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Arrived in Lhasa, Tibet

So, I arrived in Lhasa, Tibet, a few hours ago. I'd heard there was a bit of a snuff taking tradition here, so as soon as I arrived, I went looking around a dew likely looking general stores and stalls selling ciggies. Score! The very second shop I tried had some Indian snuff, a brand I've never heard of before, Rajaram Hazrowala, very similar to Dholakia White. Only $1.20 per hundred grams. Oddly, after the first shop, I didn't find any others selling it, til I got to a tea house with an old woman selling cigarettes, she had an unscented brown in plain bags for the same price, a bit like Toque Quit. People laugh when they see me take it, its mainly something for old peasants in the country, although bus drivers are said to use it a bit, and some traditional minded young women who don't want to be seen smoking.

What a place! I'm a bit knocked out by the altitude right now -- if you fly straight in to 3700m, altitude sickness gives most people a rough day or two. Even climbing one flight of stairs is a knock out.


  • I'm jealous. I hope you are having a grand time!
  • fantastic journey......Is the Chinese presence felt there? Maybe you will discover more exotic snuff. :(|)
  • Tomorrow I'm going to check the local market, not the one near my hotel, that one mainly sells tourist bric-a-brac.

    Lhasa is now a VERY Chinese town. 79 percent of the population is Chinese, and they own all the big businesses. Still, the old Tibetan town, where I'm staying, is still very Tibetan. I live in Indonesia, and I've often visited the papuan provinces. It reminds me of that. The Tibetans are the underclass, just like the papuans, in their own land.
  • wow......I can imagine Buddhism is under siege, I bet it is still a very colorful & interesting trip.....Can you take all the snuff your suitcase can hold back with you? or are you limited....Could be the chance of a lifetime to procure some exotics.....good looking women????? :(|)
  • fantastic journey. what is it you are doing there again? just visiting? business? or? jealous, for sure, here. cheers!
  • i think you can find some antique snuff boxes too.
  • Most of the "antique snuff boxes" are designed for tourists who would never use the bottles for any practical purpose, I'm afraid! I'd love to bring back five kilos of the Indian snuff, but customs might raise an eyebrow. I do have a visa that doesn't give a specific limit for tobacco, it just says "reasonable amounts for personal use." While I'm sure many snuffhouse members would say that five kilos is a "reasonable amount", you do have to see this from LE's perspective. I just loaded my plastic box with the Indian snuff, lets see if my affection for it survives a days full use.
  • Have a fantastic voyage.
  • @snuffysmiff, the women aren't really the classic Asian beauties, but they smile easily and are fun to chat with. They have strong features and reddish skin. With wide hats and beads they look a bit like 19th century photos of native Americans. Despite my suspicion of Chinese politics and society, I really think the Chinese, and the North Vietnamese, women are Asia's most beautiful, with apologies to a former Indonesian wife and a number of other Indonesian women friends over the years.
  • Just back from the market with my morning haul. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that so far, the only Tibetan word I've learned is "natta". Guess what it means?
  • Ah, the attachment didn't come through. Well, that's Tibetan buddhism for you: no aattachments.
  • Keep updating us on your trip as i think many are enjoying living vicariously through your trip. Photo's would be great.
  • Hi JakartaBoy
    If possible Pl give more info on the snuff scene here
    I too hope to visit these parts some day in the near future
  • @sixphoto, I've seen 5 Photos snuff, but not your brand or dholakia, which are the Indians I've tried before. Certainly a market here! But I'm only an end user, without any language skills or contacts, so I ddon't think I can give you any useful introductions .
  • Sounds like a great trip. Will you get to say Hello(to the) Dalai ?
  • Can you mail snuff home? Enjoy the trip; got pictures?
    My knowledge is worthless if not shared and applied . "Joseph McKenna"  
  • The Dalai Lama is settled in Dharamshala town of India for a long time now
  • what a place, old women selling snuff in plain bags in a tea house! they should have that in the USA! lol
  • ... Will you get to say Hello(to the) Dalai ?

    Unlikely, since he fled the Country in 1959 & has never returned.

    My question was meant as a joke, turned out to be an airplane joke

  • I'm happy to see all this interest in my trip! Keeping it on snuff for now, I have to be honest and say that I've never actually SEEN anyone take it here, although everyone obviously recognizes it. I'm still hoping to find someone who accepts my offer of a pinch of Toque Quit, of which I brought a few tins along. People just kind of giggle and mutter 'natta'. I'll be leaving Lhasa tomorrow, heading down the Friendship Highway towards Kathmandu, my guess is net facilities wont be that good til I get to Nepal, I'll try to post some pictures after that.
  • I have a sacket of tibetan snuff, some pretty interesting ingredients:

    It’s made of tobacco, white and red sandelwood (tsan dan dkar dmar), cloves (li shi), saffron (gur gum), cardamom (ka ko la), vegetable incense or nardostachys chnensis batal. (spang spos), musk (gla rtsis), "cow essence", a substance obtained from gallstones in cattle which is considered to be soothing and strengthening (ghi wang) and white aconite (bong dkar).
  • That sounds interesting @dasr, especially the 'cow essence'. How do you like it and how did you acquire it?
  • @mouse I got it from a guy here in Europe and Im a vegetarian so I dont plan on using it
  • Okay, I'm back in Jakarta. I'm hoping to go through my camera later for some images.

