You are out to visit Tibet! Most likely you will spend your first days in Lhasa and you will soon realize that life in the capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Region is dominated by Han Chinese: bus drivers, shop keepers, hairdressers, travel agents, doctors, bank clerks or members of the army. Yet where are all those Tibetans living? Where are they working?
Go to the older parts of the big cities like Lhasa or Shigatse. Here you will find the traditional Tibetan loam house, usually encircles by a wall of the same material, creating a large square in front of the houses.
In the small lanes in the eastern part of Lhasa you will find Tibetans selling fruits and vegetables, yakmeat and yakbutter, fresh yoghurt and all different kinds of 'antiques' or devotional articles.
You will note the slim appearance of Tibetan women, mostly wearing the traditional dark coloured striped long dress, complemented by a white blouse and held together with an apron, their black hair tied together to a knot. The tall young men, sometimes wearing earrings, the long black hair slang around the head together with a bunch of bright red woollen strings. Their smiles revealing their wealth: a set of gold teeth.
Go to the temples, where the picture is dominated by old ladies, quite often accompanied by their grand children or their little dogs. The thin grey plaited hair tied together, their backs bend by hard work and poor diet.
In the remoter and barren northern and north western part of the country, where statistically one Tibetan is living on one square km, life is completely different. Here nomads remain much the same as they did hundreds of years ago. Roaming around the plateau from winter and summer camps the nomads still mainly subsist from their yak herds. It is assumed, that they migrated from the north as nomadic tribes to settle on Tibet's riverbanks.
Today about 2,5 million Tibetian are living in the present territory of Tibetan Autonomous Region. Yet almost twice as much live in the area including the Provinces Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu in the PR China. In these parts, traditional costumes and diet can be quite different. Men and women seem to enjoy wearing necklaces with huge corals.
After centuries of virtual isolation for various political and religious reasons, Tibet is currently cautiously opening up to the western world. But probably this is only visible in the few big cities, while the remote parts are still a land, held back in time, housing many secrets.
Yet, Tibetans are smiling, open and proud people. My Tibetan friends where just as interested in our laptop as in preparing a genuine Tibetan dish for us.
Let me help you to meet these wonderful people!