Tuesday, May 1, 2007

It's Bob's Fault....


I'm off again!! This time to India, Nepal and Tibet!

It all started shortly after I returned from my trip with my friend Lei to Egypt and Jordan. I was sitting in my office and my friend Bob walked in and handed me a small square envelope. I paid just enough notice to the outside of the envelope to make out that it had something to do with saving Tibet - I think it was intended as promotional material for a foundation started by Richard Gere. I tore open the envelope and inside was a Tibetan prayer flag. I immediately taped it up on my office wall, just above the scratch stick that I had picked up in Nuweiba, Egypt.

Tibet has always been on my top ten list of places that I want to travel to but I've never felt quite up to the challenge. Perhaps it's because I've always labelled Tibet, at least in my own mind, as a distant land so remote from my reality that I questioned whether not not I could handle just the simple feat of getting there. Then there was always the fear in the back of mind that I would be felled by altitude sickness. I survived Cusco, Peru but could I deal with the dizzying altitudes in Tibet - often exceeding 17,000+ feet? And is the temperature as cold as photos often convey? Will I have to deal with frostbite? Somehow though, despite whatever self inflicted fears I have, I'm inexplicably drawn to the remoteness of the land, the deep spiritualism that imbues every being that inhabits it and its struggles to remain as a separate, unique place and culture from China. Besides, where else can I indulge in a meal of yak? :-)

Each work day, I would often look up at the prayer flag and daydream about travelling to Tibet - imagining what it would be like to walk on the grounds of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, to watch and listen to the Buddhist monks and nuns as they attend to their daily rituals, to spin a prayer wheel with the pilgrims that flock to the city, and last but not least, to bask in the presence of the mighty Mount Everest. You gotta admit - imagining yourself standing in the shadows of Everest is worth a few minutes distraction from work!

Recently, while I was on business trip to San Francisco, I picked up the Lonely Planet guide on Tibet and started reading - the history, culture, environment, religion, and places that define Tibet and its people. That was really the beginning of the end for me. With each page, my desire to go to Tibet grew stronger and stronger. Soon, it grew into an obsession - occupying my thoughts whenever my mind needed to escape from the more mundane aspects of my day to day life. By the time I arrived home, I had made up my mind to travel to Tibet.....it was just a matter of when.

I decided once again to travel with an adventure tour group but I would go solo - without company of any friends or family. There will be plenty of future opportunities to share travels with familiar faces but I want to enjoy this dream of mine all on my own.

Obviously, there are several ways into Tibet - not just method of transportation (plane, train or automobile) but also launching points (Chengdu, China or Kathmandu, Nepal). After some thought I opted to not enter in by the China route as I want to go to China on a separate trip and do an in-depth tour of the country that is the birthplace of my ancestors.

I settled on entry via Kathmandu which introduced more exciting travel possibilities as Nepal is as intringuing to me as Tibet is. Though I'm not planning on spending much time in Nepal as I am in Tibet, I hope to make the most of what time I do have to at least see the highlights.

Now that I had the destinations planned, or so I thought, the next step was to figure out how to get to Kathmandu from DC. I quickly discovered that the only flights are via New Delhi, India. Oh oh. It didn't take but a split second for me to ask myself how can I go all the way to New Delhi and not visit the most famous site in India (two hour drive from New Delhi)? The Taj Mahal. Of course, I can't so I decided to add another side trip to see the world's most famous mausoleum! Fortunately, the flight from the US to India is direct. Whew!! Otherwise, I will never actually make it to Tibet!

So you see..., my going to Tibet this coming fall is all Bob's fault :-)

Originally, I was planning on going to South America but seeing that prayer flag every day at work only fueled my desire to go to Tibet. Bob has known about my fascination with travel to Tibet for quite sometime now though I don't think he really understands why I would put myself through the hardship of travel to such a remote location. Maybe he'll understand better when he sees my travelog and pictures that will get posted up on this blog.....but then again, maybe not. Fortunately for me, he kindly and patiently puts up with my insanity - a true friend, indeed!