I’m back in Paris now. I have been back for a week now. At last I can actually see the posts I wrote whilst in China. Although I was able to upload my posts from Beijing and Xining I could not actually to see them – blogspot.com is blocked, as well as a few other sites. Their filtering mechanism is quite sophisticated: some sites just time out (like bbcnews.com), whilst for others (like the wikipedia page on ‘Lhasa’ for instance) one is presented with a brutal ‘network connection lost’.
But total control of information is a Chinese speciality. We visited the site of Ganden monastery on the last day of our organised tour. The chinese tour guide reluctantly admitted that the monastery was ‘slightly’ damaged during the Cultural revolution; while he told us this I was reading in my Guide routard that they had blocked the exit roads of the monastery with tanks, bombarded the buildings with cannons and aeroplanes, and machine-gunned any monks trying to escape. Hm! A slight discrepancy. When I asked our tour guide, “So, this place is full of Tibetan separatists is it?” he replied cooly, “You will have to ask the chinese government that”.
In my second to last day I actually met a plain-clothes monk, a friendly man on his way to Nepal who wrote for me in my notebook in Tibetan, “I like tibetan tea” (he spoke quite good English). On my last day in Lhasa I made an epic hike into the hills around the city and visited two remote monasteries. The people I met were very friendly, even thought we had very few words in common. At the second, I showed the words written for me in my notebook, and bam! I didn’t get out of there until I had drunk at least four our five cups of yak butter tea! Yum! I confess I like the stuff, but after four cups I started to feel a little queasy. The descent down to Lhasa however, in the clear mountain area, soon calmed my stomach.