Friday, March 7, 2008

Beijing Time

Lhasa is still a distinctly Tibetan city, but the Chinese certainly rule the day. In front the Potala Palace stands a new massive square with the Chinese flag and center across from a massive Chinese monument (celebrating the liberation of Tibet?) Arriving from the train station, we drove through the new part of Lhasa, which is basically all Chinese businesses and buildings, and looks like any other Chinese city (at least smaller one). Most of the things are owned by government in Tibet. Only the businesses are privately owned, and even the, something like 80-90 percent of the businesses are privately owned. Lhasa is quickly developing and becoming a more modern city. Probably the strangest influence of the Chinese is that Lhasa is on Beijing time, which means there are no time zones. I am not sure how many miles west of Beijing we are, but it is a ton. This means that it is not light until 8 or 8:30 in the morning, and it doesn’t get until 8:30 or 9. Strange and eery.
In speaking with some people in Lhasa, it became clear that you had to be careful about what you said and did. We were told that foreigners were not allowed to stay with local people and our permit only allowed us to be there for 7 days. Most people felt comfortable talking openly in their homes, and most had either an exposed or hidden image of the Dalai Lama, although images of him are strictly banned and prohibited.

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