Prayer Wheels and Pilgrimage Paths
If the trip to Tibet seems impossible, Xiahe offers a more easily accessible Tibetan experience. Xiahe, a primarily Tibetan monastery town (the second most significant after Lhasa), attracts a good number of tourists but still maintains an authentic monastery ambiance. Revel in the vibrant colors of monks‘ robes against hilly green landscapes. Visit the spectacular Labrang Monastery and see how the monks really live. Long and challenging hikes await travelers with older children. Hungry families can sample authentic Tibetan cuisine and roam the Sangke Prairie, named for the sangke flowers that blanket the grounds. Visit the local markets selling different Tibetan handicrafts to people of all ages.
The Travelers: Phil Calvert and Chantal Meagher, with Jessye Calvert (8), Fabienne Calvert Filteau (23) and Julie Foisy (29).
Where to Stay: The Calverts stayed at the Overseas Tibetan Hotel, which was clean and friendly with Western breakfasts and fabulous hot chocolate (www.hostelworld.com; search for hotel name).
What to Eat: While the family did try yak meat, they admit Tibetan food was no culinary adventure and restaurants were very “local.” Chantal advises bringing peanut butter or other snacks for kids.
A Monk’s Life: Everything around Xiahe is focused on monk life, as there are more than 1,200 monks living in Xiahe. They are a huge part of the community, both inside and outside the monastery, and it is quite common to see them out shopping and riding motorbikes in their bright robes, or even scaling telephone poles to fix wires!
A Spectacular Sight: Walking into the monastery for the first time and seeing it awash with crimson robes.