Posts Tagged ‘seamstress’

Tibetan SeamstressLangmusi is a Tibetan village surrounded by superb grasslands where nomadic people herd their yaks and sheep, and some very high mountains with snowy peaks.

The village is half in Gansu and half in Sichuan and the White Dragon River marks the boundary. There’s a monastery on either side of the river – and each of them charges you 30¥ (3 quid) to walk up their side of the valley! Apart from this rather un-Buddhist behaviour (according to Jim – the laughing monks who took our money didn’t seem to mind) it’s a very nice place to stay with its small town vibes.

The monasteries have metal-roofed temples and narrow streets with small white houses for the monks. On the top of almost every hill there’s a prayer flag beacon and one or two are “sky burial” sites. It’s a Tibetan custom to leave the dead on top of a mountain where the body will be eaten by vultures. It sounds a bit gruesome, but actually I don’t think it’s a bad idea – it’s certainly no worse than ours anyway.

We have spent two perfect days climbing high mountains and beating our personal altitude levels to get above the herds of yaks to some absolutely amazing views. Best of all are the huge vultures wheeling overhead – maybe looking out for some sky burial fodder?

Tibetan vulture

At one point two of them fly right out from under us, so that we are looking down on their huge tawny bodies and black tipped wings. We are extremely excited!

YaksTibetan vulture

Next day we wake to snow and freezing temperatures. What to do in a hotel room without heating (just electric blankets) in a little village with not a lot going on?

MonksBundled up locals

The locals just bundle themselves up even more than usual, but the monks (especially the little boys) in their robes look freezing and nobody really wants to go far from their stove.

The answer is to get into a warm café, first making sure that they have a stove on and a Tibetan tea and tsampadoor that shuts and start trying out various menu items.

I don’t fancy yak butter tea (I was put off by the rancid smell of the yak butter candles in the temple) but yak meat is pretty good – slightly tough but as good as Aberdeen Angus steak, and yak burgers are definitely recommended. Cups of tea are made by pouring boiling water over a variety of strange foliage which just gets in your teeth, and traditional Tibetan tea is like a flippin’ pot pourri. I can report that tea bags are not something either the Tibetans or the Chinese seem to go in for and are unavailable for love or money. Afternoon tea may be accompanied by tsampa, a Tibetan staple of roasted barley either made into porridge or moulded into balls. It’s really delicious and reminds me strongly of Weetabix.

The other thing I can do is shop for my ideal Tibetan robe. I’ve been studying them carefully on everyone who walks past and have decided the style I’d like. Trouble is Tibetans in tibetan robesLangmusi is not exactly huge and there are only two fabric shops where you can have them sewn to suit. But I like the look of the Tibetan lady sewing away in one of them and she has a persuasive way with her, so although neither of us speaks a word of each other’s language, a deal is struck. Swayed by the cold weather I am talked into the winter style with a warm woolly fleece lining. Then I just need to choose the border and it’s all sewn on there and then.

A Tibetan robe can be worn in all sorts of ways, they’re a very versatile garment – big enough to cover your head if it rains, to snuggle up in when it’s cold, and to carry babies or shopping in if necessary. Very rarely are both sleeves worn; once it’s tightly wrapped and secured with a sash, you pull your right arm out of its sleeve, and this hangs down the back held by a belt in a decorative fashion. When the weather gets warm, the other arm comes out too and this sleeve is wrapped round the waist.

Time to try on my new robe. My rather severe Tibetan seamstress wraps me up firmly and once she has got me properly attired, a big smile lights up her face. She gives me the thumbs up – clearly I have been transformed from a tourist into a recognisable human being!

Diane and Jim on a Tibetan hill

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