We spent the evening chatting with other travelers and sharing our stories. One of the cooler stories was the guy that traveled to N. Korea, a very interesting perspective of a place most people don’t know. Without going into details, it just sounds like a very interesting place to see about how the govt can treat its people, but I’ll keep those stories for another day.
Rising early again but not for the sunrise, but instead we headed over to the Labrang great hall to listen in to the monks’ morning prayers. For those that haven’t had exposure to the Tibetan school of buddhism, it is full of prayers and chanting, similar to Gregorian chants but with more bass! Apparently the head of the monastery was actually out in another city, and it is also the ‘summer vacation’ season for the monks when they would go out into the prairies and sing, dance and do whatever monks on vacation do. So the only monks left were the older ones, but the session was still very intensive.
Our next stop was Tongren, which is famous for its tongka drawings and it being a Tibetan town. When we checked into our hotel, we actually found out one issue…..THERE WAS NO WATER. I mean, at first I only thought of this as “another day without showering”, which I was perfectly okay with, but then I realized that this also meant there was NO FLUSHING TOILETS…. When we realized that the previous guest has already left us with a parting gift, we quickly checked other rooms, but the stench streaming out all the other rooms tells us there was no other way. Apparently, they didn’t have water for all of yesterday and the day before, so that pile of shit has been brewing there for probably two days!!! The worst part is, we had to add to the pile, and it was not pleasant.
Leaving our wonderful hotel, we headed up to the monastery. The monastery was actually closed because all of the monks were out in the field, listening to the headmaster from the Labrang monastery give out a prayer session! The monastery itself was impressive, but when we headed into the tongka museum within, it was just breathtaking. The artist was there, and showed up several different pieces and explained to us how everything was drawn together. Some tongkas take well over 2 years to draw!! It was an extremely gratifying learning session, and gives us a much better appreciation for this style of art.
Being the nosy tourist, we hailed a cab out to the field where the headmaster was giving prayers, and it was ridiculously packed. To me, it felt like going to a massive music festival (i.e. Cochella or Rock Am Ring), but instead of blasting music the speakers were loud with prayers. It was an interesting sight to see, as it seemed like every Tibetan from within 100km were at the same place listening to the prayers. They also looked like they were very confused and not really listening to the prayers, but instead paying more attention to my DSLR and strange attire. I stood out just like any other foreigner with golden blonde hair.
Walking along the streets, we also witnessed a street fight. Everyone thinks Tibetans are all spiritual and peace loving, but I can assure you the regular folks are just as normal and possibly even more forthcoming than other people. It’s also not uncommon to see people in traditional attire, a long woolen drape, a cotton sash, and a large knife. Back to the fight. I’m not really sure what happened, the knives didn’t come out but there was wooden sticks and a lot of blood. Oh, the fight was between two woman and a little kid….. The strangest part was that, this monk whipped out his phone and took videos of the whole thing!!!!! So… yeah…. they’re people too. Modern people with strange modern mentalities.
We headed back into town, and managed to find a RIDICULOUSLY cozy coffee shop (this is the equivalent of finding a Pusateri’s in a rural town of less than 5000 people) and sat down to read F Scott Fitzgerald’s recently published short story, “Thank You For The Light”. Awesome.
Even better news? Water is back on at the hotel, and in addition to flushing the toilet, a nice hot shower awaits.