10 things you should know before travelling to Tibet

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Oct 14, 2020

10 things you should know before travelling to Tibet

Tibet is also known as the roof of the world and one of the most isolated territories in the world. This plateaued nestled in the lap of the Himalaya mountains is also known as the Shangri-La on earth. Home to the Tibetan people, Tibet is also the place that gifted the world with its own mix of Buddhism and spirituality in the form of Tibetan Buddhism. At a dizzying three miles (4,500 meters) above sea level, Tibet is not only home to the world’s highest peak, but also its roads, towns and toilets are among the highest in the world! Let us explore some fascinating facts about Tibet here that will make you enlightened even before you step your foot on this mystic land! 

1) Mount Everest and Monasteries. 

Tibet shares Mount Everest with Nepal. The highest mountain is claimed by both the nations as a common heritage. Mount Everest first climbed in 1953 is the highest mountain with a height of 8848 meters. Besides the towering mountains and altitude, Tibet also has more than 6000 monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism. Shigatse monastery, Tashilhunpo Monastery, Drepung Monastery are some of the largest and most famous. 

2) Potala Palace. 

Potala Palace is one of the holiest buildings of Tibetan Buddhism. It is the palace of the leader of Tibetan Buddhism – Dalai Lama. In ancient times, Potala Palace opened a Buddhist school to teach Buddhism. It houses many stupas of past Dalai Lamas. Potala Palace is one of the most visited and wonderful royal residences and places of interest's in Tibet, China. The site is socially rich and an absolute necessity to visit for each visitor to Lhasa.  The sightseers consistently go gaga for the royal residence at the main sight and appreciate the interior as well.

3) Salty Yak Butter tea and other Tibetan cuisine. 

The diet of the Tibetan people is very much affected by the high altitude and rough terrain. The most iconic beverage from the Himalayas is the Tibetan salty tea, also called Po Cha, which is salty and has a buttery flavor. The diet of Tibetan people is austere and includes dishes like Tsampa (the staple composed of barley), balep (bread), thukpa (noodle soup), yak butter, yak cheese, yak yoghurt, raw yak meat.

4) Festivals and celebrations

Tibet is a very happening place in terms of festivals and celebrations. Among many four of them are special and more popular. These include the Butter lamp festival celebrated on the full moon of 1st Tibetan month, Shoton festival celebrated in August, Saga Dawa festival falls on the 15th day of the fourth month of the Tibetan calendar and the Tibetan New year. Travelling to Tibet during these days will add to your experience as they are very different than festivals in other parts of the world. 

5) Tibet Visa or travel permit.

If you are wondering how to get visa for Tibet? This is a tricky question. Tibet being an autonomous part of China, the Chinese visa alone is not enough to travel to Tibet. You will require a special Tibet Travel permit to enter Tibet. You can organize the Tibet travel permit with the help of Tour operators like Himalayan trekkers. Additional permits are required for parks and special areas. In a 10 day trip of Tibet, you will come across so many posts checking the permits, some times as many as thrice a day. 

6) Code of conduct in a Tibetan monastery. 

Since every visit to Tibet will include visiting some monasteries. It is a good idea to know what you can do and what not. People are not allowed to smoke, eat, or do any sort of distracting behavior. Shorts and open shoulder tops are discouraged and covering your body is expected as a sign of respect. There may be fees involved when you photograph a monk or a statue, so it is a good idea to check for permission and look for signs in the surrounding. The Guide from Himalayan trekkers will advise you on the spot as well. 

7) Tibet has 40% less oxygen than what you are used to. 

Altitude sickness is a quite common condition that people face while in Tibet. The lowest altitude is around three thousand five hundred meters from sea level, so the usual option of descending to lower altitude in case of altitude sickness is not possible. The best remedy is to take enough rest and have Diamox tablet at disposal. The tours in Tibet should be planned with enough acclimatization as low air pressure makes the lungs extremely hard to function at these higher elevations. 

8) The Dalai lama connection

Carrying photographs of the Dalai lama is illegal in Tibet. The spiritual leader of Tibet is in a self-exile and lives in Dharmsala India. The Panchen Lama chosen by the Chinese administration is the figure head of Tibet. The bans also apply to the Tibetan flag and any literature related to the Dalai lama. Punishments can be severe if this law is breached. 

9) Speed limits

If you have imagined yourself cruising along the Himalayan highway, that may not actually happen. Speed limits are at an average 35 km/hr. and are strictly implemented. Each checkpoint will compare the time you have taken and if you reach earlier than the usual time, you may have to face consequences. 

10) Yak, Yak and Yak. 

The Himalayan fury cow, Yak is an integral part of the daily lives of the Tibetan people. Yak is the source of meat, milk, leather, and compost manure. In addition, the dried Yak dung is also used as fuel. Yaks are also used for milk and butter and their hair is used to make rugs and clothes, even to weave the cover ups that protect the Potala Palace – delicate paintings and carvings from the sun.