The Jokhang Monastery (ཇོ་ཁང་) is the most holy of Tibetan Buddhism’s holy places. Unassuming from the outside, one needs to connect with the enthusiasm of the throngs of pilgrims walking around it to feel its allure. As it probably will be for you, visiting the Jokhang is a once in a lifetime experience for many of the pilgrims. Unlike you, many of these pilgrims walked to be there… and some of them even walked in a special way to show their devotion: They take three steps, say a prayer, and lie face-down on the ground. Then they stand up, take three more steps and repeat the process. The act of taking a prostrating pilgrimage can take the devotee years to reach the Jokhang from their home towns. But many do it, as a sign of devotion and a way to help improve their karma in this life and the next.
The Taipei Jianguo Jade and Flower Markets (建國假日玉花市) are a must-see for anyone in Taiwan. Located next to each other on Jianguo South Road, the two markets stretch for nearly a kilometer (1/2 a mile) under the elevated highway. They are only open on weekends and can make for a wonderful escape from Taipei’s often dreary rain. But even on a sunny day, the Jade and Flower Markets (along with the adjacent Daan Forest Park) make for a nice afternoon walk for tourists and locals alike.
Learning how to photograph people while traveling can help your photography on the road and at home. I use a few different methods to approach people whom I want to photograph while traveling, and I’ll try to explain that process below. I’m sure there are many other techniques that other photographers might use, and if you have any you’d like to share, please leave them in the comments.
I’ll start out by telling you that I’m not an outgoing person at all. I’m a shy guy. I always find it difficult to approach people. But I’ve learned that missing a good portrait because you didn’t ask hurts a lot more than getting rejected. If you’re also a little shy, you’ll need to practice being more bold and get out there and ask people if you can take their picture. I’m here to tell you that it’s not as hard as you think, and there’s even a little bit of a scientific process to doing it…
Yushu (aka Jyekundo (སྐྱེ་རྒུ་མདོ་) in Tibetan) is an Autonomous Prefecture in the Qinghai Provence of China. Located 800km south of the nearest city Xining, Yushu used to be a daunting 12-16 hour bus ride from Xining in the north or about 10 hours to Gantze in the south (where I came from). Now, it appears that Yushu has it’s own airport and has become quite a hot spot for tourists.
I was only able to spend two days in Yushu due to visa restrictions, but it left a wonderful impression on me. I also did something a little different while I was there. I only spent one day site-seeing, and I spent the other in the market, shooting lots and lots of portraits. Click “Read the rest of this entry” to see some of my favorites.
Located in a deep gorge to the west of Chola Mountain, Dege (སྡེ་དགེ།) is one of Tibet’s most revered and remote places. It’s found in the far northwestern Sichuan Provence very close to the boarder of Xizang Provence (modern “Tibet”). Dege (aka Derge) is home to the most important printing press in all of Tibet, the Barkhang (Parkhang) Scripture Printing House.
Dege is a full day’s bus ride from the nearest town, Ganze. Basically, you need to drive all the way around the formidable Chola Mountain and sometimes you’ll think the bus is driving straight over it. A perilous dirt road winds up and over Tro La (Chola) Pass at nearly 6000m (19,6850ft) – a lot higher than Mt Everest Base Camp! The views from the bus will leave you breathless in more ways than one.
Moving northwest from Dawu (Daofu), the next town you come to is a dusty, unremarkable one called Luhuo. I stayed here for a night, but quickly regretted it as I couldn’t find any decent economy lodging and even the local gompa (Tibetan monastery) wasn’t very exciting.
SO ON TO GANZE! (aka Gartze, Gantze, Ganzi, and a few other spellings)
Despite being yet another dusty town, Ganze has a certain charm to it. It’s a major town for trade and Chinese trucks can be seen (and inhaled) barreling down the main street. Ganze is also about a full day’s bus trip from Kangding so if you’re on a long haul bus to Yushu or Dege or any other town north of here, you’re going to have to overnight. I would highly recommend staying in the affordable, but quite nice hotel above the bus station.
I was recently in Colorado to photograph a fantastic wedding. The three day extravaganza was one of the best that I ever been to.
Set in beautiful Steamboat Springs, Colorado, this wedding could probably be described as an “alternative” one due to the lack of many of the traditional wedding customs. The ceremony was deliberately designed to beautiful but quick… to leave more time for partying!
Events surrounding the sunset ceremony included: a rhinestone cowboy party, an 80′s dance party, hot springs, golf, fishing, pool-side lounging, mountain climbing, and even skeet shooting! This was definitely a wedding to remember!
If you know me personally, or follow my blog, you probably know that some friends and I entered a contest called “The Best Trip in the World” put on by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau.
