Monday, October 15, 2007

One Yak Towns. Sakya and Lao Tinggri.

Tibetan village nestled into the foothills of a mountain.

Okay, there are some pretty remote places in Tibet. We passed by a lot of little villages and hamlets on our drive towards Kathmandu. Some had signposts announcing their names. Others were just made up of clusters of homes - no name, no entry road. Towns got a lot smaller once we left Gyantse. Here are my recollections and photos of two that we visited.


Sakya.We arrived into Sakya early on the afternoon of October 13th. We checked into our rooms and as I've done on a number of occasions, the first thing I did was to take a photo of the view outside my room. What came through my camera lens is the wierdest combination of elements that I've ever seen. The photo I took is below. On the left is the main street running down the length of the town. On the right side of the street, you can see the first two of a long row of pool tables that lined the street. On the lower right hand corner of the photo is a man walking with a yak head in his right hand.
Margaret, Claire and I decided we would take a few minutes rest and then head out to explore the town.

Just as we stepped out of the hotel, a few small children approached Claire to ask for a handout. Claire reached into her handbag and pulled a few of the toiletry items that she had removed from the hotel bathroom. In a split second, she was surrounded by a mob of children - so many that Margaret and I got worried. We shouted to Claire to see if she was okay. After they were thoroughly convinced that she had nothing else to hand out, the mob disbanded.

We continued on our walk through town - starting with a walk up the main street. Less than 5 minutes later and we had reached the end of the street - there was nothing to see or do.

View of main street as we headed back down towards our hotel.

We then headed down the only cross street in town - the one that our hotel was on. Less than 1 minute and we had reached the end of that street.

We turned back to walk towards where the two main streets intersect and came across the town butcher - most likely where the man got his yak head from.


As we continued our walk, we soon arrived at a bridge that crosses over a raging river.
 

On the other side of the river, the "suburbs" of Sakya.

As we approached the bridge to admire the scenery, a young Tibetan boy walked towards us. Margaret signalled for him to come towards her. He did and he stood still while I snapped this photo. Surprisingly, he was not at all curious to look at the digital image. He left as quickly as he had appeared.

As we stood on the bridge, we noticed a small group of girls, on the river's edge, washing their hair and faces and doing laundry. They waved us to join them. Without hesitation, Margaret clamored down the hillside and in no time, found herself surrounded by a bunch of smiling, giggly teenage Tibetan girls. Margaret was absolutely in her element!


Claire and I soon got into the fray. The girls were extremely curious about our skin and hair - each wanting to touch and stroke our hair and faces. They were particularly curious about Claire's hair - insisting to remove it from its Scrunchie and comb it. Claire obliged and the girls giggled. In fact, they giggled an awful lot at us - glad we could give them a few minutes of entertainment!



As we interacted with the girls, more and more kids stopped to watch the spectacle. In no time, there were surrounded by probably close to 20 or so girls and boys of all ages.
Somehow, the language lesson then began. As I learned the Tibetan words for eye (mic), lips (ka) and teeth (so), I taught the children the equivalent in English. Once we had the English words for basic body parts (head, nose, mouth, arm, leg, etc) and clothing (shirt, pant, sweater) nailed down, we moved on to numbers.

We spent quite a bit of time with the children and when we left, they followed us back into town. I felt like Pied Piper! The further we walked, the more kids we left behind. By the time we reached the front door of the hotel, there was less than a handful of children. We waved goodbye and walked inside.

We left Sakya bright and early the next morning for Rongphu Monastery.

Lao Tinggri.
Our original itinerary had us spending the night in Lao Tinggri after Rongphu but Baikuntha managed (without much difficulty) to convince us to bypass Lao Tinggri and instead, spend an extra night in Nepal. Best decision we made - we would have gone stir crazy staying overnight in Lao Tinggri!
We arrived in Lao Tinggri just in time for lunch. I had not had breakfast that morning (not much to eat at Rongphu) so you would think I would have been hungry but my insides were all shaken up thanks to one hell of a bumpy ride along the Yak Path. I knew I had to eat so I ordered some veggie momos and chatted with my travel mates. 

Then, a little Tibetan boy and girl walked up to my table and Baikuntha entertained them with wooden alligator that he had found lying around. 



They paid attention to Baikuntha for a few seconds before reached into the cabinet underneath and pulled out a pair of kittens. Then, two more kittens and another two. Six in all. I was curious so I leaned over to see mom tucked inside the cabinet. Apparently, she had given birth to the kittens there and so that was her home.....I presume for the time being.

After lunch, Barry, Margaret, Claire and I decided to explore the town. Okay, that's stretching the definition of the word "explore". We walked the main street.....actually, the only street and it ran smack dab through the center of town.




Surprisingly, we're in the absolutely nowhere and there was a housing boom in Lao Tinggri - we saw one new house, after another, being constructed. Houses here are built out of mudbrick with mud mortar. While men do the carpentry work, the task of stacking and mortaring the bricks together falls on the women. The communal attitude permeates through rural Tibetan life so everyone chips in to help build a house. 



There were barely a handful of stores in town. For some reason, butchers just work in the open air. 



Horse drawn carts seemed to be the main form of transportation for residents in Lao Tinggri. As we walked down the street, we had to be mindful of young, male cart drivers who seemed determined to barrel down the street as fast as they possibly could.



It took us about half an hour to make our way up and down the street, factoring in time to look here and there. Not much going on in Lao Tinggri.