Tourism industry benefits locals living in this picturesque Tibetan region


More tourists are visiting Mount Namcha Barwa in Nyingchi, Tibet. — Pixabay

At 6am before the dawn broke, Lhapa Drolma, donning a beautiful Tibetan costume, started distilling highland barley liquor and making tsampa, a traditional food made of roasted barley flour.

As a festival tradition, the 38-year-old spared some tsampa, yak milk, beef and other food to feed dogs. “The dog drank the milk first, which is an auspicious sign indicating that we will have a good harvest of yak milk in the coming year,” she said with a smile, explaining the customs to the tourists curiously watching.

Lhapa Drolma, who runs a homestay, hails from a small village located at the foot of Mount Namcha Barwa in the city of Nyingchi in southwest China’s Xizang Autonomous Region.

The Kongpo Losar or new year according to the Tibetan calendar took place recently. It is the most important traditional festival in the Nyingchi area. Locals were on a three-day holiday, with tourists flowing in to experience the festive atmosphere.

Mount Namcha Barwa, also spelled Namjagbarwa, was listed as one of China’s most beautiful peaks by the Chinese National Geography magazine in 2005. Part of the Himalayas, the mountain is an ideal destination for tourists looking to savour the beauty of nature. The burgeoning local tourism industry has benefitted locals like Lhapa Drolma.

In the past, Lhapa Drolma relied on collecting matsutake mushrooms for a living. Not only was the work extremely tiring as she had to hike to altitudes of over 4,500m, but she could barely make ends meet with the income.

Things started to change in 2013 when Lhapa Drolma transformed part of her home into a guesthouse to supplement the family income as she envisioned business opportunities from the increasing number of visitors coming to enjoy Mount Namcha Barwa.

Tsampa is a traditional Tibetan dish. — Wikimedia CommonsTsampa is a traditional Tibetan dish. — Wikimedia Commons

Over the past decade, the guesthouse has expanded from merely eight beds to two buildings with over 50 rooms, with her family’s annual income exceeding a million yuan (RM647,324) now.

“During my childhood, we were seldom granted the luxury of a hearty meal or new garments, but new clothes and delectable treats are at our fingertips today,” she said.

A tourist surnamed Wu drove from northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region to the region for a vacation, with Nyingchi being his first stop. He chose to stay at Lhapa Drolma’s homestay as the view was magnificent.

“When I woke up in the morning, I could see Mount Namcha Barwa right through my window,” said Wu, showing the photos of the sun-kissed peak he had captured the previous day on his phone.

With the beautiful peach flowers and greenery in spring and summer, and the snowy peak at the backdrop in fall and winter, the village has attracted visitors all year long.

The booming tourism has greatly stimulated the village’s homestay business and the number of guesthouses has surged from two to 41 with 1,600 beds in total, said Cering Norbu, head of the villagers’ committee.

In 2022, the per capita disposable income of the village exceeded 31,000 yuan (RM20,067). Living a prosperous life, Lhapa Drolma can now realise her dream of travelling.

“I’ve never seen the sea, so I plan to go to the beach in the city of Sanya next year with my family to celebrate the Kongpo New Year,” she said. – Xinhua

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