28. June 2011 13:31
This summer is the 60th anniversary of the Tibetan "Liberation" and the 3rd anniversary of the 2008 uprisings in Tibet. To forestall more unrest, the Chinese have closed Tibet to tourists from June 25 until at least the beginning of August, perhaps later.
Fortunately, a wonderful alternative exists for travelers. High in the snowcapped Indian Himalayas lies Ladakh, often called "Little Tibet." Ladakh boasts a culture and ecosystems similar to those of the neighboring Tibetan Autonomous Republic, as well as thriving Buddhist traditions and intact monasteries.
Summer is a time of festivals in Ladakh, including the Hemis and Dak Thok festivals celebrating the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, Padmasambhava (Guru Rimpoche). To experience these colorful celebrations, join us on our 'Festivals, Monasteries, People, and Waters' or 'Taste of Ladakh' trips. Spend time talking with the Ladakhis, get a sense of the vibrancy and exuberance of their monastic life, as well as their flourishing arts and culture, and gain an appreciation for the harsh life on the "top of the world" across the Himalayas.
Ladakh also played a pivotal role in preserving Tibetan Buddhism. When the 9th-century king Langdarma tried to wipe out Buddhism in Tibet, the religion survived in the west in what is now Ladakh. From there it later spread back into Tibet.
Visiting Ladakh now and Tibet after it reopens is a wonderful way to understand the similarities and contrasts of life in these two worlds.