PUBLIC EXERCISE: Fitness equipment in Zhamalong Village is set up by local government in Tibet (WANG HAIRONG)
A section of the Yarlung Zangbo River flows peacefully in the valley not far from the Gongga Airport of Lhasa City, capital of Tibet Autonomous Region. One can hardly imagine that it will turn into a violently turbulent river when gushing down out of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
A two-hour drive away, along a paved highway zigzagging across mountains, one can find Yangzhog Yumco Lake, one of the three holy lakes in Tibet.
On the bank of the lake, which is about 4,500 meters above sea level, lies Zhamalong Village. The village, a part of Langkazi County, with 193 people in 32 households, nestles among peaks rising up to pierce 5,000 meters into the sky.
The village began to receive tourists, mostly backpackers and self-driving tourists, in 2000. Tourism has picked up significantly in recent years, especially after the asphalt-paved road was open to traffic in 2005, said Purbo Zholgar, a village official.
The village aspires to expand its tourism income further, including receiving group tours. It plans to obtain more investment in building a reception center near the village. The center will boast a shopping center, a food court, a large parking lot and a camping area, according to Purbo Zholgar.
Galsang Norbu, a 37-year-old villager, operates a family inn right on the waterfront of the village. His inn, a two-storey fort-style house, has eight guest rooms, each about 30 square meters.
"The inn opened in November 2013," said Galsang Norbu through a translator. He said that he spent 120,000 yuan ($19,752) of his family savings to build the house.
Galsang Norbu's family is one of the six households in the village that operate such an inn.
Before the inn was built, his family rented tents and vacant rooms in their own houses to tourists, said Galsang Norbu's mother.
Tourists can bring an annual income of about 10,000 yuan ($1,650) to his family, while animal husbandry can fetch each household an additional 7,000 yuan ($1,152) a year, according to Galsang Norbu.
Tourism authorities of the regional government also provided 160,000 yuan ($26,336) for the six households operating family inns to buy furniture and other equipment, said Purbo Zholgar.
A spacious lounge on the second floor of Galsang Norbu's inn is furnished and decorated in a traditional Tibetan style, but is equipped with modern electric appliances including a refrigerator and a large LED TV. Electricity comes from a hydropower station not very far away.
Each guest room is furnished with several single beds. From the window of the guest rooms, one can have an unobstructed view of Yangzhog Yumco Lake. The alpine lake, which does not freeze over in winter, takes on an amber color in the sunset. Low-flying clouds occasionally touch the surface of the water.
Galsang Norbu has two daughters who are 3 and 6 years old. His elder daughter attends a boarding kindergarten that is about 45 km away from his home, and comes home on the weekends.
From the highway above it, Zhamalong, with its typical Tibetan buildings, looks very traditional. Yet after a stroll into it, one can quickly detect some outside elements.
Villagers usually watch TV programs in Tibetan. Many TV shows and movies originally produced in mandarin Chinese have been translated into the local language, so Tibetan viewers can understand the outside world.
Modern facilities can also be found in the tiny village. Several solar powered light poles stand tall beside streets. Villagers exercise on a set of fitness equipment typically seen in urban residential areas, which was provided by the government several years ago.
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