Almost every tourist to the “roof of the world” goes to the post office and mails home postcards printed with Tibet’s landmarks ranging from the Potala Palace to the holy lakes and the snow-capped mountains.
Each day, large crowds of visitors line up at a post office near the Potala in the heart of Lhasa, capital of southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, to buy postcards.
“Many of my pals wish to visit Tibet, but I was the first to make the trip,” said a Hong Kong Polytechnic University student who gave his name as Murphy.
Murphy, a first-time traveler to the plateau region, said he had mailed 50 postcards to his family and schoolmates so that they could share his happiness.
The price is quite reasonable: 20 yuan (3.15 U.S. dollars) for a pack of 10 cards printed with scenery, and 30 yuan for a pack of 10 portraits.
Most customers also covet the exquisite stamps that bear the elements of Tibetan culture and religion.
A set of six commemorative stamps, chopped manually on the postcards, feature the Potala Palace, the holy lake of Namtso, Mt. Qomolangma and the wheel of dharma, one of the eight auspicious symbols for the Tibetans.
“More than 400 people flock in to buy postcards every day, and at least 6,000 cards are mailed nationwide,” said an unnamed post office worker. “We are always so busy that we just put the stamps on the counter and the customers can chop as many as they want.”
Lu Chen, a backpacker from Fujian Province on China’s southeastern coast, spent nearly two hours at the post office Wednesday, chopping stamps and writing down addresses of over 60 people.
“I promised my friends and colleagues I would mail them postcards from the roof of the world,” Lu said.
Tibet University Professor He Wei said the Tibetan language and landscape on the postcards all bear mysteries of the remote plateau for the inlanders. “This is something every traveler to Tibet wishes to show off.”
“My friends will all envy me for this trip,” said Wang Guiming, who is traveling from the neighboring Sichuan Province on a business trip. “I’ve mailed them postcards and bought two photo albums for my own collection.”
Summer is the best season to visit Tibet, and the week-long Shoton Festival celebrations that began last Friday are a major highlight for tourists.
The Shoton Festival, also known as Yogurt Banquet Festival, dates back to the 11th century and was originally a religious occasion, when local people would offer yogurt to monks who had finished their meditation retreats.
Since the 17th century, the festival has become a celebration featuring both religious rituals and civil entertainment. It is now considered one of the most important festivals on the Tibetan calendar.
Tibet’s government aims to build the plateau region into an international tourist destination. It aims to draw 15 million visitors annually by 2015.
The local tourism administration said 2.81 million tourists from across the world traveled to Tibet in the first half of this year, up 25.3 percent from the same period of 2011.