Sound of Lhasa: Lhasa in the eyes of a foreigner
    2013-09-16 11:40:02       Web Editor: Xiong Siqi

Wangchen Dhondup [Photo:]


To many outsiders, Tibet seems like a distant, inaccessible land. However, its beauty and mystery draws more and more people in, including foreigners. Some visitors decide to make Tibet their second home.

Recently, our reporter Siqi talked to a native Nepalese who has been living in Lhasa since 2006. Today, we discover the wonders of Lhasa through a foreigner's eyes.

I first met Wangchen Dhondup at his import-export carpet business and was immediately captured by how the space was decorated. Nepalese and Tibetan decoration intertwined along the walls and, despite being expressions from different cultures, they complemented each other perfectly.

While Wangchen Dhondup has been living in Lhasa for the last seven years since, his bond with Tibet started back when he was a little child in Nepal.

"My father has been in Tibet for many years. Since the 80s, he's been coming here to conduct business. Back then, I used to travel with him as a kid to spend holiday here. The first thing I was amazed by was Potala Palace. When I first saw it, it was so big and so high. I was amazed at the architecture. I was thinking how people can build this so long ago. That was the first thing that caught my eye when I first came here."

Lhasa has undergone great changes in the past few years, such as economic development, an elevated standard of living and boosted modernity. Wangchen says today's Lhasa is much different from the city he remembers decades ago.

"It was just a tiny village before. Back then, basically the Jokhang area was the whole market area and there were just a few houses. Now, there is almost no space left in Lhasa. For example, if I go back to Nepal for a few months, when I come back here, I see new buildings and new roads. Infrastructure is the biggest change and there are more people now."

Rapid economic growth has brought many changes to the lives of Lhasa's locals. However, in Wangchen's eyes, the new development might change how the city looks, but it doesn't change how its people approach life.

"It's always been like that. There is a good balance between work and having fun. People here make sure that, in summer time, they go for picnics and meet family and friends regularly, while also leaving time for work--I think it is part of the culture. In addition, people are very happy, no matter how much they have. Whether they do day-to-day jobs, labor, or work in an office, they like to enjoy life."

People connect and identify with Tibet in so many ways. There's a long list of reasons and plenty of pictures that draw people in. However, once here, they gradually build their own relationship with the majestic destination. Sometimes, Tibet awakes a passion or special feeling within its visitors. Whatever the reason to come, there may be a better reason to stay; this was the case for Wangchen.

Wangchen Dhondup went to college in the United States. Unlike most of his international classmates, who chose to stay and work in America, Wangchen decided to go to Tibet and start his own business there.

"A lot of people fall in love with Lhasa. Some people fall in love with the city spiritually, others like that the competition here is not as fierce as in other cities in China. So there are many opportunities, especially for somebody who wants to start a new business with new ideas. I've always wanted to come to Lhasa and do something here because, when I was a little kid, I liked this place--there's a special feeling. After graduation, I thought "why not come here?" Things are changing so rapidly here. China is becoming a big influence on the international stage. So I decided to come to Lhasa, start a company and see how far I can go."

Wangchen set up his carpet business in Lhasa in 2007. Now, along with the carpet business, he runs a restaurant, hotel and art gallery. Wangchen regards himself as a bridge between Nepal and China.

Lhasa has plenty of tourist attractions to visit, such as the Potala Palace, its sacred monasteries, breathtaking natural scenery, ancient structures, etc. For Wengchen, his favorite place in the city is Barkhor Street. Barkhor Street was formed around the Jokhang Monastery, one of the most sacred places in Tibetan Buddhism. At dawn and dust every day, Tibetan people spin the prayer wheel clockwise on the street, circling the monastery, prostrating themselves.

"Usually, I go to Barkhor Street and I just look around and check out some interesting shops there. They have lots of handicrafts. Actually, when I hangout, I really enjoy driving around Lhasa."

With the growing number of people gathering in Barkhor Street, the area today has become a market center where visitors can buy all sorts of souvenirs.

Wengchen's carpet store and hotel are nearby Barkhor Street. Exiting the bustling thoroughfare, we visited his hotel.

The most amazing part of the hotel is the balcony on the roof, where there is a breathtaking view of the Potala Palace and all of Lhasa itself. Even though the layout of the rooftop was still under construction, after listening to Wengchen's idea, it's not difficult to imagine how wonderful sitting here, drinking coffee and enjoying the view will be for future visitors.

"This is the rooftop. From here, we're going to have a sitting area for all the guests. And this is the place where they can take photos of the Potala Palace. You can see the whole city of Lhasa from here. We're going to have tables with umbrellas, so people are protected from Lhasa's hot, harsh sun. At night, when it gets dark and the light of the Potala Palace is on, you can see the magic Potala holds at night."

Standing under the blue sky on the rooftop, listening to the monks chanting in nearby monasteries, seeing Tibetan people prostrating themselves on Barkhor Street, all creates sense of inner peace that makes me understand why foreigners are making Lhasa their second home.

For China Now, I'm Siqi.


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