The Annual conference of Buddhist monks was held in Chutung Monastery, not far from Dzamthang. It was seen as a photo opportunity too good to miss.
On arrival we were greeted by the sight of a thousand burgundy robed monks spread out across the fields, debating, listening, chatting, learning, eating and networking. Delegates badges, bags etc made the conference genre clear.
As we arrived they were breaking up for lunch of noodles, bread, fun and laughter. We were the oddity again. The source of great hilarity and interest.
We were taken into the conference dignitaries’ eating area and offered bread and given gifts – clock, blessing scarf, scroll of a Tibetan deity, note book and pen.
As we went out to photograph the monastery, we found ourselves on a fast exit!! Unfortunately we walked out at the exact time an important Chinese official (unbeknown to our hosts) was due. We found ourselves face to face with a Chinese official vehicle – with the 2 officials doing pre-safety check before the dignitary arrived.
We had planned to go the next day but left then!!!! Passports were checked and details laboriously recorded. We were told it was for our safety and that we could visit the monastery without taking photos. There were more delays, phone calls and debates and finally we were taken back out of the TAR to check in at the ‘Exit/Entry Administration Service Centre, public Security Bureau of Rang Tang County’.
We were supposed to collect our bags on the way, but our zealous non-English speaking police officer drove us straight over the pass to the required check in. After a long, anxious wait in the Security Bureau our gear turned up and we were checked into a hotel.
We learned that the conference is usually 2 weeks long, but that the Chinese had limited the numbers to 1000 and the length to a week. More control!!