October 27, 2011

October in Amdo, part 6

Facing one of the monastery walls is a row of art studios, where Tibetan artists paint thangkas. A thangka is a wall scroll, painted in Tibetan style. We stepped into a few of them and saw artists working on thangkas ranging from the size of a large postcard to ones that where 10 feet tall and 15 or so feet wide. Even a small one can take weeks to finish, and groups of three or four painters working on a large one might need months. One of the artists let me take a picture of his half-finished thangka:

The colors are really bright, which seems to be an ongoing theme in Tibet. A market by the side of the monastery:

The one street in town:

Because there's only one street taxis are pretty easy to arrange- they just trawl up and down the street, picking up anyone who signals and letting them off before turning around and going back up the other way. There's a flat fee of one yuan per person per ride, which could spoil you pretty easily. We kept running into the cabbie who took us from Taktsang to Labrang, honking and waving whenever he passed. Eventually we flagged him down and asked about if he wanted to give us a ride to Tarzang Lake, and he ended up giving us a really good price (and jumping out at a stall to buy tea for everyone!).

Tarzang Lake is a small one, sitting high in the mountains above the road. It takes about 15 minutes to reach the turnoff from the main road, but then there's another 10 or 15 minutes of going up a winding dirt road. The lake is considered holy by the locals, who are waived from the 20 RMB entrance fee. The lake is almost hidden from the entrance by a huge prayer flag array:

The side of the lake:

Looking across:

Back in town we promised to give the cabbie a call next time we end up in Gansu. Later we found a way into the yak butter sculpture hall without joining a tour, which is supposed to be impossible but actually turns out to be quite possible if you chat with some monks for a few minutes. A flower made of yak butter:

The next morning we had to get on a bus and head back to Lanzhou, descending into the haze and smog of Real China along the way. Next time, a few random pictures.

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