Happy New Year!
I arrived in Xigatse on the 11th, which is called something like Gutor in Tibetan. On this day only, the monks from the Xigatse monastery perform the dance of the Mahakala, which was pretty spectacular, and was watched by absolutely hundreds of Tibetan nomads and locals. They're such colourful people that just watching the crowd was a feast for the eyes. After the dancing there was a procession through the town, followed by more dancing and then a ceremonial fire was lit. This was followed by loads of mad Tibetans jumping through the flames and scrambling for handfuls of the charred remains. Needless to say I was among them, singeing my trousers, pushing and shoving with the best of them, and gaining mucho kudos from the locals.
The lump of charred stuff I obtained appears to have great significance to the Tibetans, coz when I joined the pilgrims on their circuit of the monastery and showed them my lump of hard-won earth, they all beseeched me for pieces of it, and tried (not very) hard not to laugh at my attempts at Tibetan language. Later that evening we were in a local restaurant, watching the staff make their dough-demons, and as the staff were all female, some of the demons were, um, slightly "suggestive" and caused much hysterics. They sang us a special new year song and let us join in the ceremony of chasing away the demons with fire.
The day didn't end there though, as after this, we all went clubbing!!! Not really what I was expecting to do in Tibet, but still. Firstly there was on stage singing and dancing acts, and some slow songs for couples to dance to (I managed to blag a dance with a very attractive young Tibetan lady), and at about 1am, the hardcore chinese disco kicked, which was followed later on by the Tibetan equivalent of Auld Lang Syne.
Today have been to the Potala Palace with 1000s of pilgrims and chinese tourists. From the outside it's the most spectacular building I have seen on all my travels. Its the first day of the Tibetan New Year today, yesterday was the Chinese, so I have been travelling for 3 years already ?
take care all. dan