Sunday, July 12: Xiahe, China
8:00 Breakfast at the hotel is one of the best yet: fried eggs, fried potato slices, some kind of meat, toast with butter, and Nescafe. I’d send it back if I was served it in a western restaurant but here it’s gourmet fare.
9:00 We walk up the street to the Labrang Monastery. The highlight of the day was watching young Chinese girls hyperventilate while waiting to have their photos taken with Duncan, Heather and myself. The low point of the day was getting punched in the stomach by a monk. I got separated from my group while posing for photos and tried to enter a temple without our guide. As I rushed to catch up to my group I apparently brushed past the monk who was guarding the entrance. He caught up to me and smacked me in the gut with an open fist. It hurt. Not very monk-like if you ask me.
14:00. I head out to see if I can buy beads for the necklace I intend to wear next year at Burning Man. There is no shortage of souvenir vendors selling cheap necklaces and bracelets but I’m looking for something antique and distinctly Buddhist or Tibetan. I get a few blocks off the main street and come across a store that sells antiques and jewellery. It’s a high end joint that would be missed by most of the tourists. The owner is out for a few minutes but an English speaking friend is minding the store and we get into a good discussion about Burning Man. He’s aware of BM so I tell him what I’m putting together. He calls the owner who says he will return shortly. Much tea is consumed in the meantime. Two hours later I walk out $150 lighter. I also leave with a piece of bronze that they guarantee is authentic and at least a few hundred years old, if not as much as 1000 years old. I’m no expert on these things but I did flog antiques as a teen and everything I know about fakes says that this isn’t one. It’s worn smooth in the right spots, it’s unlike anything I’ve seen in any of the markets, and it’s the only item of it’s kind in the shop. I also like the owner and his friend and tend to trust them. It will be interesting to have this thing inspected by a knowledgable dealer when I’m back in the Western world. It might be quite valuable or it might little more than an interesting necklace. Either way, I’m happy with my purchase. I haven’t spent $150 in one shop in months!
8:00 We head to a restaurant run by a Dutch woman and her local Tibetan husband. The service is abysmal. At one point they tell us they have run out of beer. We see others drinking what appears to be beer and enquire about this. Apparently they ran out of the brand we were drinking and didn’t think to ask if we’d consider switching. The meals for eight people are served individually over a period of about 90 minutes. Helen didn’t get everything she ordered and I could only get my hands on two beers over a two hour sitting. You know I have mellowed when I decide to let it slide and say that everything was just fine.