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Linda-Marie Singer is The Live Wire

Linda-Marie Singer - Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge By Linda-Marie Singer

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I still get a kick out of Steven Segal's confession that he was once a Tibetan lama. And I can't get over how Richard Gere lovingly clutches the Dalai Lama's hand as he pitches funds for his lost homeland.

Tibet. What is it about this country that makes outsiders feel a twinge of holiness, a sensation of being alive. Maybe it's just Tibet's unusual nickname -- "The Rooftop of the World!" I know, it sounds like a refrain from "Fiddler," but whatever you call it visitors say there's something remarkable about the Tibetan Buddhists focusing on "the wheel of life" where body and spirit keep getting stronger.

A Tibetan woman reflecting life in a remote, gentle, spiritual country

Traverse the country's 460,000 square miles and your body and your spirit surely will be tested. Delineated by the high peaks of Kunlun and Himalayan mountain ranges, the northern area is an arid rocky desert plain called Chang Thang populated mostly by nomadic herdsmen. The south is fertile which accounts for why nearly three million people live in Lhasa, Shigatse and Gyantse.

Yet with all the richness of culture, what has blemished Tibet is the 1959 uprising against the Chinese. Up until that time it had been considered inaccessible, secluded, a place of preferred backwardness. Once the Chinese took over, they brought the Marxist-Maoist ideology that imposed a new way of life. It's little wonder that thousands of people who rebelled against this regime decided to follow their leader, the Dalai Lama, into exile.

THE POTALA PALACE, home of the exiled Dalai Lama rises out of the Tibetan Plateau.  A spiritual pilgrimage.
THE POTALA PALACE, home of the exiled Dalai Lama rises out of the Tibetan Plateau. A spiritual pilgrimage.
And yet tourism flourishes. For all those travelers who have gotten their fill of the Eiffel Tower, fjords, and all the king's palaces (if not all the king's men), what better place to welcome the new millennium than in this multi-faceted country. Looking for thrills, adventure and that personal connection, only Tibet offers the striking Potala Palace

shimmering from the mystical Tibetan Plateau, the ethereal Himalayas, and romantic sunrises over Mount Everest.

And now a question: Other than memories and photos, what else can you bring back? Starting with rare pieces of carved Tibetan furniture, the savvy traveler can pick up a Thangkas (scroll painting), woven carpets for sitting and sleeping, silks with vibrant patchwork, and portable shrines made of gold, turquoise and glass. If you're in the market for homemade remedies, you'll want to sample the famous Rhodiola, an herb that guards against aging while it promotes good cardiovascular function. But don't forget the Sherpa paintings. Yes, Sherpas are those famous experienced mountain guides that take you safely through the Himalayas, but they're also artists whose work reflects scenes of the daily life of the mountain people.

"You really can't go wrong visiting 'The Rooftop Of The World,'" claims Joanna Cameron of Cameron Tours. "It's a special pilgrimage to peace and harmony." And Cameron Tours should know since they have been a leader in travel to China since 1987. The company, based in McLean, Virginia, has been written up in both "National Geographic" and Fodor's Guide as one of the experts in the Asian field.

From September 16-October 2, 1999, Cameron Tours will not only expertly guide you through Tibet/Nepal, but will also include stopovers in Hong Kong and Bangkok. The price tag is only $4,600 from New York, $4,500 from San Francisco and Los Angeles.

"Call this the magical challenge you've been waiting for!" explains Joanna Cameron. "Come with me and we'll take the road through the Himalayas from Lhasa to Kathmandu. Yes, we'll dance on life's rooftop as we explore this remote, gentle, and spiritual country. "

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For all information on Tibet, contact:

Joanna Cameron
Phone: 800-648-4635

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Linda-Marie Singer "The LIVEWIRE" for Travel Watch. Former President of the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association, and created the national writers conference, "The Days of Wine & Proses." She is a travel and entertainment reporter living in the San Francisco Bay Area. (More about this writer.)

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