Thursday, August 24, 2006

On Tibet

Once in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, while I'll certainly see Lhasa and other places of note, the main plan is to kora the Kailash. That's Mt. Kailash. A kora is a holy journey and spiritual cleansing, achieved by circumambulating a holy site (for most Buddhists, in a clockwise manner). Mt. Kailash is one of the most important holy sites for Hindus and Buddhists alike and is located near the (disputed) border of China-Tibet and India.

Devout pilgrams prostrate themselves (full-body bow begun standing and touching the forehead to the ground) -- every third step. Alas, I'm sure the high altitude along with the freezing cold nights will make it difficult enough for me!

Guesthouses can be found along the way, and hiking it without the prostrations generally takes 2 - 3 days. As mentioned, Mt. Kailash is located at the far west border, so to reach Mt. Kailash, one must obtain a number of police permits for different areas (though in recent days and with the increased tourism due to the train, this is changing) and hire a jeep through a travel agent, generally done with other travelers to reduce per person costs. Otherwise, there is no legal public transportation for non-residents.

I read an astounding blog of someone who undertook the journey without the correct paperwork -- replete with bribing truck drivers, hiding under heavy blankets to get past security checkpoints and upon discovery outrunning the PSB! Generally people do this if they don't have sufficient funds for the cost of the jeep. Believe me, I have neither need nor desire to do this illegally! (Well, maybe a tiny bit of desire, but not enough to outweigh the risk!)

(Anyone who wants to read that blog, email me, and I'll try to dig up the link.)

Aside from the spiritual and the personal challenge aspects of the journey, I have heard the beauty of this mountain is unparalleled, and upon seeing a picture I immediately knew, "I must see this with my own eyes."

In addition, we'll visit the Everest Base Camp (from the China side) and several other places along the way. If we can squeeze it in, we will go to the ruins of the Guge Kingdom -- which is a bit further west of Kailash, but may be dubious due to lack of time!

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