Kia Ora Tibet

I'm a Kiwi who's currently living on the roof of the world in Lhasa.
These are the stories and photos of my adventures in Tibet: learning the language, exploring the country, discovering the culture, and meeting so many wonderful people.
All content is original, and questions are welcome.
copyright kiaoratibet2014.

Autumn walking in the Dode Valley, north of Lhasa. If it isn’t obvious enough already from how many photos I post from here, the Dode Valley is one of my favourite little escapes from the city - it’s so close, yet as soon as you’re there it feels like you’re in the countryside far, far away from the noise and busyness of Lhasa. 

"Welcome to Open-Minded Tibet, China" … I’ll let you make of that what you like!

"Welcome to Open-Minded Tibet, China" … I’ll let you make of that what you like!

Amazing storm clouds near Tibet University

Amazing storm clouds near Tibet University

Evening light on the Jokhang temple, Lhasa

Evening light on the Jokhang temple, Lhasa

Looking over the small Sakya Monastery to the Potala Palace, Lhasa

Looking over the small Sakya Monastery to the Potala Palace, Lhasa

Hiking again up to the Nenang ruins, this time I brought some prayer flags up with me to attach at the top. Where months ago there was an easy to follow path from the bottom of the valley to the ruins, a gushing river now takes it’s place, making the land even greener than it was before but making the journey a little bit more difficult. 

Photo one, of me hanging the prayer flags, is thanks to the lovely Ali.

Exploring around the upper floor of Tsemonling Monastery near the Barkhor area of Lhasa

Meeting nomads in the Dode Valley:

We were on our way to the ruins of the Nenang hermitage, up a side valley off the Dode Valley to the north of Lhasa city. Along the way we spotted something that’s not commonly found so close to the city - a traditional black nomad tent. 

As we approached the tent a woman came out to check on the freshly made cheese that’d been left to dry outside in the sun. We called out hello and (in typical Tibetan fashion) she responded by inviting us in for some tea. Of course we couldn’t refuse, so we took a seat in the warm sun outside the tent and she poured us some refreshing tea while we chatted and asked about her life here. 

She said she’s actually from a village to the East of Lhasa, but her daughter lives now in a village in the Dode Valley so that’s why she chose to bring her herd of yaks here for a while. She would be staying for only ten days in this spot before moving along to elsewhere in the valley. As far as we could tell it was just her and her son living here in the tent and taking care of their thirty yaks and two goats. 

As we finished our cups of tea (or attempted to - it’s custom here to refill a cup as soon as a sip has been taken, so the level barely drops) the woman asked if we’d like some fresh milk to drink. Ali and I imagined the worst: some chunky unpasteurised funky smelling milk, but we said yes anyway because it’s not often that we find ourselves guests to a nomad. We cautiously took a first small sip and were surprised to find that it was actually delicious! I think it was the best milk I’ve had in Tibet, it was rich and sweet and reminded me of home. 

Something kept confusing us though that we didn’t manage to work out until later in the day: the woman kept referring to the milk as ནོར་གི་འོ་མ་ “Nor's milk” and we had no idea what a “nor" was! We know the Tibetan for yak, female yak, half breed yak/cow combinations (there are a few different names), baby yaks, and baby half breed combinations, but none of them sound like "nor”. Each time she would speak of the nor’s milk she would gesture at the baby yaks that were tethered near the tent, but we still couldn’t work it out until we asked a friend later in the day. 

We were told that what she meant by “nor" was in fact the baby yaks: in the old days (and nowadays still in some places too) in Tibet yaks are one of the most valuable things to own because they can provide milk (that can then be made into cheese and yoghurt), hair for making tents and other fabric things, and eventually meat. Because of this the baby yaks are sometimes referred to as being ནོར་བུ་ "Precious", which is then shortened to just ནོར་ ‘nor’! What a great little cultural tidbit to know, I thought. 

After sitting for a while drinking milk we decided we should carry on or we’d run out of time to relax and explore at the top, so we said farewell and promised to stop by again on the way back down for some more fresh, tasty milk. 

An illuminated doorway in the Barkhor, Lhasa

An illuminated doorway in the Barkhor, Lhasa

Crowds gather at the Norbulinka to watch traditional Tibetan Opera performances 

Crowds gather at the Norbulinka to watch traditional Tibetan Opera performances 

Compulsory army training at Tibet University for freshmen … I’m so thankful the foreign students don’t have to do this too!

Compulsory army training at Tibet University for freshmen … I’m so thankful the foreign students don’t have to do this too!

So here I am in my third semester at Tibet University, my second year of study is underway. Classes have been going for a month now and so far our classes are great: we’re focussing a lot more on reading this year and the books are a mix of folk stories and religious stories (which I’m loving)! 
Here’s to our second (and sadly, final) year at Tibet University!

So here I am in my third semester at Tibet University, my second year of study is underway. Classes have been going for a month now and so far our classes are great: we’re focussing a lot more on reading this year and the books are a mix of folk stories and religious stories (which I’m loving)! 

Here’s to our second (and sadly, final) year at Tibet University!

Yesterday was China’s National Day, and the local government here in Lhasa celebrated by having some speeches at the Lhasa Hotel. There are precious few foreigners who live in Lhasa, so a few of us were invited to be representatives at this meeting - basically to be token white faces to add some interest to the photos. 

We got all dressed up in our Tibetan dress at Tibet University before being picked up and taken to the Lhasa Hotel, where we listened to 10minutes of speeches in Chinese (that we were thankfully given a printed translation for so we knew what was going on) and then everyone left again. It did seem all a bit much for just such short speeches, but I’m happy for any excuse to wear my chupa!

Mountains form a dramatic backdrop to the village of Dulong, near Lhasa city

Mountains form a dramatic backdrop to the village of Dulong, near Lhasa city

A stupa and summer storm clouds, Tibet

A stupa and summer storm clouds, Tibet