Manual The Path to Mysterious Tibet

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Could it be that he has found the holy grail of Tibetans? The small village lies in a restricted military zone near the Indian border. He takes a few photos before an officer of the Chinese People's Liberation Army chases him away. That was three years ago. Experts believe that the true cradle of Tibetan culture lies in the valley Baumann discovered -- the center of a legendary realm whose kings controlled large parts of the Himalayas and central Asia, long before Buddhists arrived in the country.

The road to this realization was long and arduous. Henss encouraged him to continue his search in Tibet. After all, he told Baumann, the name of the village where the caves are located, Kyunglung, translates as "Garuda Valley. Baumann spent months pondering the mysteries of early Tibetan culture, working his way through university archives. But he didn't expect to glean much information from tibetologists. Less than a dozen scientists worldwide have ever even addressed the issue. Besides, most records on the region were destroyed during Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution.

The Path to Mysterious Tibet by Frank Wong | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble®

However, travel reports from the early s did prove to be helpful. At that time, Tibet was still a remote theocracy shielded from the rest of the world and ruled by the 13th Dalai Lama, his monks in their red robes and the court aristocracy in the capital, Lhasa. The theocracy, then three times the size of modern-day Germany, was a de facto independent country. Nevertheless, foreigners were not allowed to enter it.

Only a handful of adventurers and scientists, usually disguised as pilgrims, brought the West news from the secretive snow-covered country. The best known was probably Sven Hedin, a Swede who, in his book "Transhimalaya," was the first to describe the mysterious Tibet and the form of Buddhism that prevailed there, Lamaism, to a wider audience.

In , Russian scientist Nicholas Roerich claimed that he had discovered the enigmatic Buddhist kingdom of "Shambhala" in Tibet. But Roerich offered no geographic data to support his claims. Providing that kind of evidence would have been difficult, because "Shambala" is in fact a mythical realm that, according to legend, is home to those who will save mankind when the world is beset by war and destruction. But it was precisely this tale that seemed to spark the fantasies of Western readers.

When British author James Hilton portrayed four Western travelers stranded in the paradise-like valley of "Shangri-La" which was apparently nothing but a distortion of Shambhala in his novel "The Lost Horizon," his story became a bestseller and was twice made into a movie. From then on, the made-up world Shangri-la became a symbol of Far Eastern mysticism and meditative peace. Although none of this was helpful to Baumann, he did discover a treasure trove in the diaries of Italian Tibet researcher Giuseppe Tucci.

During a trip through western Tibet in , Tucci pitched his tent in the Kyunglung valley, but his report on what he had found there ended up gathering dust in the archives. But Tucci did leave behind a trail. Today, Namkhai Norbu is not only considered one of the world's most important teachers of Buddhism, but also one of the leading experts on the Shang Shung dynasty and the Bon religion. In Tibet, the Bon cult exists in the shadows. The Bonpos were the high priests in the "silver palace of the Garuda Valley.

In May , he embarked on another expedition, during which he wrote his most recent book, which was published in Germany this week. The trip began in the Nepalese capital Katmandu, a sort of ersatz center of Tibetan culture. The images in the monastery's prayer hall depict a landscape nestled between four rivers, with a prominent mountain rising at its center, the holy Mt. Three days later, Baumann and his expedition team boarded a plane for the hamlet of Simiot in western Nepal, once the terminus for Tibetan salt caravans. Pilgrims also used the high-altitude footpath that begins just behind Simiot's runway and winds its way through the narrow valley of the Karnali River before traversing the Nara La Pass, at an altitude of about 4, meters 14, feet , near the Tibetan-Nepalese border.

After a grueling, six-day trek, the men, now on the heavily guarded Chinese side of the border, board a Chinese-made "East Wind" truck. After a day's drive on unpaved roads, the breath-taking, ice-coated pyramid of 6,meter 22, feet Mt. Kailash appeared on the horizon. The first time Baumann circumnavigated the holy mountain on the "Kora" pilgrim path was in , just after Beijing had reopened the region to tourists. Since then, he has joined the faithful, who turn their prayer wheels as they walk and constantly mumble the mantra "Om mani padme hum" "Hail the jewel in the lotus" , 27 times on the pilgrimage around Mt.

