The Barkor Street has not only been my favorite place for a long time, but also the dream of others who have never been to Tibet.
This Street is famous for being the tourist route around the famed Jokhang Temple “in Tibet, Legend has it that the Jokhang Temple, built in 647 A.D (about 1350 years ago), is one of the oldest Tibetan style buildings and also a well-known tourist attraction worldwide. Historically, this attraction for sightseers is a prosperous commercial street where both pilgrims and tourists from all over the world have left their footprints. Currently, over 2000 households (about 6000 residents) are living beside the street. Inns, stores, teashops and ban, one after another, are dotted on both sides. Over about one kilometer, the Barkor Street is displaying multiple functions of Tibetan culture and holds a unique significance.
In daytime, the Barkor Street is bustling with tourists, pious pilgrims and merchants crowded together. Only when darkness falls does the Street become tranquil. Nevertheless, the area surrounding the Barkor Street (from Tibetan Hospital compound extending to east Beijing Road) is then revived by various kinds of bars. You can easily smell the remaining incense on the breeze and countless lights, just like stars, are shining around the street. Such a street on the peaceful plateau will surely fire your imagination.
Each featuring their different characteristics, the bars on the Barkor Street choose a theme from either music or books. Customers wandering into these bars are usually either travelers from different areas or local Tibetan youths seeking to be fashionable. Those bars, more or less, are influenced by the memory of ancient Barkor, which is particularly attractive to visitors. People understand that their encounters here are brief and there is no need to think about the past or the future, but rather savor present happiness. The sounds of cries and laughter in bars belong to him or her, as one likes. This is actually a wonderful experience. Therefore, if you were in Lhasa, you’d better go to the bars to have such experience.
Niang is a bar close to Banagshol Hotel. Wang Xiao, the owner of the bar, is a rock singer from Xi’an. He started his music career with Xuwei. but he didn’t finally stay with Xuwei. He has traveled to all the places he wanted to see, and then he finally settled down in Lhasa and opened the bar. In this bar, different musical instruments are hanging on the wall to attract and greet visitors from all over the world. Every day, Wang Xiao cooks his favorite dishes, and sings his lovely songs to strangers. Whenever slack season comes, he goes traveling around Tibet. One friend, through the internet, described this bar as “while sitting in Niang, listening Wang Xiao’s songs and watching his guitar playing, I imagine the guitar waving in the wind and sand on the yellow coloured plateau; and the guitar clanging like shining spears and armored horses”.
Where the wide goose has passed over is the place I was born;
the setting sun, stamped upon by horses’ hooves,
will fall onto whose gent...
People who might have been cheerful several minutes ago suddenly fall silent. His sound is so lonesome it makes people think he might be homesick. Wang Xiao has left his hometown a long time ago. He is just like a nomad on a horse taking whatever place he hangs his hat as his home. While traveling, people are used to spontaneity. Someone took a drum down from the wall of the bar, and then followed Wang Xiaos music by beating the drum. Accompanied by the heavy beat of the drum, the sound of Wang Xiaos song became even more lonesome The song of Wang Xiao together with the sound of the drum seemed to beat out the aspirations of your deepest soul. You felt that you had been overwhelmed, ambushed from all directions and there was no way to escape. A magic power led you automatically to shed tears.
If you visit Niang bar, you will definitely understand what this feeling is. Niang Bar is not only a place to entertain you with wonderful music, but also to taste delicious food as well. Various kinds of food with strange names, such as “The Third Element”, “Communism”, “Socialism”, “Sahara Noodle”, remain fresh in your mind with the feeling that everything is new. Though the price is a little big high, the wonderful taste still attracts visitors to have a try. Once I asked Wang Xiao why he chose such unusual names. Stroking his beard his big hand, he said: “Just be free and easy”. It may be easily understood why the dish of potato cooked with yak meat and the dish of fried beef sticks are respectively given the “Communism” and “Socialism” but it hardly explains one like “the Third Element” and “Sahara Noodle”. Therefore I asked him and he explained with a smile: “It is obvious that three differently coloured vegetables containing different vitamins will make a delicious dish. The Sahara Noodle is just the cuisine of noodle-making from middle eastern countries where I visited and then introduced it to the bar”. Speaking of those he visited, his voice grew stronger and he became excited. Actually, Wang Xiao’s travels around the world created his life style, and Niang is the embodiment of his personal culture. In recent years, he has composed various kinds of folk music. He is intoxicated by his music and displays this in his bar by collecting different musical instruments from all around the world, such as drum from Africa, string instrument from Kazakstan, and a big Chinese drum... and so on. He always forgets himself in his music.
Apart from Niang in the Bakhor Street, there are over a dozen bars in the area. A bar named “Chunky House” is situated opposite the famed Yak Hotel. This is an old Tibetan-stylized house steeped in history. It is said it was an old residence for the 11th Dalai Lama’s family. Because the owner rents the first floor as the bar; therefore, the name “Chunky House” is given. A slogan “Here is what you search for in music” is written on the sign of the bar. Music, casually drifting from the bar to the street, catches the attention of passersby and involuntarily draws them in. If you were a person who loves music, you’d better not to miss this chance. The bar has a collection of hundreds of Tibetan tunes and songs as well as collections from India and Nepal. Visiting in the bar, you will not only become intoxicated by the tasty wine but also the wonderful music, and the melodious music and the charming ancient house will give you a feeling of mystery and romance. One tourist has written: “Chunky House is not really big, but very old and comfortable. It is said it was the house of the 11th Dalai Lama’s father and as much as 150 years old. In every night, mountaineers and tourists from all over China appear under the loom lanterns of Nepal, and such an environment and atmosphere gives you a sense of the spiritual homeland of those people far away from home.” As a bar Chunky House specializes in music, particularly the local Tibetan music, as well as Indian and Nepalese.
Bars in the Barkor Street are multi-cultural spots in which different cultures interact one another and together present to the public a shining and colourful culture. There is one bar named Ku Zhahs, run by a Mongolian girl, which I particularly like. The theme of this bar is books. All books presented here are associated with Tibet. Sitting in the book bar with a bottle of Lhasa beer or a cup of tea, the books and photos you are reading are always fascinating. It is out of the questions that people could visit the Barkor Street without knowing this book bar. Many tourists and locals frequently visit it. This is one place that offers you a chance to understand the history of Tibet.
It is most likely that many different people, no matter from abroad or the hinterland, no matter if they are Tibetans or outsiders, will breathe more and different cultural elements into the bar culture. They will continue to enrich it... and the white nights of Barkor will be shining and resplendent forever.
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Who is the tour organizer? Are the guides tibetan and English speakers?
Dear Mr. Ba***,
Greetings from Nancy at Budget Tibet Tour, thanks for visiting our website and sending your inquiry. We are the tour organizer, and we have two offices, one is located in Lhasa as operating office, and one is located in Chengdu as sales office, but we are the same company. And also all of our guides are local Tibetan English speaking guide.
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