Tuesday, November 2, 2010

THE MYTH OF TIBET


So here I was... In the epicenter of Himalayan Buddhism: Lhasa .
I arrived to Tibet with mixed feelings. In the  one hand I was very excited to see this religious and spiritual centre but at the same time I also had a notion that it was not going to be  a very “pure” visit.  Unfortunately the second hunch was the one that prevailed.
If you come to Lhasa expecting to find something REMOTELY close to what Brad Pitt saw in seven years in Tibet.... well boy (gal).....you are in for a very, very and VERY BIG disappointment. (Of course I used this example to exaggerate!! But.. it makes a point)
The first thing that you are aware is that you are in the CHINESE city of Lhasa. At the airport you pass through at least 5 uniformed people checking that all your papers are in order. From there on you are plainly put... in a city. And quite a big one. Many factories, many business’, many markets, and many people in a modern and continuously expanding city. It is divided in “Old city Lhasa” which is run down and where most Tibetans live, and there is also “Chinese Lhasa” were the large Chinese population works and lives in a more modern and dynamic environment.
When you go for example to Potala Palace (The ancient Buddhist headquarters for the region)  or some of the other temples and monasteries what immediately strikes you the most, is the ENORMOUS amount of Chinese tourists. This place looks more like fricking Disneyland! Lines and lines of them. There is simply no intimacy when you visit this magnificent places... It was sad and honestly disappointing. Not remotely close to what you would think or you would expect. Instead I spent a good amount of time walking the Tibetan part of town and that became much more interesting to me. 
In the end I try to see as much of the “Real Tibet”. My driver and guide took me to some small local Tibetan restaurants where I had pretty good food (Spicy!). Actually I ate Yak for the first time (at least the very first time I am aware)...very tasty.
In the last stretch I was  honestly happy to head back home.





PHOTOGRAPHS












Debating Monks 1

Debating Monks 2

Debating Monks 3








FROM HEAVEN TO MAYHEM

After a much spectacular aerial view of the Himalayas, I arrived to Katmandu. From the time the airplane is approaching the airport and you glimpse out the window you see a massive amount of run down houses, and then you quickly realize that this is one big city for a small country.  
I always had an unfounded curiosity for this place. Maybe just because the name sounded funny to me or maybe because I liked the unique shape of the  flag....who knows. One thing for sure is that immediately after you step out of the airport you know you are in for a trip!. The place is Über-crowded.
The streets are unbelievably packed with an avalanche of cars, motorcycles, bicycles,  human pulled trollies and all of them are going in all directions with no particular order and at the same time. ohh! ...and all of them are blowing their horns, or whatever thing they have to make noise in order to avoid crashing against each other.
One thing for sure is that Katmandu (like its name) is a funny place.  If you ask any foreigner about it, the common (and much polite and diplomatic) answer is: “Katmandu is.... busy” . Translation: it is bloody chaos!!! and this tends to be what makes it both disruptive and appealing.
If you manage to survive the traffic then you have to deal with the hustlers that try to hustle hustlers!! Everyone tries to sell you something, either a souvenir, a pashmina (quite popular), a flower necklace or even a photo pose!! Yes a damn photo pose!.. Just like in India the yogis (Holly men that have decided to renounce all material things and generally paint their faces and body) will gladly pose for you in exchange for some Nepali Rupees.... Well there goes the material renounce shit right?????!!!!
So tourists in order to bring that “exotic” shot gladly pay these guys so they can make funny poses and  come home with the magical “yogi pic”!! I really can’t stand that... I love people when they are willing to allow me to take a portrait but when its a matter of money...well ....at that point the picture for me got prostituted and simply impure  (yes..I do have a prude side!)....I rather walk away from that. 
I saw more temples, more markets, etc, etc oh! how can I forget:  funeral cremations in the river (pretty much like in India) . At that point the day started to become kinda of dark.... seeing how people clean the bodies in the river, while children swim next to them before they go for cremations was in simple terms, macabre. Also there were some crazy and quite aggressive monkeys that try to bite me when I was getting their photo..... After my lovely peaceful Bhutan trip this was not being fun.
Fortunately in my last stop we went to a much peaceful and very beautiful place that I did like with a really nice square and beautiful temples..some of them with pretty kinky Kama Sutra paintings....Some really perverted .....mmmmhhhh. maybe thats why I liked that place.. anyway.... there I saw some children that had a homemade kite and were  playing all afternoon with it.... The site of a beautiful square, with children really enjoying themselves with something as simple as an improvised kite (and not flying one on Nintendo Wii) really made my day and my trip to Nepal. I sat there for a while and took some shots.

That image just made me happy. 







Vicious Monkey
Professional Model..I wonder what is his day rate?
video


PHOTOGRAPHS


Himalayas view from the plane