Welcome in Samye, where time stood still
Samye is the name of Tibet’s oldest monastery. The village of Samye and the monastery exists for over 1200 years. Here at an altitude of 3630m the time stood still. A hot sun in the afternoon of October, 1st causes the temperature to raise above 25 degrees (77F) easily.
At the office in Tsedang city we received our permits to visit Samye, then it takes another 2 hours drive between huge sand dunes and bare mountains on road x302. Our 4WD landcruiser does not mind the sandy barely paved road, our driver does not care either. To make us not worry his driving, he switched on some Bollywood movie on the GPS systems display. We do not care much that movie, instead we just hope to reach Samye safely as Samye village is our todays destination on our trip across the Himalayas.
Welcome in Samye, where the words “hurry” or “must do” not exist.
In this village you barely find a regular phone and certainly no internet. The cobbler sits on the street for his shop working. Across the street a young girl of 10 maybe 11 years old is walking by on her way home. A serious glance at her face, her little brother swathed tied on her back. She chats with few aunts and then continues home.
Cows and sheep walk on the streets looking for something to eat. These animals will be satisfied when they find a piece of cardboard. From the shadows of a tree a couple of dogs look at us in a lazy way.
In Samye no one hurries, why should they. Their parents and ancestors also lived like this.
Owning an impressive moped is the ultimate wish of most guys here. With some noise a kind of mini pickup trailer passes by. Two children at the back make sure that a half-skinned carcass of a yak will not fall off. They stop at the local restaurant to bring the fresh meat.
A little further a large current flow of water is streaming across the road: probably caused by a broken water pipe somewhere. A few people put some large boulders in this stream of water so that others can reach across the road keeping dry feet. Someone else hopefully will take care of the broken water pipe! Anyway that problem will be solved as soon as the water source is empty.
The local restaurant owns one of the few TV-sets in Samye. Villagers will come here every afternoon just to watch their favorite soaps. With an annual income of just US$ 2.000 they cannot afford to buy a TV themselves. They bring their toddlers too and get them a bowl of noodle soup with chopsticks to keep them quiet.
In the window a big redheaded cat claws in the air trying to catch a few flies. The flies and bugs in Samye discover your food much quicker as you can eat it. Still nobody cares. Flies have been here for ages and yet no one ever cared. Why would they, maybe one of these flies is a reincarnation of a past family member or past friend? Here and now the TV is important to watch and only during the commercial breaks they keep an eye on those few foreigners.
Welcome to Samye Monastery.
The monastery area itself is a circular plot with a diameter of over 500 meters (550yd). A big wall topped with hundreds of small stupas surrounds the area. Through the main gate – the East Gate – we go inside. Four large stupas colored white, black, red and green are positioned in a square. The main building resides in the middle.
The ‘assembly hall’ of the main building is crowded. Dozens of monks chant their prayers in the twilight. The llama overlooks the crowd contentedly.
From the adjacent ‘protector hall’ one can hear the monotone beat of the drum. Using a small light, one of the monks read his scripts and regularly hits his drum. We continue through a narrow and dimly lit corridor. Ancient wall paintings are telling us ancient stories in an ancient language.
Around a corner we notice hundreds of prayer wheels. Pilgrims give them a frequent push to keep them rotating while walking by. It seems easy to do, but sure it takes some exercise to find the right frequency and force one has to push these cylinders to keep them rotating. Too slow? Then they stop. But too fast then the person walking behind you is left with few bruised fingers.
Once outside again we hear some singing in a distance. It turns out that many people are helping to create a new building: A new floor is laid and it needs to harden out. Some 50 men and women are singing and stamping in the same rhythm while walking together back and forth over the new wet concrete floor to make it stiff. They seems happy with the work. These people sing and stamp the floor because their ancestors did it the same way. No one is asking for a different method, there is no need to change Samye.
Welcome to Samye
Any tourist from modern country will probably be surprised by this lifestyle. In Samye anybody owns near to nothing and there is a high possibility that it won’t change either. For us, this lifestyle is quite unbelievable, but for the locals it is the most normal way of life. We had mixed feelings when left Samye the next day, but we were thankful for the small peek we had in this village.
View the location of Samye on the map
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