In the past, Baumann had always perceived the pilgrimage as a purely Buddhist ritual. But this time he recognized the Bon code from the forgotten Shang Shung culture, a culture this landscape has kept hidden for thousands of years. At an altitude of more than 5, meters 16, feet , large settlements protrude from barren cliffs. Arriving in Chengdu, you will finish arrival formalities. Exiting with your baggage, you will be met by our China operator, holding your names on a sign. He will transfer you to your hotel. At the same time, he will get your signatures on the relevant documents, process your Tibet permit, and return it to you at the hotel.

This morning you can do some touring in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, and its administrative, cultural and educational center. The city is also a major industrial base and the economic, social and political heart and soul of Southwest China. You will begin your day with a visit to Wenshu Yuan, the largest and best preserved Buddhist temple in the city.

Wenshu dates back to the Tang Dynasty, and was renamed in the 17th century after a Buddhist monk who had made the monastery his home. The monastery is extremely active and constantly filled with worshippers. After the monastery, you will visit the Panda Breeding Center to see the adult and baby pandas. Finally, in the afternoon, if you feel like it, your guide can take you to the Sichuan Opera School to see how the children are taught this ancient art of Chinese opera. This morning, you will be picked up at your hotel and transferred to the airport, this time for your morning flight to Tibet.

Flight times are erratic, so you will be notified about the pick up when you are there. Arriving in Lhasa, you will be met and driven to the Yabshiphukhang. When you are unpacked and more accustomed to the thin air, you can take the rest of the afternoon to explore the fabulous market or Barkhor that surrounds the Jokhang. Rising early you will grab a quick breakfast. Around am you head back to the Barkhor and the Jokhang, spiritual center of Tibet and destination of millions of Tibetan Pilgrims.

You walk the kora or pilgrim route, around the Barkhor with the early morning pilgrims. After the outside kora you enter the temple and walk the nangkhor, or inside of the temple. On the roof of the Jokhang, you can take beautiful pictures of the market and pilgrims below, and the Potala on the hill across the square. From the Jokhang, you will head to the Potala, the former winter palace of the Dalai Lama, built on the escarpments of Red Hill and rising more than ' above the valley floor.

You must be sure to enter through the pilgrim entrance, up the long path, rather than through the tourist entrance. Your visit to the Potala complete, you can have lunch in one of the restaurants outside. The Norbulinka was the former summer palace of successive Dalai Lamas from , and suffered extensive damage during the Cultural Revolution.

Much has been rebuilt, and it is fascinating to see how the Dalai Lama actually lived. Painted on one of the walls is a picture of the 14th Dalai Lama and his family — the only one still prominent in Tibet. Later in the day, if you are not exhausted, you can visit the Lukhang, set in the middle of a lake.

At one time, one would take a boat across the lake. Now the area is a Chinese theme park, and it is fun to see how the people use the area.


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The temple is one of the gems of Lhasa, and contains artwork related to Tibetan medical practices. Today you travel to the suburbs of Lhasa to visit two of the most interesting of the Buddhist monasteries.

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Tibet's best-kept secret

The first, Phabonkha, served as a meditation site during the time of Songtsen Gampo, and contains a plaque commemorating the first Tibetan script. The monastery also serves as a sky burial site, and if we are early enough, we can still see the great Himalayan Vultures circling overhead, waiting for their dinner. In the last part of the 8th century, the very first seven Tibetan monks stayed here, after receiving their ordination from the Indian Shankarakshita.

From here, you will have a simple lunch in a local restaurant, and then head to Sera, in time for the 3pm debates. Sera, is a 15th century Gelugpa monastery, founded by one of Tsong Khapa's disciples, and is famous for its Tantric teachings. The name Sera means "Merciful Hail. The monks from Sera thought their hail would destroy Drepung's rice, while Sera boasted the "dob-dobs," an elite corps of warrior monks, much feared by other Buddhist leaders.

