Marieke ten Wolde's blog

Documentary photography, and other things interesting enough to bother you with

Posts Tagged ‘Tagong

Tibet Travel log 6, Those bloody dogs

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Monastery dogs, I seem to have an issue with them. Which is strange, I like dogs and dogs like me, at least in Europe they do. In Tibet it is different, in Tibet the dogs are different.

Single dogs are OK: they seem to mind their own business and can be chased away by throwing a few stones, I always have a few stones in my pocket, if that does not work because they just wait with attacking until you have thrown your stones, then you can fight them of with a stick. In my case a tripod does miracles.

The problem is packs of dogs. In some villages and monasteries in Tibet packs of dogs take over the streets, and not only at night.  Even Tibetans themselves are careful, but the dogs seem to pick out the strangers. Typically one dog starts howling, others join, they follow you, start growling, one attacks the others join in and before you know it you are hunted down by a pack of dogs. I have been warned so often by Tibetans not to go in some direction because of dogs, they have offered me rides to avoid ‘dog area’s’, they have chased dogs away for me. And I had been on edge, but fine, so far.

It turned out the other problem is sudden attacks. Dogs that do not bark mean business, they just growl look straight at you and bite. Or bite before you even saw them.

I was at one of the Buddhist teaching colleges in Tagong on the main road. No dog in sight. There was an interesting statue being erected on a mountain and there was a rather big concrete building I had not seen in previous years. I was trying to find the right angle to make an interesting picture. As I raised the camera something hit my leg, at least it felt like that. I looked down: a dog, attached to my leg, very angry. My black coat, black daypack and tripod probably triggered him. Luckily only one smallish dog and he let go when I wacked him and I managed to pull back, or depending on the point of view, the dog chased me away.

The Tibetans say that the dogs hanging around at the monasteries are the reincarnations of monks that violated their vows. So Tibetans often joke I must have done something to a monk or a dog in my previous life and am now paying for that.

Written by Marieke ten Wolde

July 13, 2012 at 08:42

Tibet Travel log 4, The entrance gate

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April 2012, Tagong

These ladies ask the (mainly Chinese) tourists quite aggressively 10Y for passing the gate onto their land that has a nice view on the golden temple. This is a commercial attitude I have not often seen in Tibetans, certainly not Tibetan woman. And although I do not like to pay for standing in a field, I think it is rather funny and it fuels the hope that the Tibetans are catching up with the Chinese in commercial business sense. The few Chinese tourists that come to Tagong in April at least seem to have no issue with this approach whilst the one other ‘foreigner’ that is there at the same time with me prefers to walk to the next hill to avoid paying. The westerner is annoyed as this spoils his preconception of the peaceful laid back Tibetan.

It is early in the tourist season, at this time of the year it is mostly young Chinese that are walking, cycling, hitch hiking to Lhasa some 2000 km and a few days (by car) away coming to Tagong. They are travelling by themselves or in small groups as they say ‘to get to know their country’. They all see Tibet is an integral part of China. Some have met foreigners that told them differently and they clearly think that is a laughable misconception of some misinformed foreigners that do not know about China.

Most of these Chinese backpackers show a true interest in and respect for Tibetans, the culture and the religion. It is good to see that they are genuinely interested and try to understand the place, not just treating Tibet as a giant open air museum like most of the tour groups do. Some are even mildly critical about the enormous amounts of army trucks passing through Tagong on a daily basis heading further into Tibet.
These kids are well educated, relatively wealthy and I hope that once this generation comes to power there will be more understanding that will result in changes in the attitude and policies with regards to Tibet.