神山天湖照片集    Day 24

* After I recovered from my second diarrhoea, I signed up for a 2-day bus trip to Namtso Lake. This pix is taken during a toilet break on the way.
* This open-ceiling toilet is NOT a temporary installment. Locals build these kind of toilets at major rest stops along the Qinghai-Lhasa highway 109, where travelers were "forced" to use.

I used the word "forced" for a reason. Xian, one of my travel-mates who went on this highway 2 days before me came back and told me a horrific account she witnessed. A fellow passenger on her bus refused to use this toilet, instead, he went around the corner of the brick wall and go. A band of Tibetan men grabbed him, held him to the ground and one of them grab a brick threatening to hit him. Amid the violence and confusion, the passenger managed to understand what they want. He gave them CNY 1 (US$0.14), the cost for a visit to the "permanent" toilet, and they let him go.

* the locals were very friendly to tourist... except if that tourist is a chinese, or looks like chinese. The Korean girl who sat next to me in the bus was being dragged and pushed around rudely because she pointed her camera to the sky, which the locals claimed to be at the direction of their live stock and thus required her to pay a handsome fee of CNY 50.

the Israeli in the picture, on the other hand, was invited to take picture, free of charge. I knew this because the Israeli sat in front of me in the bus and I asked if he was required to pay and he said no. He also said he pee behind a brick wall (like the chinese man did in the above story mentioned), but no one come to grab him... sigh...

* Namtso Lake is 110km north of Lhasa, at an elevation of 4718 m, it is the largest lake in Tibet. It used to take at least a whole day to get there by car from Lhasa, but now with the well maintained road, it takes only 4 hours.

Many tour operators in Lhasa take the advantage and organize 1 to 2 days bus trip. With the day return trip, tourist has about 3 hours to survey the lake and take pictures. The 2-day trip bus drops off tourists for an overnight stay by the lake side, picks up people from the day before and returns to Lhasa. People staying overnight will get on the bus the following day, which comes with a new load of 2-day trip passengers from Lhasa, and so on.

The cost for 1 day trip is CNY100 (US$13.4) and 2 day is CNY120 (US$16). Other cost includes: CNY80 for entrance fee, CNY20 for a bed if you stay overnight in a tent.

* If you plan to go, stay overnight by the lake side. However note that lodging is only available during the warm months, may be between May to October. I returned to Lhasa in November and some travelers told me they just came back from Namtso on a day trip and didn't see any tents at all by the lakeside.

* Namtso Lake is the most beautiful place I visited in Tibet. Blue sky and white clouds is a given. Seeing sunset and sunrise over the Nyenchen Tanglha mountain is breathlessly beautiful. Climb up the huge rock (well it's more like a hill) and see the entire lake plus the snow-capped mountains behind it 360 degree. And the starry sky at 4700m.... first time in my life i was able to see the milky way so clearly...
* The pix shows a simple altar built by a yak skull and stones carved with Buddhist scriptures.

Tibetan Buddhism is a mix brand of Indian Buddhism and Bon (苯教), an ancient religion that existed in Tibet long before Buddhism. Bon has itself gone through a lot changes, but basically, it is one form of Shamanism. It holds special reverences towards mountains and lakes, especially when they come in pairs (in close proximity to each other). Namtso lake and the Nyenchen Tanglha mountain (念青唐古拉山) is one example, they are considered a pair of goddess and god.

* The colored flag (there should be 5 colors) is called "wind & horse" because a horse is depicted on the flag and is usually hanged where the wind passes. The flapping of the flag symbolizes reciting the buddhist scripture written on the flag.
* picture of me :)
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