After a hour morning drive, you arrive in the valley of Drigung Monastery, founded by the Kagyupas, descendants of Milarepa. Cut by the Kyichu, this spectacular valley boasts not only the monastery, but a nunnery and some wonderful hot springs in this cold land. Drigung Til was rebuilt in , and boasts a large Assembly Hall with Drigung Kyapgon's footprint, his personal conch and trumpet. On the right side of the altar are images of Apchi, the protectress of the temple. Drigung, and the nunnery are primarily meditation monasteries. Drigung Dundro, up the hill along the monastery kora, is a power place for sky burials, and is considered identical to Sitavana, one of the most famous of the Eight Indian Charnel Grounds near Bodhgaya.

Legend has it a rainbow connects Sitavana and Drigung Dundro. Early in the morning, watch for people climbing up the hill with a body. Perhaps you will be lucky and witness a sky burial. Tonight you will camp in the valley below the monastery. This morning, you can climb up to Drigung and visit the monastery. If you are lucky, you might catch sky burial on the site. Whether you do or not, though, it is worth while to do the kora around the monastery and enjoy the scenery. After you descend, a short drive to Terdrum takes you to the nunnery or "ani" gompa with its hot springs attended by residences of the goddess Apchi.

According to legend, below the lakes is a limestone ridge that once contained a poisonous lake with fumes so strong they killed the birds in the sky. Guru Rimpoche, the teacher who brought Buddhism to Tibet, threw his dorje, or thunderbolt, at the ridge and drained the lake.

The nuns see the shape of his dorje protruding from the rocks below the opening of the tunnel. After bathing in the springs, you can visit the nunnery or climb to the Guru Rimpoche cave on the hill. You will camp near the nunnery.

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Leaving Drigung, you travel to Reteng, a Kadampa gompa founded in the 11th century by Dromton, the chief disciple of Atisha. The juniper trees around the monastery were said to have grown from the hairs of Dromton. Despite reconstruction, the monastery, with its extraordinary view of the Rong Chu valley, will never be the small city it once was. You will camp near the monastery. Today you cross the Nyanchhan Thangla Mountains, a range that parallels the Himalayas and is the home of the God of the North. Tonight is spent camping on the shore of the lake.

Few hermitages can rival the power and grandeur of the pre-Buddhist site of Tashiy Do, built into the red limestone cliffs and overlooking Lake Nam Tso. Because the lake lies on the migratory route across Asia, you are likely to see many flocks of birds — bar-headed geese, black-necked cranes and others — congregating along the shores of the bay. Also common are small members of the rabbit family, the black-lipped pikas that have dotted the ground with their burrows.

When you are ready, you head back across the mountains and drive on to Lhasa. The rest of the day free to wander Lhasa with your guide, and a car is available for your needs. Tonight there will be a farewell dinner. At the appropriate time, you will transfer to the airport for your flight to Chengdu or Beijing. On arrival, you can connect with your flight out or overnight.

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Tibet's Secret Temple

Trip Type : Private Guided. Premier Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. By Myths and Mountains. Travel Style: A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Physical Level: Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly check for individual trips. Some cruises. Lodging Level: Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star. Request Info Reserve.

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Short Description As well as savoring Lhasa, the spiritual center of the country, this journey to mysterious Tibet travels off the beaten path, exploring the religion and countryside. Member Savings Eligible! See chart for details. Private tours give you the undivided attention of a guide, and often involve special access to sites and unique experiences not available to larger groups. This is a great option for families, couples, and small friend groups.

Expect to pay a bit more for the extra service. Off the beaten track trips will stretch your comfort zone. They don't always feature tourist highlights, but dive deeper into local life and culture. Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Destinations China Tibet. Trip Includes Accommodations as listed, including all service charges and taxes All ground transfers All excursions with expert English-speaking guides Entrance fees to museums, temples, etc.

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