We began our tour of the Old City at the Tower of David, at the Jaffa Gate. The Tower of David, or the Citadel of Jerrusalem, is a fortress built during the Mamluk and Ottoman periods on the site of an earlier fortification. King Hezekiah was the first to build on this area. The Hasmonean kings also built on the area, as did King Herod. The Tower still includes the three original towers built by King Herod.
Rice cakes and sweet pork dipping sauce – I couldn’t find an exact analogue, but it was probably like this recipe, although with more sauce. It was very sweet. The rice cakes were thin wafers, also a little sweetened. On the whole Thai food was very sugary; this dish was not exception.
Have we talked about milk green tea yet? Thai iced tea is black tea, spices and condensed milk, which has a lot of sugar in it. A healthier version is green tea with coconut milk – incredibly creamy and filling yet still healthy. I’ll be making plenty of that when I get home.
Singapore was not on my initial list, but I added it once I had to cancel the African portion of my trip for safety concerns. This was an excellent decision. I was able to explore Singapore with a friend I met in Bangkok. We spent four days wandering among the skyscrapers, talking and comparing our lives East and West.
I’ve decided to publish this mostly as originally written. Many of these places were destroyed or damaged in the eatrhquake and may never exist again; I’ve written about how lucky I was to leave right before it here.
Throughout the tour, it was very clear how important Buddhism is to every Tibetan that we met, and how much the religious intertwines with every aspect of life.
You can go here to donate to the Nepalese Red Cross in order to support both Nepalis and Tibetans in the wake of the earthquake.
In Pokhara, Nepal, we found Tibetan Encounters, a tour of three of the four Tibetan refugee camps in Pokhara. At first we had some doubts. Would this be like a slum tour? Would it be awkward? Were we indulging in the worst kind of voyerism? But this tour was one of the best things I have ever done, and I’m happy that my money went towards this project.
I’ve divided it into two overarching themes: the spiritual and the political. We’ll start with the political.
Over Tibetan tea – which is traditionally made with yak butter and is very salty – our guide told us about the political background. In 1959, China invaded Tibet and the Dalai Lama was forced to flee. Our guide recommended a book, Buddha’s Warriors, on the subject of the Dalai Lama’s escape, escorted by monks turned guerilla warriors, through the Himalayas and into Nepal. Here is some information about how China has attempted to erase Tibetan culture and assimilate it into China since then. Our guide was born in Mustang, a region in the high Himalayas that is the most common crossing point between Nepal and Tibet, in 1960, a few months after the takeover. This region is ethnically Tibetan, but, according to our guide, in order to bribe the Nepali-Tibetans into securing the border, the Tibetans in that area do not face the same economic oppression as elsewhere in Nepal. Continue reading