Tradition sits alongside changing tastes in Lhasa

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Publish Time: 2019-05-15 Author: Cui Jia in Lhasa From: China Daily

It had been five years since I last visited Lhasa, capital of the Tibet autonomous region, and I couldn't wait to go to the traditional Tibetan teahouse I love. As soon as I stepped into the crowded premises in the morning, I knew nothing had changed.

Locals sat side by side on long wooden benches, tucking into fried pastries stuffed with yak meat for a hearty traditional breakfast and drinking sweet milk tea in small glasses.

For a top-up, they placed a 1 yuan (15 cents) note on the table as a sign to the waitresses. Then, one of them came over with a jug and replenished the empty glasses with tea.

Less than 10 minutes walk from the teahouse, a KFC restaurant was just as busy, offering customers coffee and chicken panini for breakfast.

The restaurant, with a motif of the Potala Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Lhasa, painted on a wall, was not there the last time I visited the city, as the popular international franchise only set up its first branch in Tibet in 2016.

I asked the receptionist at my hotel, a young Tibetan girl, for her take on the arrival of KFC in the region.

She said it showed people that life in Tibet can be the same as in other areas of China and even the world. They should also stop thinking of Tibet as an exotic place, but see it as a modern region with unique cultural and natural heritage, she added.

The rapid development of transportation infrastructure and telecommunications technologies in recent years has clearly transformed Tibet, which had been viewed previously as an isolated region.

Before 1950, there was no road connecting the "roof of the world" with other areas.

Now, I can receive documents in Beijing sent to me by a colleague in Lhasa via express delivery in less than two days, just as fast as sending goods from Shanghai to Beijing.

The arrival of the 4G network in Tibet at the end of 2017 enabled people to make payments easily, order food and shop online on their phones.

Travelers will find that life in Tibet can be the same as it is back home, with the exception of coping with altitude sickness.

I am often told that walking in high-altitude areas can be compared with running at sea level.

As I was doing so much walking in Tibet, I sought comfort from some fried chicken at KFC without worrying about the calorie intake.

It was such a delicious bonus.

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