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There's no substitute for the real Tibet

November 18, 2012

Phil Zimmerman's article "Caught Up in Yunnan" [Oct. 28] talked about how he visited Yunnan province because he couldn't get into Tibet. True, Yunnan is heavily populated by ethnic Tibetans and the Chinese government decreed one county as the official Shangri-La, complete with a re-created Tibetan village, leading the author to conclude with, "Maybe I didn't need to visit Tibet after all," which seems like sour grapes.

Having been fortunate enough to have been one of the last foreigners to visit Tibet in June, I can say the author missed an exciting and unique experience.

Our stay overlapped with the Saga Dawa holiday. Masses participated in perimeter circumambulations, performed repeated prostrations at the Jokhang monastery, and lighted yak butter candles at the Drepung monastery. We were thrilled to watch a public display of young monks at the Sera monastery practice with each other for their upcoming exams. Also incomparable to anything outside Tibet is the awe-inspiring Potala Palace, home of the Dalai Lamas. In many ways it is the most complete expression of Tibetan culture and identity. Its 1,000-plus rooms hold spectacular treasures that make it one of the most exciting and enlightening places in the world to visit.

A trip to the Tibetan countryside is another element in understanding Tibetan culture. We went to the magical Lake Nam-tso about 120 miles from Lhasa and experienced the thrill of taking a brief jaunt on a pass that was close to 16,000 feet.

Being in Tibet itself gave us a vantage point to interact, even in a limited way, with the people and to experience their culture. Being in the autonomous province encouraged us to think about the political present and future of its people.

Donald Nathanson

Los Angeles


Does Zimmerman realize he forgot to mention the two most important places to visit in Dali or in Shangri-La?

Dali is most famous for its Three Pagodas. Originally constructed in 850, they have recently been rebuilt and are a part of a scenic park that houses wonderful re-creations of temples similar to those found in Beijing's Forbidden City.

In Shangri-La, he should have mentioned the Gedan Songzanlin Monastery (sometimes called the Guihua Monastery). Built in 1679, it is the biggest and most important monastery of Tibetan Buddhism in Yunnan province. The style of the building is a faithful imitation of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet.

I was also surprised he made no mention of nearby Lijiang, arguably one of the most diverse and interesting cities in all of China.

Steve Goldstrom


Nonrefundable should mean just that

In regard to Catharine Hamm's "Death or Illness: Airfare Refunded?" [On the Spot, Nov. 4]: Nonrefundable should be nonrefundable regardless of the reason.

Businesses offer nonrefundable so they get their guaranteed money in advance. I am not a disgruntled person who didn't get their nonrefundable deposit back. We have used nonrefundable airfares and hotel rooms once in a while but not often.

People should accept nonrefundable for what it is and not try and get their deposit back for whatever reason. A person is taking a risk on a nonrefundable fare and should accept it for what it is.

William Besse


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