Tibet and the art of motorcycles

LHASA – Three motorcycles stopped side by side at the Potala Square on Sunday afternoon, as their drivers stood watching the towering Potala Palace, the sight of which they said was worth their dozen days of “marathon driving”.

By different routes – from Zhejiang, Heilongjiang and Hebei provinces – the three men in their mid-30s reached the same goal: making their maiden excursion to the capital of Tibet at a time when the region is celebrating the 60th anniversary of its peaceful liberation.

Tang Yiping, who rolled from Jiaxing city of East China’s Zhejiang on July 1, said the trio came to know each other only after they met near Tibet, and each had something in their heart that drew them to the “roof of the world.”

For Tang, who runs a store at taobao.com, a leading online shopping website, the Tibet trip was a virtual world made real.

“I found it amazing to have dozens of customers from Tibet. They bought bags and fur products from my online store,” Tang said. “This has added to my curiosity, prompting me to see what their daily life is like.”

Tibet is more prosperous than he thought, Tang observed, and the streets cleaner.

He said the journey helped him know more about Tibetans and their culture.

Tang’s companion Zhu Xiaofeng, from Suihua city of Northeast China’s Heilongjiang, said he had calculated making it to Lhasa in mid-July, when the autonomous region marks the peaceful liberation of 1951 with a series of spectacular celebrations.

In 1951, the Agreement of the Central People’s Government and the Local Government of Tibet on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet – the “17-Article Agreement” for short – was signed in Beijing.

“The Potala Palace is more grand and beautiful than I saw in pictures,” Zhu said. “Lhasa is neat and in good order, and oddly, you can see farm vehicles on streets.”

Lhasa is an important milestone in Zhu’s motorcycle trip around China, which he embarked on at the beginning of this summer vacation.

In addition to seeing the capital in all its splendor, Zhu, who has taught English in a senior high school for 13 years, said he planned to give a lecture at a local school and donate 50 copies of an English book he wrote to Tibetan students.

“When I return, I’ll tell my students what Tibet looks like, how their Tibetan counterparts study and live,” Zhu said. “Besides, I’ll ask them to get rid of some prejudice against Tibetan people, such as they are backward and where they live is desolate.”

Wu Gang, another motorbike driver, agreed.

From Baoding in North China’s Hebei, Wu said he had wanted to visit Tibet since watching a documentary on the region 10 years ago.

He had never expected that the roads in Lhasa and its vicinity would be so broad, even broader than many in his hometown.

Nor had he expected to meet Tibetan Samaritans along the way.

Before he kicked off his expedition, Wu had heard there were robbers along the Sichuan-Tibet Highway who targeted lone drivers.

So when his motorcycle broke down last week and he fell to the ground, he was terrified to see a Tibetan man zipping down from a mountain toward him.

To defend himself, Wu took a knife in his hand when the young man approached. However, the man extended his hand to help him to his feet, then tried to figure out the problem with the vehicle.

“I was so embarrassed, he just meant to help,” Wu said. Later, the Tibetan youth told him he was interested in motorcycles and also planned to ride one around the country.

Learning from this episode, Wu said he ventured to Tibetan tents when he suffered from altitude sickness. Each time he was greeted with buttered tea and an offer of taking a rest.

The three motorcyclists said they would join other motorcycle fans who are streaming to Lhasa these days.

They will leave Tibet late this week.

Source: China Daily

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