Tibetan travel, then and now

Audrey Topping, WAG’s Sino expert, has ridden the Sky Train from Beijing to the roof of the world – Tibet – and you’ll no doubt enjoy her report in our June travel issue, “Passion’s Tides.” But we couldn’t resist giving you a taste. Here’s Audrey on what a difference time – the greatest distance of all – can make:

“Journeying to Tibet on the fast Sky Train is science–fiction compared to 65 years ago. Until 1950, Tibet was a land without wheels. Travel by car, wagon or cart was forbidden for fear of scarring the earth and offending the infinite spirit force believed to dwell in the earth, air and water. Travelers were obliged to walk or ride by yak or pony. Pilgrims would sometimes crawl hundreds of miles on their hands and knees, or measure their length on the ground by prostrating themselves flat and flat again, like silkworms, to view the Potala Palace and worship in the Jokhang Temple, both in the capital city of Lhasa. This feat was called “kyangchhak,” or long prostration, and was considered a high act of holiness promising the rebirth into a better life.

“This September, an extension of the railway will open from Lhasa to Shigatse, 155 miles southwest of Lhasa, allowing tourists access to Tibet’s second city – and making an area rich in natural resources easier for China to exploit.”

For Audrey’s full story, look for June WAG, out June 1. – Georgette Gouveia

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