Misadventures in Tibet

Breakfast in Tibet

There were a few other misadventures in Lhasa that probably don’t deserve an entire blog post dedicated to them. So here are three mildly amusing stories of things that happened to us during the last couple of days in Tibet.

Free Tibet!?

Before we went out in Old Town we went to have dinner with one of Yi’s friends. The place he took us to was serving very Chinese-style food (as in not Tibetan-style) along with some Westernish-style food.

He turned out to be an interesting character. He was Han Chinese and zealously pro-Dalai Lama. He would often interject “Free Tibet!” into conversations. He told me interesting “facts” about Tibet, such as Tibetans don’t kill yaks – they only eat them if they die naturally. This I know not to be true, firstly because animals that die of old age don’t have meat that is good for eating, and secondly because animals that die of natural causes or accidents are too dangerous to eat (you don’t know if it had a disease that could be passed on, for example).

He kept on telling me interesting factoids like this and it was only my politeness that stopped me from questioning where he got his bullshit ideas from. He also showed me the pictures of Dalai Lama 14, pictures which are illegal to carry here. He told me that he hands them out to locals as gifts. This actually bothered me. It’s one thing being an idiot activist, but this sort of thing would only get the locals into trouble if they got caught.

It was around this point that our tour guide rang us asking us where we were. The group had decided they would join us at the same place, which worked out quite nicely. They got a table, but it was on a different floor, so I spent my time running between the two floors.

When it came time to leave we settled the bill and I watched as our friend not-so-discreetly handed a picture of the Dalai Lama to the waitress. We went our separate ways – Yi and myself joining the rest of the tour group for drinks at the rooftop bar overlooking Jokhang Temple.

An Old Lady and a Passport

And after a short while three of us went to a Tibetan night club. Me and Yi left our other friend alone as the rest of the tour group was following us there.

The next day we found out that he had been sat there all alone for the entire night. It turns out one of our tour group had managed to leave their passport in the restaurant we had been to earlier. They went back to see if they could find it, but no luck.

This was a tricky situation. Even getting on the train to leave Tibet would be difficult without a passport. They were now looking at emergency phone calls to the embassy in Beijing to sort out temporary travel documents. Even worse was that they were planning to go to the DPRK after this, and that would now have to be cancelled without having a real passport.

The first thing they had to do was go to the police in the middle of the night. They spent a couple of hours explaining the situation and filling out forms. They were all set to leave when an old lady walks in and hands over what looks like a bag belonging to the person who lost his passport. A bag containing the guy’s wallet and passport.

The old lady had found it and decided to come to the police station to hand it over when she realised how important the contents were. In the middle of the night as well. They were so happy to have it back that they offered her some money for her trouble, but she wouldn’t take any of it.

After all this excitement they all went back to hotel and fell unconscious.

The next day at breakfast we found out what had happened, and why one of our tour had ended up spending the night alone in a Tibetan night club.

Tibetan Red Wine

One of our tour group loved wine. One of the first drinks he had in Tibet was a Tibetan Red, and he loved it. He spent the rest of the trip trying to find this Tibetan Red wine again, but nowhere seemed to have it.

On our last day we had a little bit of time spare, so we went to the local supermarket to buy a few last minute presents. Some spirits for Yi’s dad, some Tibetan sweets for work, that kind of thing. While we were there I thought of our friend’s struggle in finding Tibetan Red and asked Yi to find out if they had any in this supermarket. When we asked her she just laughed and told us that grapes can’t grow in Tibet.

It turns out it was just Chinese wine all along…

Author: Bok McDonagh

I am Bok, a British-born expat living in China. I was born in Lancashire but identify as a 'plassie-Scouser'. I spent my youth growing up in Cumbria. Here I developed a great taste for exploration, climbing mountains and camping in the wilderness - a taste for travel that has defined my life.