TIBET 2005 - 2013 - Arturo Lopez Spajani

2005 Cultural exchanges

I happen to be in Tibet in September 2013, the last time I was there it was September 2005. The railroad arrived an year later to Lhasa… I was expecting some differences but not so many when I booked my trip. Since 2008 protests, you are not allowed to speak to locals, but you really do not need too if you have been there before to understand that everything has changed... Now on top of the holiest temple, Jokhang, in Lhasa monks no longer take Tibetan tea with tourists, and entretain funny english conversations and cultural exchanges but instead a red Chinese flag stands highly visible. Since 2012 you can only access through checkpoints the historical part, and there is a considerable amount of police, cctv and military in an area where there was once none… just like the Tiananmen square. The Beijing- Lhasa train that we took had 19 carriages... Chinese tourism is colonizing the area where foreigners are nearly spottable, and now traditional shops in the inner circle around Jokang temple, have left their place to empty souvenir stores. In 2005 you had bearly no Chinese people around a few Westeners socializing with locals around the typical buildings. One thing must be said, this year all the buildings in the Lhasa downtown area have being beautifully repainted with state "help" to keep the traditional look. Locals smile at every corner but now they are less kean to have a picture taken and shear a laugh in front of the just played image on the back of the digital camera. Looking at the new buildings erected or under construction by the government just across Jiangsu Lu next to the new train station I will not be surprised if the local population currently 80% will be further reduced in share in 10 years time and the city muted into a more modern mining capital of a region that day after day is loosing a chunk of its identity. Everything changes not only clima. Mushrooms season has shortened. Along the friendship highway, that once was a dusty road, you now can't miss extended grain fields that once were just places of yaks, most isolated villages now have Chinese flags on main squares and fitness machines that catch the attention because have nothing to do with an agricultural population and probably are useless to the people that "workout" on the fields every day and the last thing they probably want is to burn some calories!

Everything changes…


Night shot around the Jokhang

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