Gannan Autonomous Prefecture
Gannan, Gansu, China
Photo by Brittain Noel
A Real Life Neverland on the Tibetan PlateauWhat were those directions again? “Second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning”?
Well it takes about the same amount of time to get to certain parts of the Tibetan Plateau; Which helps to explain why such a unique, fascinating, and photogenic place has remained so untouched compared to its south-eastern Asian counterparts. Once you get here though, the lack of tourism and the endless views will quickly prove why Tibet is well-worth the journey.
It’s mid-June and I’m standing on top of a green hill in a remote area of the Tibetan Plateau. A neat trick about the hills in Tibet is that no matter which one you stand on you feel like it’s the center of all of the other hills that you can see. Actually, it usually feels like you’re at the center of a lot more than that…
Today everyone from the 6 surrounding villages has come to the same green hill that I’m standing on top of to kick off a Laptse festival (pronounced lop-t-say). A Laptse is a sacred celebration in the Tibetan community and honors spirits of the mountain and of the horse- 2 extremely important forces in their culture.
Day 1 of the festival is filled with gigantic prayer flag monuments, offerings by way of burning food, lots of horses, and the repeated act of flinging white paper squares up into the air as a sign of good luck when the wind carries them across the plateau. I would say ‘breathtaking’ is a cliché understatement for being in the middle of something like this … except that the yell that’s supposed to accompany those little white papers is actually so hard to emulate and is some kind of mix between a Hollywood-Jesse-James-train-robber and a short-winded-Tarzan that it actually does take your breath away trying to get it to sound right. So a Laptse is, quite literally (and fine, figuratively too), breathtaking.
Prayer flags come in 5 colors: green, blue, yellow, white, and red. Each symbolizing a different force of nature: water, wind, earth, air, and fire. During the Laptse brand new flags are brought to the celebration and strung through the family staffs and larger monuments. Between the bright colors against a blue sky, striking green landscapes that stretch on forever, and the celebratory cries of joy that sound out while prize horses are ridden around the outline of the festival, it's enough to make you feel like you truly have stumbled upon a real life Neverland.