The region of Changtang is a high altitude plateau (average elevation 4500 meters) mainly located in western and northern Tibet, but a small part of Changtang crosses also the border into Ladakh. Changtang in Ladakh is the home of the Changpa nomads, a semi-nomadic Tibetan ethnic group. The Changpa speak a dialect of Tibetan and practice Tibetan Buddhism. There are also more than 7000 Tibetan refugees residing in the region whose settlements are scattered across the plateau.
The vast majority of Changtang is uninhabited and inhospitable for farming. The nomads are pastoralists and raising mainly yaks and goats. Pashmina goats grow a thick, warm fleece and they are able to survive the harsh winter in the region, where the temperatures plunge to as low as -35 °C. These goats provide the wool for Kashmir's famous Pashmina shawls. The nomads sell the Pashmina wool to buy rice and grain.
Faces of Myanmar in Black & White
Myanmar, formerly Burma, is recognized by the world as the Golden Land. Many pagodas in Myanmar are covered with gold leaf. According to a legendary tale, over 4 million pagodas were built in Bagan (which is certainly not true, because archaeologists today can find only the traces of over 5000 pagodas). But it's not the pagodas which makes Mynamar unique, it's the wonderful and amazing people. Take a look at the Black & White portraits and enjoy the wonderful faces of Myanmar.
The Bashagi goldmines are located near Kibish. After a 40km drive on an unpaved small field road from Kibish to the south there is a small police station where it is possible to stay overnight. Basically the 'police station' consists of two small houses and a ranger with a Kalashnikov in the middle of nowhere. The goldmines are very popular amongst young Suri teenagers between 12 and 17 years. They go in groups of a about 9 or 10 people, and after a 1,5 or 2 days hike from Kibish they finally reach the police station where they sleep and eat.
Usually they stay up to 10 days at the goldmines, and they work every day very hard. If they are lucky they can earn around 400 Birr in 8 or 10 days, which is something like 20 USD. The money is very important for them. Either it is used for the family to buy seed. Especially the young men also save the money for a new cow, which is important for later when they marry, because they have to pay for the bride, and the family of the bride only accepts cattle for the payment.
Myanmar is one of the most devout Buddhist countries in the world. About 89% of the people in Myanmar are Buddhist. People in Myanmar practice the Theravada Buddhism, which is more austere and ascetic, but also harder to practice than the Mahayana Buddhism, the other main branch of the Buddhism. Theravada Buddhism is also followed in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Laos and Thailand. No one really knows, but experts estimates that in Myanmar live about half a million monks. It's customary for a male in Myanmar to enter a monastery twice in his life. Once as a samanera, a novice monk, between the age of 10 and 20, and again as a hpongyi, a fully ordained monk, sometime at the age of 20. Some might remain a monk for just a few days, while others stay for life.
Monks hold the highest status in the society of Myanmar. The overwhelming majority of the monks and novives in Myanmar wear maroon-colored robes. Monks receive two meals per day, breakfast and lunch and they are not allowed to eat after 12:00 noon. Early in the morning the monks and novices go out carrying a bowl to get offerings like rice, curry or other food. Usually a monk has his own family where he goes every day. It is not begging, since the family invited the monk to come to their house. It is a ritual that expresses a profound bond between the monks and the ordinary Buddhist and gives the locals the chance of doing the deed of dhana and to acquire merit.