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THE NOMAD EXPERIENCE study the harsh lovely life of Tibetan nomads
live in tents, sleep on skin rugs, drink yak butter tea
LIVE BEYOND TIME WITH TIBETAN NOMADS
“On the grazing lands of Tibet you live
in the present.”
-Rangeland Ecologist, Daniel Miller
“Men in sheepskin clothing and with long braided hair
trotted past on stout ponies. Sitting on high-backed saddles
on top of colorful saddle carpets, with rifles slung over
their shoulders and long swords dangling from their waists,
these horsemen had a haughty air of confidence about them.”
-Heinrich Harrer, Seven Years in Tibet
When thinking about a Tibetan
experience, there is nothing quite like visiting or staying
with a Tibetan nomad family in a yak-hair tent, sleeping on
pelts of animals skin and drinking yourself full with
Tibetan yak butter tea. Even if you don't speak the
language, you cannot help but relish the experience of
living the nomadic life for a few days, heading sheep and
yak, and laughing with the happy Tibetan children. Here on
the Tibetan plains of the high plateau life is hard yet
secure, limited yet joyous. People don't miss what they
don't know to miss. It's simple existence with a pleasant
flavor, something many westerners dream about. No bills, no
telephones (well maybe cell phones, now), no house payments,
no neighbors, no pollution, no alarm clock, no vehicles (ok,
maybe a motorcycle, these days), no traffic jams, and no
worries about the stock market! Of course, I could go in the
other direction and list all the great facets of western
convenience, but in the end we all live and we all die, the
days pass, we cannot stop them. At least it's nice to know
that somewhere on the planet, people take life one day at a
time and still enjoy the uncomplicated blessings of their
simple life. For a foreigner to have the opportunity to see
this life in action, it is a life-changing experience. One
of the best areas for traditional nomads is in the
Qinghai Tibetan region.
Contact your private
Tibetan guide for an
opportunity to spend a few days or a few weeks with a nomad
family in Tibet. They can make all the arrangements for you,
provide transportation and safety. Having a private guide
with you during your stay with nomads makes the visit all
the better. They can translate! They can arrange for your
needs. If you get sick, they can get you to the closest
clinic of hospital. Remember to take a good, stocked first
aide kit, and when you leave, consider leaving it for the
family. No kind deed goes unnoticed in Tibet!
Beyond the Grasps of Time
Qinghai Tibetan Nomads
Amdo & Kham
“The whole life of the
nomads is organized so as to make the most of the scanty
aids to living which nature provides.
At night they sleep on
skins spread upon the ground and, slipping out of the
sleeves, use their sheepskin cloaks as bedclothes. Before
they get up in the morning, they blow up the still live
embers of their fire with a bellows and the first thing they
do is make tea.”
Huge areas in Qinghai
appear empty, but when you look closer, you can see and meet
Tibetan nomads, living in black yak-hair tents.
Sooner than I had expected, I came across the first nomads
after leaving the city of Xining, capital of Qinghai
province. As soon as we reached the Tibetan plateau, I could
see lonely tents scattered in the countryside. The further
and higher I got, the more often I saw nomadic tents - but I
did not see many nomads, and sometimes, the tents seemed to
be empty. It was only when reaching the Bayanka-la or Trawo-la
Pass, the border between Amdo and Kham country, that I saw
two nomads on their horses. They looked so marvelous I went
after them, and a friendly but wordless "conversation"
followed, after which they rode off into the emptiness of
the Tibetan landscape.
Read more about: Tibetan nomads
Tibetan Connections is a highly-recommended travel agency in
Xining, China. If
you plan on using an agency rather than a private guide,
consider using this "American" owned agency. They are
connected to a great hostel in Xining. Lete hostel.
"Camping with Tibetans on
the grasslands of Amdo can give you an up close look at
nomadic Tibetan life that is quickly disappearing.
You can help milk the yaks in the morning and then lead them
up the mountains to graze (under the watchful eye of a local
nomad of course). You can learn how meals are cooked over a
yak dung fire and explore the vast grasslands by doing day
hikes in the area. Most importantly, you can experience
Tibetan hospitality which is second to none. The regions
where nomadic camping is arranged are authentic Tibetan
areas. They are not "special camps" that are set up for
tourists like the one's found in some places in Mongolia.
Living conditions are difficult with very few modern
conveniences. Even without these things, your time will be a
lot of fun and one that you will remember for a lifetime.
Living among Tibetan nomads is something that few foreigners
are able to experience."
Xining has direct flights from Shanghai and Beijing and is a
perfect hop off stop for several Tibetan areas.
Kalsang lives in
Xining and can help
you with your itinerary, guide you to the most remote
places, show you the best Tibetan highlights and make your
trip extra spectacular! The Lete hostel is very comfortable
(OK, beds in Tibet/China are NEVER comfortable!), but this
place is just ideal. Walking distance to anywhere, a bus
stop close by, taxi's easily accessible right out your door.
It's on the top floor of a high rise with fabulous views.
Here's the way they would explain their hostel:
Youth Hostel is a new hostel in Xining, operating since
April 2007. This hostel is centrally located in the downtown
area of Xining with many local and western restaurants close
by. Our aim is to provide a warm and cozy place for
backpackers and travelers. Our hostel is on the 16th floor
and has a wonderful view of the city and scenery
We try our best to give you a “home away from home” with
several public kitchens and sitting areas with large TV’s
with DVD players, and a Playstation 2. The rooms are clean,
with many conveniences such as your own laundry facilities.
We have a great variety of rooms; from spacious doubles with
a fantastic view to inexpensive dorm rooms and small
apartments with a kitchenette. We even offer a small
climbing wall! Throughout the hostel are large sitting areas
with comfortable seating, refreshments available and very
friendly, helpful staff.
Have a cup of coffee or an import beer at Tibetan Grounds
Cafe. The cafe also serves great Western Breakfast. Try
booking through one of the hostel websites.
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