Summer time has arrived in Lhasa!
You should know, there is “no summer in Lhasa without picnics”, to quote our good Japanese friend who has been in Lhasa longer than us. Indeed, picnics are an institution here.
Of course you can have a picnic anywhere, without much required. However if you are to have a “traditional” picnic, you need a Tibetan picnic tent, as well as some carpets and cushions to sit outside of the tent, home-made food, snacks, a good Tibetan music playlist and a bunch of nice friends or relatives to have a good time with.
Where to have a picnic?
Remember when we described our lives here in Lhasa? (Read our article here) We mentioned that Lhasa is at an altitude of 3700m. Lhasa is actually surrounded by mountains even higher than this (the highest of which are at an altitude around 5000m).
If you drive a little bit from Lhasa, deeper into the mountains, you can easily find a quiet spot by a river with nice grass to sit on. There are two types of picnic spots.
One without any setting. In this case people usually bring a big parasol to protect them from the sun, some carpets and cushions. Then they choose a nice spot, plant the parasol and start setting up the dishes and snacks on a carpet.
Or a picnic spot you pay for. Indeed, there are extremely nice picnic spots in the mountains for which you need to pay. Some smart Tibetans buy or rent the best spots, always by a river. They install Tibetan traditional picnic tents and set up tables and cushions inside. If the summer is particularly dry, like this year, there may be less water in the river. However the owners will make sure there is at least a little bit of water.
Water is considered very important during picnics. People put their fruits and drinks inside, to keep them cold. They will surround them with rocks so that they are not driven away by the stream.
What food to bring to a picnic?
There are two types of food.
First, home-made food. People usually make some fried vegetables or cold salads. They will also bring Tibetan bread, typically home-made or purchased from their favourite baker.
Then, snacks. The classic snacks are Tibetan cheese sweets and sun-flower seeds. People take a big quantity to be sure it lasts for the whole day.
And of course, drinks. The traditional drink would be tea, either Tibetan salt butter tea or sweet tea. Some will bring Tibetan barley wine. Nowadays people bring sodas and beers too.
What to do during a picnic?
Just as in western culture the main function of a picnic is to relax and have a good time together!
There is no specific time to go. However most people tend to arrive around 11am or 12pm, and stay until 6 or 7pm (Some people even sleep there!) We usually arrive around 1pm or 2pm and stay until 8 or 9pm, when the sun sets.
People put music on their mobilephone or on a speaker if they have one. When the time comes, people dance together, usually the classical “round Tibetan dance”, which has different types of steps depending on the music’s rhythm.
If the picnic spot provides it, people will play some games, like rolling on a big can rolled up in blankets.
People would also play cards or Tibetan die.
Most people simply talk, eat, laugh. The best way to relax and forget about your daily problems for a day.
Special thanks to Thomas Pan who proofread this article!