Townsville, Queensland, Australia
December 19, 2001
We visited with the local township chief but we even had some problems with the access. Once at the monastery, however, we were warmly welcomed by the monks, shown around, then offered warm, salty, yak butter tea. It was like entering another world. I entered a world with a different language, a different religion, and a different outlook on the ways of the outside world. I was welcomed to this world but I would never understand it. Here were perhaps 60 or 70 men and boys living on a hilltop remote from any other human beings, spending their time praying, contemplating, reading and living their religion.
While this monastery was fascinating, it was typical of several others we saw. Most had been totally destroyed by the Chinese Red Guards in the late 1960s but somehow they had been rebuilt. Each was isolated but all welcomed visitors. We were universally treated with friendship. While we were only at each for a short time, the influence of the monks will long be with me. It is one of those rare travel moments that I will remember and savour all my life.
From journal On top of the World