It’s a contest that gave the opportunity for selected groups of bloggers to travel Taiwan for 4 days and blog about it. We were one of the lucky groups selected and we completed our 4 day itinerary back in June. The final stage of the contest has arrived and we put our adventurers into a finale video, complete with a goofy music video at the end.
Remember that this was the first time any of us ever tried to put a video together and we had a blast! We highly recommend that everyone get their friends together, plan a trip (to Taiwan, of course!), and make a fun video!
Also have a look at my friends’ websites about Taiwan:
Stu’s Taiwan Hiking Blog
Phil’s 老外的臺灣旅遊日記 (in Chinese)
Thanks again for all the support!
From Litang, I caught a bus (again, through some stunning scenery) to Xinduxiao where I had to transfer to a share cab going towards Tagong.
Tagong is known mostly for its beautiful grasslands.
It’s a town that has become very popular with both foreign and Chinese tourists because of it’s relative proximity to Kanding, a small city that’s a day’s drive to the southeast. One can easily arrive in town and set up a tour and home-stay with some of the nomads that live in the nearby grasslands.
Litang (ལི་ཐང།) is a small Tibetan town in western Sichuan Provence (四川), China. Traditionally known as the Kham (ཁམས) Provence of the former Tibetan Kingdom, Litang is a dusty trade town in a high, grassy valley.
At an altitude of 4,014 meters (13,169 ft) it’s actually higher than Lhasa and one of the highest towns in the world. Every summer, they hold one of Tibet’s biggest horse racing festivals, an event that draws Tibetans (and tourists) from all over.
Several famous Buddhists are from Litang including the 7th and the 10th Dalai Lama. It has a beautiful, huge monastery (Litang Chöde) up on the mountain side overlooking the town. This area has a long history of resistance to Chinese rule, from before the Chinese bombing of the monastery in 1956 to a recent riot at the horse racing festival in 2007. During the PLA’s invasion of Tibet in 1950, Litang County was one of the strongest areas of resistance.
If you haven’t seen our video, have a look below, then go vote for us and leave some comments!
Thank you all so much!
The way the contest works is that everyone who wants to give it a try uploads a travel plan, video and group introduction to the website. From there, the contest organizers select 50 groups to complete their plans. They give them 28,000 NTD (about $800USD) to do it. After you finished with the 4 days, you upload a video and blog showing what you did. Then, one group wins the grand prize of 1 million NTD (about $30,000USD) and gets to travel in Taiwan for a month, blogging on their experiences.
Not a bad deal. And since this is what we do all the time anyway, it sounded perfect for us.
Our itinerary is (approximately) as follows:
(I’ll update this later, I don’t actually have the real one sitting in front of me now):
Train from Taipei to Hualien. River tracing through one of the beautiful canyons down there. Then that night, a visit to the night market.
White water rafting in The Rift Valley. Followed by a train ride to Taidong and a visit to the night market and a few other sites in the city.
Paragliding just north of Taidong. Then a visit to an aboriginal village for a cultural show and some Taiwanese Aboriginal Food.
Hiking through an ancient forest to a wild hot spring. Then, the train ride back to Taipei.
So please watch the video below and go vote for us at Taiwan’s “Best Trip in the World” contest.
Traditionally Tibetan, the town has had a large immigration of Han Chinese for decades and most of the new town has a real Chinese feel to it.. Still, the surrounding countryside and the old town has held on to its Tibetan feel and many locals can be seen going about their daily business in traditional clothing customary to their local Tibetan tribes.
I visited Zhongdian in 2005 and in 2007 and the amount that it changed in those two years surprised me, but it is an interesting study in the growth of modern China, and the part that tourism is playing.
Elephant Mountain (象山) is the most famous of the “Four Beasts Mountains (四獸山)” of Taipei, Taiwan and the most easily accessible. It’s the third and last article in my series about hiking the Four Beasts Mountains. Part one is on 9-5 Peak (Jiuwufeng – 九五峯), and part two is on Tiger Mountain (虎山).
Elephant Mountain is the most popular of the mountains for a good reason. Being the closest to the city not only means easy access, but it means stunning views of Taipei, especially Taipei 101.
Tiger Mountain(虎山) is the second subject of three in this series of articles on hiking Taipei, Taiwan’s Four Beasts Mountains (四獸山).
Tiger Mountain is the most northern of the Four Beasts Mountains and the easiest to get to. It’s not the easiest to find (that would be Elephant Mountain) but if you have transportation, it’s an easy walk along a well kept, level trail.
All along the trail are stunning views of Taipei 101, Taipei City, and Nangang.