-Kathmandu, Nepal-

Where do I start? The last 10 days have been filled with so much activity that writing in depth about it would quite an undertaking. In short, I went with 23 other people from Kathmandu to Lhasa in 8 days. We rode in Landcrusiers over rocky, brown terrain through Tibet, while white, snow covered mountains watched over us. Part of the Tibetan Friendship Highway was paved, while the rest, closer to the Nepal border, was bumpy and dusty. The land was largely uninhabited, except small clusters of white and brown Tibetan homes scattered throughout the plateau and the occasional city. We visited sacred monasteries along the way, and ate momos and yak meat in colorful Tibetan restaurants.

The group comprised of Americans, English, Welch, Japanese, Swedish, Portuguese, and other Tourists. It was a great group of people, most of whom were independent travelers, creating a jovial and open atmosphere amongst the group. There was only one asshole, Gary, from Alaska. He was a total embarrassment to the group and to Americans. He didn't think he was a tourist and so scorned the rest of us "backpacker punks," made violent threats against some of us, and separated himself from the rest of the group by picking up trash left behind by Tibetans at Potala Palace. Besides this jerk, the new friends I made in the group really made the trip so much more enjoyable. I never had time to write in my journal the whole time because we were always busy exploring together, eating together, and enjoying each other's company. It was a blast.

My new favorite place is now Potala Palace. It was the former 13 story home of the Dalai Lama, in Lhasa, and is at least 400 years old. It is an immense structure, build up upon a hill, overlooking a large Chinese square. It is awe inspiring and left me speechless. This is a place I have wanted to visit since childhood. But it wasn't filled with monks, but tourists, pilgrims, and Chinese police. It no longer is home to anyone, just old and new relics. It is very sad to think at about how the Chinese has destroyed Tibetan culture and turned their most holy places into museums, purely for the purpose of luring tourists and money to China. The pain is compounded by the fact that the Tibetan people, as a whole, are good and decent people. A smile is never far from their face and they were always accommodating and friendly with us throughout the trip. These people go to Potala Palace to worship what is left inside, idols and relics or Buddha, former Dalai Lamas, and other Buddhist deities. For me, the pilgrims are what push Potala Palace ahead of the Taj Mahal in greatness. The Taj may have superior architecture, but the Potala Palace has cultural and religious importance, along with beautiful and sad history.

After partying and sight seeing in Lhasa for a few days, everyone went their own way. Some up into China, some back to Kathmandu. I decided to save a little money and go overland again back to Kathmandu, instead of flying back. After about 20 hours, I made it back to the capital of Nepal. Later this afternoon I plan on getting on a bus and heading east to the India border. The guy at the bus stand wouldn't even ballpark a guess at how long it would take. That is not a good sign. There is a major gas shortage right now, so I decided it would be best not to make a stop off along the way, and risk not having a bus to take me to the border. Off to India!
There is so much more I could write about Tibet, but it will just have to be one of those things that I describe more in depth once I am back home. New pics are up too.