We found Tibet to be a land of contrasts, both in terms of how it is changing and how our views changed during our visit.
Our Tibetan guide told us about lamas, teachers, historic buildings, and religious writings, as well as the culture. Tibetans are warm and greet each other. Tibetan adults go up to Tibetan infants to smile, touch their cheeks, and get a smile back. Tibetans pray for other people and not for themselves. There is a wide variety of prayers and implementations like prayer wheels that are spun by hand or water from the hillside. Tibet has a small population, and there are many pilgrims.
There is increased immigration of Han people from the rest of China. We drove by new government buildings for ministries to mine the mineral wealth of Tibet. Tibet has more than 100 minerals and is perhaps one of the few sources of rare earth elements required for low-power lighting and hybrid auto engines. The English-speaking positions at our hotel were staffed by people with Han family names. Some of the serving/cooking staff were Tibetans — service oriented and always smiling.
Attached is a photo of the staircase leading to the Palace. It was built as a fort to protect the Dalai Lama and house the administration.
Our feelings about staying in Tibet completely changed during our stay. During our first night in Lhasa, we talked about leaving Tibet early due to altitude sickness. In the end, we worked through this and had a great last day at Potala Palace.
The other photo shows our departure from the Lhasa airport. Our guide gave us white scarves that Tibetans use to convey goodwill and compassion. By the end of our stay, we were touched by the culture of Tibet and had mixed feelings about leaving, in contrast with our initial thoughts of leaving early.
Part of our criteria for prioritizing places to visit is the quality of the experience and the rate of change that might impact the experience. Tibet rates high with us for both factors. We second the advice we received — visit Tibet.
We have a much better appreciation for the Tibetan culture. The rate of construction in China is amazing. Parts of China have entered the 21 century, and the challenge is how fast the rest of China can catch up. Therefore, we see starker contrast in Tibet than the rest of China