Potala Palace in Summer of Tibet Lhasa.jpg (60474 bytes)

The International Forum

Travels to Tibet
May 20-27, 2006 

An unusual social order on the roof of the world - Tibet dazzles both the eye and the mind with its otherworldly natural environment, mountainous landscapes, sprawling Buddhist temples and ethnically diverse population.

Tibet is politically an integral part of the People's Republic of China, yet it shares a closer cultural bond with the peoples of the Himalayas. And while Chinese engineers are now building the world's highest-altitude railroad link on permafrost, between Tibet and western China, Tibet is bound to retain its separateness and uniqueness, the very qualities that made it the setting for Shangri-la, both real and fictional.

Through close encounters with Tibetan people, The International Forum engages in actively exploring how they live and work in their social environment – including the initiatives that are involving them with those in other parts of the world in using their talents and skills. Tibet’s present and future are considered with an understanding of its culture – drawing on its history, art, religion, and a society and economy in this remote part of the world. 


The program engages participants in encounters such as:

This program is led by Peggy Day who has worked in the Himalaya for over 20 years.  In addition to operating treks in Tibet, Bhutan and Mongolia, her involvement in development projects with the local people have given her a deep appreciation of Himalayan cultures.  Her friends and mentors include Her Majesty Ashi Tsering Pem, Queen of Bhutan, Sir Edmund Hillary, and many political and religious leaders throughout the Himalaya.  She is responsible for the construction and maintenance of a home for 17 children in Tibet.


Throughout the program, in addition to encountering the spiritual and natural beauty of Tibet, participants meet with local leaders and those involved in small enterprises, orphanages, schools and healthcare.

May 20, Saturday: Depart Wuhan for Chengdu arriving at 3:40 p.m.  Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan Province.  Historically, Chengdu was known as the Brocade City before becoming a capital of China. During the 13th century, it was a Mongol city visited by Marco Polo.  Today, it is the most important city in the area, bustling with commerce and industry and well connected to the outside world.  

May 21, Sunday:   Depart Chengdu for Lhasa , Tibet .  The morning flight to central Tibet is spectacular as you fly towards the Himalayan range, dotted with bright turquoise lakes.  From the airport, drive across the plateau (about seventy-five miles) and check into the Kyichu Hotel, set in the center of Lhasa and walking distance to the Jokhang temple and surrounding Barkor bazaar.  Share a cup of tea with the owners of this successful family-run hotel and learn a little of their personal history during their struggle through uncertain times.

You are now at 12,000 feet so a light lunch and time to rest will help your body adjust.  Later in the afternoon, those who have acclimatized to the elevation can join the pilgrims on their circumambulation path around the Barkor. 

Take some time to enjoy the visual richness of the area and explore some of the stalls and shops that line the path.  Enter the Jokhang Temple , past the many pilgrims prostrating in front of the entrance, to the inner shrine rooms filled with large statues and beautifully detailed frescoes. In the heart of this ancient temple, witness a religious ritual that is sacred to spiritual masters and humble pilgrims alike.  Afterwards, go up on the roof for a dramatic overview of the city and listen to the monks offer their evening prayers before returning to our hotel.

In the evening, meet with representatives from Terma Foundation, a small humanitarian organization whose creative programs combine indigenous and western knowledge to confront the health crisis now affecting 6 million Tibetans within China.  Learn how this dedicated team of Tibetans, Chinese, and Westerners work together with village leaders to provide sustainable changes in health care, education, and agriculture. An informal discussion with  the program director will look at the sustainability of their projects and provide insights into some of the challenges that Tibet faces today.

May 22, Monday:  LHASA   Take a walk around the Norbulinkha, set in a large garden complex.  In addition to the newer summer palace, visit the Kasang temple to see the beautiful collection of thangkas and stop at the nearby pallequin garage which has a very unusual assortment of transports used throughout history.

The small size and simple structure of the industrial sector in Tibet is a reflection of the low level of development. In the next few days, we visit several businesses that have shown a creative approach to economic growth and development.  We begin today with a visit to a manufacturing plant to tour the facility and meet with the two young entrepreneurs who have started this business We’ll look at the possibilities and constraints to introducing changes within the government infrastructure as we discuss ideas and suggestions in an informal meeting.