    I bought about 700 grams of different Indian snuffs from Tibet. I was hoping to find an even greater range in Kathmandu, as most of the Indian snuff that gets used in Tibet comes through there. Oddly, I had much worse luck there than in Lhasa. I went around to the markets and looked in tobacco stores, drug stores, places selling soap and toothpaste, and showed them some packets of the Indian snuff I had from Tibet, but everyone just stared blankly. One person mimed someone rubbing something into her gums, so she obviously recognized it as a dentrificant (sp?). But she didn't sell it and didn't know where anyone else did. Too bad, I was hoping to find a half kilo of Dholakia White, I saw some internet hint that they have a presence in Nepal. In the end, I gave up and decided to be happy with my haul from Lhasa.

    In Tibet, I only ever had one person offer me snuff, and that was the mother of my guide, who told her that I used snuff and was interested in it. She stored it in a plain plastic bottle, a bit like the size and shape of Visine eye drops. It was very white, much lighter than Dholakia White, almost like chalk, and very dry and fine. It didn't have much tobacco flavor or nicotine hit. I managed to breathe out a large cloud of dust after I took a snuff of it. I'm sad to say the lady declined a return offer of a pinch of my Toque Quit, although she did sniff at it, nod approvingly, then turned to her similarly aged friend to discuss it briefly.

    The roap trip from Lhasa to Kathmandu was fantastic. We were up pretty high, at over 5000 meters, but on PLAINS, not on MOUNTAIN TOPS, on the way to Everest Base Camp. It was pretty cloudy and rainy when we were up there, but still beautiful to walk around. I bravely declined the offer of a shuttle bus to the camp to walk uphill for 4km -- it LOOKED like a really slight incline, but I had to stop and sit down every few hundred meters to catch my breath. I never got really bad altitude sickness and neither did anyone I was travelling with, but you do hear about plenty of cases. Sometimes the altitude made my face and hands tingle, and it often made me feel just a bit spaced out. I found a pinch of snuff gives almost immediate symptomatic relief! Serious!

    On the way to EBC, we went past some amazing glaciers, amazing large chunks of ice. The road down to Nepal goes down almost 2000 meters before it gets to the Chinese border, through one of the sleaziest little border town I've ever seen. With heavy truck traffic, it's an alternating one way system, with huge traffic jams, so sex workers come out to offer their services to the truck drivers to fill in the fifteen or twenty minutes they are waiting for the traffic to turn. Blackmarket money changing seems to be the only other industry.

    Through a gleaming Chinese border post with videos in seven languages, all strict and efficient, over the border to a little shack on the Nepali side, where everyone pushes and shoves for a stamp in their passport. Then down to Kathmandu, which is a whole other story.

    I'm kind of lucky with my work situation, I do short term consultancy work in Jakarta. It often leaves me with lay-ups of a couple of weeks. No kids or dependents, so I've got into the habit of looking for cheap budget flights around the region to explore neighboring countries, mainly on AirAsia. Flights to Chengdu, China, and from Kathmandu, Nepal, to Jakarta were well under $250 for each leg. For Tibet, you've got to go on some kind of organized tour, which is something I don't usually do. But I think a lot of the tour operators know that a lot of their customers don't really want full service bus tours all the time, so it's structured so you can spend a lot of time wandering off on your own. The rules change all the time, suddenly and without warning. When the American ambassador was in Tibet, it was very, very tightly controlled: the Chinese wanted SOME tourists to be there, so they could say that it was open for tourism, but not enough of them to create any trouble. In that period, apparently, you couldn't even wander off to eat on your own. A year or so ago, they just suddenly closed the whole region. When that happens, it doesn't matter if you already have a permit or not, you can't go. Friends told me to have a back up travel plan if you get to Chengdu and suddenly get told it's all off. For permits, hotels, transportation, it comes to around $100 per day. You don't see that many foreign tourists there, some, but not swarms. But there ARE swarms of Chinese tourists these days, they are really proud of the train from Lhasa to Beijing (to be fair, it is a pretty impressive feat of engineering), so they love to come in on it. Lhasa is their wild west, their great open space.

    All in all, a great trip.
  • thank you! liking this alot.
  • made a very interesting reading.
  • What a nice adventurous reading - thanks for sharing and all the best with your travels !
  • I agree with everyone. This was an amazing read! Have you considered travel blogging? Or already do it? You write really well. 
  • I'd read that or watch it.
  • It would be pretty cool to have a travel blog, specifically tied to tobacco. There are so many different types of tobacco, rituals by different cultures and such.
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