The Dalai Lama once said, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” His words ring true to every visitor who has had the privilege of ascending to the “roof of the world.” Kindness, hospitality, politeness, respect…this makes up an international language that is spoken fluently in Tibet. Its people are its greatest treasure, but they are just one of the features that make this land so remarkable. Tibet is often shrouded in mystery; let’s peel back some layers – and entice you to visit this magical land.
Language is culture. In Tibet, there are no hurried or impatient greetings. Whether one is greeting a friend, a relative, a visitor, or even a domestic animal, time is taken. There is a Tibetan proverb which says, “Tea has a good taste if it takes time to cook.” Likewise, speaking slowly and with thought will provide a “good taste” for speaker and listener alike. As mentioned, people tend to be very polite and courteous to one another, and to visitors, and dislike profanity or insults.
Love the yak. The yak is an integral part of Tibetan culture. These hardy creatures are still used for transport along steep and arduous mountain paths; their hair is woven into yarn; their hides can be used to make boots and boats; their meat is a nourishing source of protein; their milk provides healthy fat and is used to make butter, cheese, and yogurt; their dung is used to fuel fires. You might be lucky enough to visit during an annual summer horse festival, which often features yak races. The Tibetan people do not waste anything; the yak provides everything from transportation to food to clothing to tents to entertainment!
Tibet is not a free nation. In fact, the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, which was established by the Dalai Lama and 100,000 Tibetans, is not recognized by any country in the world. Tibet is officially a Chinese territory, though the Dalai Lama has “fought” for its independence for decades. The Dalai Lama, revered by his people and respected by non-Buddhists, received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to liberate Tibet through non-violent action. The history and ongoing struggles of Tibet are as much a part of its rich tapestry as the landscape.
It’s up there! The world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest is on the border of Tibet and Nepal. The plateau of Tibet is the world’s highest plateau with an average elevation of over 4,500 meters. Visitors can get altitude sickness, so it is important to be as healthy as possible (train before your trip!). Ascend gradually, give yourself time to acclimate (you will probably experience symptoms like fatigue, nausea, and shortness of breath), don’t ascend higher if symptoms are present, keep hydrated, and avoid strenuous activity even if symptoms are only mild.
Enjoy Tibet; its rich culture, kind people, and stunning scenery make it a truly unique destination.