June 22 and 23: Tibet: Eating Yak and Other Adventures
September 28, 2006
June 22, 2006
Breakfast was generally disappointing at this place. It consisted of a variety of spicy and bland cold dishes, some of which were quite bad. The orange juice was served boiling hot while the coffee was cold. Both were served in bowls after scooping out the liquid from a plastic tray. Bill and one of the German scientists tried the yak butter tea which they described as like “drinking a glass of hot buttery water with salt”. The buses left early in the morning because we had another long drive ahead of us. After a few hours of driving we arrived at the monastery on Basum Lake.
Built centuries ago the only way to get to the monastery was by boat or the recently constructed floating bridge. The architecture and scenery was beautiful but it was spoiled somewhat by the abundance of prayer flags and silk scarves hung everywhere like blown trash.
We didn’t make many stops on the way, since we had already driven this road on the way to from Lhasa. Lunch was the usual Chinese style food.
Rooms were distributed at random when we got back to Lhasa and Bill ended up pulling the luxury suite. Our room was actually two rooms; an office/entertaining room and a huge bedroom with a King size bed. Unfortunately there was just the one bed, so I slept on the couch.
We picked up a case of 12 - 650 ml bottles of beer for 42 Yuan (6 dollars) and invited a group of people to watch soccer in our room. After a few hours of beer and soccer we went to bed.
Because the scheduled trip for the day was 8+ hours of driving we split into two groups; one bus would go for a very long drive to visit a juniper tree line, while the other would go on a city tour. Bill and I chose the third option and decided to go out to explore the city on our own, after sleeping in for the first time of course.
While I waited for Bill to wake up I watched some Chinese television. There were only two channels in English, the UK BBC (all soccer scandals) and the English Chinese news network (all fluff). Instead I watched a Chinese channel that was partially translated into subtitled English. An infomercial advertised that green apples from the ‘exotic’ Washington State (while showing a picture of Florida) could be concentrated into a powerful weight loss pill that was the “invincible enemy of natural fat”. That slogan became the brunt of jokes for days to come.
When Bill finally rolled out of bed we headed down to catch a cab. After ten minutes of trying to convey our destination to the cab driver we finally ended up heading to the bazaar. Bill splurged and bought a bunch of stuff but I only bought an old traditional dagger and some wall paintings. Bill ended up buying some kind of yak skin tube that looked like it was for holding arrows. The locals were all fascinated by this and many of them reached out to touch it. I kept referring to it as the ‘rat tube’ because of its ratty appearance. We ate lunch at a pub place where Bill had the Yak pizza and I had the Yak Sizzler (Yak steak). It was pretty good, but I prefer beef. We spent a while longer at the bazaar, but started back early. It’s a good thing we did, because we had no money left for a cab ride and it took over two hours to get back to the hotel walking along a festering sewage-filled canal lined by houses.
For dinner the entire group went to a Tibetan restaurant followed by after-dinner entertainment. The entertainment consisted of a series of traditional songs and dances from different regions of Tibet. The food included yak meat, yak yogurt, fried yak lungs, fried yak kidneys…and other yak components.
After dinner we went back to the hotel and we watched soccer and had a few beers.