and there is also the impressive and colourful summer palace of the Dalai Lama, the Norbulinka.

After the return flight to Kathmandu, regrettably passing by a Himalaya covered by clouds, we had a little time left to enjoy the vividness, intensity and the blaze of colours of Nepal, with a visit to Pattan.

For all of us it was a trip full of most intensive and spectacular impressions – and we want to thank Neel and William for their competent and friendly company and for having taken care of us so well at all times!