After lunch, meet the director of the Tibet Development Fund, the non-government organization of Tibetans providing aid with the help of the international community.  Visit the children of Chushul Home, an orphanage built and maintained under the direction of The Development Fund.  We speak with the members of the community whose vision and commitment were vital to the creation of this unique project.   Discuss possible ways to use available tools and resources to reach future goals.

Tibetan new yearMay 23, Tuesday: LHASA   In the morning, visit the monumental Potala Palace , an incredible architectural feat for its time.  This 13-storey palace with over 1,000 rooms is full of treasures and history.  Walk through the labyrinth of shrines, halls, and galleries containing some of the finest and oldest treasures of Tibetan art.  In the afternoon, visit Sera Monastery to watch the monks debate and  see several of the important shrine rooms there.  In the hills behind Sera, follow an old pilgrimage route marked with large devotional rock paintings and mountain shrines. Quietly pass monks and nuns living and meditating in caves.

On our way back to Lhasa , meet with a local entrepreneur and her American counterpart, working together in a small joint business venture in cashmere production. Informal discussion on the challenges they face as they compete in a global marketplace.

In the late afternoon, a barbecue and personal exchange with Tibetan government officials who will both answer and raise questions about Tibet’s status as an autonomous region.

May 24, Wednesday: LHASA    Morning visit to the School of Traditional Medicine also known as the Mendzekhang Medical College .  Using the vital tool of pulse diagnosis or sometimes, the more arcane use of astrological diagnosis, these doctors treat their patients with traditional medicine including herbal treatments, moxibustion, and acupuncture. Meet with doctors, learn about this profound  and complicated medical tradition, and if appropriate, take a healing treatment. Talk with students and teachers to see how they look to integrate their traditional science of healing with today’s modern biomedicine. Tour the library containing Medical Tantras (texts) wrapped in silk and the detailed teaching thangkas, some over 300 years old and amazingly accurate.

An afternoon drive in the countryside will give you an opportunity to see both the daily life and spiritual rituals in the traditional Buddhist community. We’ll look at the role religion still plays in daily life and its far-reaching effects. See how the village life of nomadic peasants and yak herders has a relevance far beyond the Tibetan Plateau. As guardians of the headwaters of seven major Asian rivers, their environmental, educational and economic status directly affects a quarter of the world’s population downstream. Meet village leaders to discuss the challenge of keeping a functional coexistence of economic needs and the fragile ecosystem of the Tibetan Plateau.

Our journey continues to Ganden Monastery, once the largest monastery of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Although it was literally leveled by explosives, it is still considered a major pilgrimage center to Tibetans and is slowly being restored by local, volunteer efforts.  Look into an inner realm of spirituality as monks perform a powerful tantric ceremony.  Afterwards, a discussion with senior monks will provide insights into their unyielding faith in the cycle of life: birth, life, death, and rebirth and  the role it plays in daily life.

Return to Lhasa .  Dinner outing for traditional Tibetan meal, including but not limited to, yak meat and butter tea.

May 25, Thursday: SAMYE MONASTERY/TSEDANG  In the morning, drive out to a ferry landing to join the local pilgrims on their way to Samye Monastery.  The adventure begins by crossing the Brahmaputra river in a wooden boat propelled by a converted tractor engine, followed up with a rugged bus or truck ride across sand dunes to Samye, the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet . 

Temples and chortens (reliquaries and symbols of Buddha’s mind) are configured around the main monastery as a geographic mandala.  Walk in this three-dimensional model of the Buddhist universe, guided by local artists, in order to understand the symbolism found in the elaborate artwork and ritual objects.  Look at the traditional monastic education and it’s relevance today in the community.  Given the close interrelationship with religion and everyday life here, meet monks working as teachers, doctors, administrators, and priests.  Return to the boat and cross the river to where we will be met and driven to the nearby town of Tsedang .

In Tsedang, visit a Chinese model school that teaches both Chinese and Tibetan languages in addition to the standard Chinese curriculum. Meet with headmaster and instructors to identify advantages and disadvantages of the students potential success.

Finish the day by joining locals in their evening walk of prayer around the Sang Ngag Zimche nunnery, the most religiously active place in Tsedang before returning to hotel.

May 26, Friday: Chengdu and beyond.  Depart for Gongkar airport at 6am, arriving by 8am for 9:30am flight to Chengdu, and connect to Shanghai/Beijing/Hong Kong. End of program.


For a complete list of suggested Readings - click here

  If you are interested in attending this special trip please contact us at Mail@internationalforum.com