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.
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,
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
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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