We arrived in Lo Manthang on the 19th of May and we were met at the gate to our lodging by the library management committee, armed with kataks, white scarves used in the Tibetan world to honor guests, and smiles. After lunch and a bit of time to wash the grime off our bodies, they returned to escort us to the library.
The building is amazing. It occupies both angles of a street corner, directly across from the entry to the royal palace, and is painted in the typical primary colors of red, blue, green, and yellow, as well as white. The main entrance was closed until the innauguration, two days later.
The library is on the second floor and the bottom floor contains 11 prime-front storefronts that are almost all rented now. Inside is a square courtyard space with a beautiful prayer flag pole in the center. Directly opposite the entrance on the second floor is a large meeting room which will also provide rental income to support the library.
As far as the eye can see the stones of the Kali Gandhaki riverbed stretch north, bordered on each side by tall brown cliffs and with the tips of snow capped mountains dotting the horizon. Walking along a path through the stones, worn by travelers - both local and international, horses, mule trains and now cars, tractors and motor cycles, you find yourself searching the stones to find one of the magical saligrams, fossils of fish, shells and other creatures that inhabited the Tibetan plateau thousands of years ago and now wash down with the river waters. To the Hindus and Buddhists, these fossils are not only sacred, a symbol of Vishnu, but a source of income from sales to tourists and pilgrims.
As you walk, there is no shade at all and the path alternates between steep climbs up onto the river banks and alongside stone and dirt walls and sandy unstable sharp drops back onto the riverbed. The dominant color is brown, brown walls, brown sandy dirt dotted with black stones. The only other colors, aside from the clothes of the hikers and animals is the bright blue of the sky with an occasional white peak of a mountain top.
The diversity of China is truly incredible when one travels beyond the metropolis of Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. To learn about China's 3,000 year old history, see the cultural diversity and think about how far China has advanced in the last 20 years is extraordinary. There is much to see and learn in China... Traveling in China allows experiences such as drinking tea with nomads, taking part in Tibetan dances with the locals, visiting grottoes that survived the Cultural Revolution, visiting the Great Wall - one of the Seven Wonders of the Medieval Minds - and visiting diverse minority groups that still thrive on ancient traditions. The colorful powerhouse is home to nearly 60 minority groups that still thrive in pockets of China, half these groups living in the lush mountainous Yunnan region. In the Yunnan, we were able to observe villagers living the same way their ancestors did, building houses the way their parents did, and constructing crafts passed down from generation to generation. Here we stayed in the quaint villages of Shangri-la and Lijiang and lollygaged around the cobblestone streets at night. Red silk lanterns set the mood for local cuisine of yak momos and "crossing the bridge" noodle soup, both delicious. In the Qinghai province, the area of the Tibetan grasslands, we visited Tibetan nomads living in the grasslands for the summer and discussed their transient lifestyle and animal husbandry. Making stops along the ancient Silk Road allowed us to envision the European traders sharing their goods, skills and spiritual beliefs. Visiting ancient and highly revered Buddhist grottoes and murals that survived the Cultural Revolution, as the only tourist around, created an authentic understanding. Western China is a true cultural experience and a far off the beaten path place.