Long, Scenic Drive to Shigatse, Tibet

We piled into the bus at about 8:30am for the long drive to Shigatse, Tibet. The drive is about 300km and we are taking the scenic route. Young Tour Guide told us that about 60 percent of Tibetans are farmers, 20 percent are living in urban centers, and 20 percent are nomads. Tibetans don’t usually eat fish. They are too small and can feed only one person. Tibetans prefer larger animals, like yak and goats, because they can feed more people. Also with water burials, the fish might eat the dead bodies, which is unappealing to anyone, including Tibetans.

Geology Professor gave an overview of the mountain building events (i.e., India colliding into the Eurasian continent) that caused the high elevation and varied rock terrain that we will be driving through and that we’ve been seeing already. On the drive we saw loads of evidence for rapid uplift. These mountains are moving up so fast you can practically watch it in action.

Political Science Professor gave a talk about water resources and water being the new oil.

I took video at a couple of places along the drive, when we would stop. Take a look.

Latitude 29°11'39.86"N, Longitude 90°37'2.15"E

Latitude 28.899048, Longitude 90.163417 (highest point on trip while standing 4,960.2 meters (16,270 feet))

One thing that was not video-taped was when we stopped to eat lunch. We were right next to a lake, a holy lake. We had an uninteresting box lunch prepared by the hotel. As soon as we sat down, an old woman and a young boy showed up. They lived in the nearby village. We all gathered some food from our boxes and gave it to them. They hung around the whole time while we ate and some of us took our time and wandered down to the lake side. A sheep herder wandered by with his flock. Some of the group held a baby sheep. Still the old woman and boy hung out. Then this other boy rode up on his bike. He was from the same village. “Hello.” “How are you doing?” He clearly wanted to test out his English. So I asked him how old has was, but he didn’t know what I meant, even when I pantomimed. Some Chinese speakers in the group came up and asked him his grade, “Sixth.” How old are you? “13.” When did he start learning English? “3rd grade.” He goes to school 30km away and must live there. All of this was in Chinese. We asked what he wanted to do when he grew up. “Do something useful for the world.” Priceless. It’s mind boggling to think about the fact we are in this remote area of Tibet and a poor boy from a sheep herding / farming village is learning Chinese, Tibetan, and English, as well as, Math and Social Studies and has bigger dreams.

Latitude 28°55'28.05"N, Longitude 89°35'42.82"E

We stopped at the Kumbum Monastery (Baiju Temple), which was a very active monastery in that there were many monks around doing different jobs. It was also a walled monastery, which is something we haven’t seen. And there were lots of dogs lying in the shade. At the Kumbum Monastery we were allowed to take pictures inside. So far we have not been able to take pictures inside monasteries or temples. So I took video of the monks chanting. Take a look, it’s at the end. Well, I also got some GPS readings and while I was sitting in the shade making sure the software worked, one monk walked up to me and looked over my shoulder as I was fiddling with the tablet. There wasn’t anything interesting to look at, though, because all I’m doing is collecting waypoints and then at night bring them into Google Earth to figure out where we’ve been. I can’t explain that to him. In the meantime, another monk came up to find out what was going on. So I showed them the video of my day and they really liked it up until the part about them. The video got to the monks chanting and they indicated that they see that every day. So then I showed the monks the first video I made for this trip, the one of me leaving Poughkeepsie on Metro North, and they liked that. Though I didn’t video this interaction, they told us how long they have been in the monastery (since age ten) and how old they are (one was 22 and the other 26), and that whatever they learn, they learn on their own, they don’t have a school. This was one of the best experiences I’ve had yet.

Latitude 29°15'48.74"N, Longitude 88°52'58.61"E

We got to Shigatse and checked into the Shigatse Hotel. This hotel’s lobby is beautiful, very Tibetan and colorful. The desk people and the restaurant people spoke pretty good English. The room was okay, but no in-room internet access; I’ve gotten used to unlimited access to the internet. I’ll write about this hotel for TripAdvisor.

We’ve Skyped the kids every day. I should do a whole blog entry on the wonders Skype (2.1 cents a minute!) and for that matter the marvels of the Web 2.0 world. Although this blog should be indicative of what one can do with the web these days. But you haven’t gotten to know that not only have a blogged, and uploaded photos to Panoramio and Flickr and video to YouTube, but I’ve Skyped with the kids.

It was a five star day.

Here are my placemarks for today in Google Earth.

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