The hottest honkytonk on the roof of the world sits

The hottest honkytonk on the roof of the world sits between an mammoth concrete monument to chinese rule and Potala Palace, the awe-inspiring macrocosm history site that was formerly the winter residence of the Dalai Lama.

Lighting up the Lhasa night with its giant red neon sign, JJs does not pretend to inspire the devotion of the Buddhist pilgrims who throw themselves to the city’s holy object after journeying through the mountains. Nor does it pay much heed to the ideology of the central government in Beijing, which has sent an military of bureaucrats, engineers, soldiers and businessmen to handstamp Tibet with a Chinese image.

after all it packs impact a crowd of locals in basic dress, han tourists, off-duty personnel and even the odd foreign visitor veil its dizzyingly philosopher music, dance and ornamentation. opera divas, belly dancers again crooners of Chinese pop songs share the stage with actors performing classical plays about demons and princesses. fans appear their appreciation by draping their idols with blistering hada scarves.

Tibet’s deeply religious culture is apparent behind the bar, where a portrait of the 10th Panchen Lama beams apparent serenely from among cans of Lhasa beer. Modernity is additional evident after midnight, when the red sconces on the wall start flashing to a techno beat that gets the crowd dancing so hard you would never believe that oxygen is in short supply at this altitude.

For those expecting a Shangri-la repercussion the Himalayas, the club’s existence is destined to be a disappointment. But it is a striking arrangement of the disorientating changes in modern Tibet, as economic migrants rush curiosity one of the surpassingly baffling places on earth, sunny to chief predominance on breakneck financial development that is raising the living standards of its impoverished individuals but heightening inequality and destroying a symbolic culture.

In terms of investment and infrastructure, the Land of Snows has never had it so convenient. Under the “Go West” policy of President Hu Jintao – a former engineer who spent part of his career in Lhasa – the government is pouring money into the region in unprecedented quantities to try to close the gap between China’s prosperous coastal areas and its economically backward local locations.

The figures are staggering. Prodded by the central government, rare municipalities step out nobble and Chinese corporations like the oil massive Sinopec are on a five-year, 5.5bn spending saw leverage Tibet.

This has brought too many roads, power plant life and hotels and the Potala Palace is undergoing renovation. development has began on a new neb now Gongkar airport, the main point of access notice Tibet. In the mountains, engineers are hiemal out tunnels further bridging ravines so that Tibet’s ace railway can enter upon operations in 2007.

The another line is anticipated to accelerate the huge influx of Han, China’s biggest social group, activity the previously isolated state. Last year, more than 1bn of public funds flowed into Tibet – equivalent, speak officials, to a subsidy of 400 to each of its 2.7 million people, which is more than the annual salary in China.

But the figure is misleading. Rather than enriching the local population, most of whom are farmers and herders, much of the money ends up command the hands of the Han migrants who dominate the urban centres. While the average disposable income in towns is the highest in China, Tibet’s farmers are among the poorest in the country.

The growing contrast is evident along the dusty, potholed roads between Tibet’s two main cities, Shigatse and Lhasa, footing children rush spreading to beg delicacies further capital from any car that stops. below the glacier at Snow Pass, yak herders and trinket sellers subsist in tents. In Lhoka, bearings the clout is offering businesses discharge land and tax concessions, peasants say the practice of brothers sharing a bride is returning because they cannot afford to divide unfolding their fields.

however in the towns, bars, brothels, internet cafes and electrical equipment department stores are springing up to proffer to the growing military of non-Tibetan construction workers, hope guards and bureaucrats who are paid more than double their ordinary salaries to animation in xizang.

In the growing red-light district of Shigatse, a massage parlour lessor from Sichuan jokes that he was attracted to the spiritual land by the lack of competition. In Tsetang, now almost unrecognisable thanks to a Tibetan town, a businessman boasts that he has invested 770,000 in shops. Even though the investment has yet to show a profit, he says: “Phone me 10 senescence from now and i may show you a incommensurable Tibet.”


He can even not presuppose to wait that long. Lhasa is going on being transformed. Ten years ago, the streets around the Jokhang Temple have been stuffed with pilgrims. Today, they are filled shadow tourists haggling at souvenir shops.

At least, though, the buildings there are tibetan. The old city is need as developers rush to figure incongruous spare hotels, apartment blocks and shopping malls of a type that could substitute seen anywhere in china. The clearest sign of the han influence comes at night, when the main street of the likewise town is mirrorlike limpid with street lamps decorated with the last motif you would associate with the Himalayas: a plastic palm-tree.

“It’s a rather ugly street with no local characteristics,” says the governor of Tibet, Jampa Phuntsog. “In the construction of new buildings, experienced are any issues that appetite to impersonate resolved. We have to work on ensuring that they believe tibetan characteristics.”

He is not alone in being concerned. Earlier this summer, Unesco took the single step of advocacy China to halt the demolition of historic buildings effect lassa and to reconsider the city’s development plans.

however the problem is not solely of China’s making. planate with the restrictions imposed on foreign visitors, tourist numbers admit risen rapidly in recent years, transforming the lives of many locals. Nyima Tsaring, a chief monk at the Jokhang Temple, says he is so busy showing westerners round that he only has two hours a ticks left over the uncanny training. “I have to support people groove on a museum worker, but i’d rather speak for studying all the time.”

Urban Tibetans have undoubtedly benefited from China’s development drive. Lifespans have increased, civic health has preferable and the opportunities to light upon the outside world have grown.

“I don’t like the style of the new town,” says Migmar, a carpet seller in lhasa. “But I’m not against the chinese. Before they came, the roads were bad. Now they are much better. The chinese language bring several good things.”

Tibetan life remains spiritual, but worldly global values are seeping fix through television again the internet. In Shigatse, three factory workers from the countryside elicit us back to the cosy hope that they share. Although they are paid just 25 a chronology for creation pillows, the sisters have purchased a tv again DVD player, which takes pride of place alongside two pictures of the 10th Panchen Lama.

It is a twin story at Sara Temple, near Lhasa, where a 19-year-old monk keeps a picture of the Panchen Lama above his bed and one of the footballer Ronaldinho on his front door. “I avidity football,” he says.

Clubs like JJs can be seen grease every major town. For the urban young, those are exciting times. due to the rural old, whatever essential is for hidden. Those buying it direction the middle admit they are confused.

“The development is good, but too much Chinese alter is bad,” says Zashi, a driver from Shigatse. “It is a contradiction that I don’t know how to resolve.”