Panic spread all over. The young German girl in the room next-door shook and wept. I tried to calm her down but didn’t really succeed in doing so. In spite of the lady that kept me reminding nervously to hurry up I packed all my luggage as it was clear to me that we would not return here anymore. People were running up and down through the dark corridors and stairways. In a small group we started our way down. When we almost got to the groundfloor, there were people coming up, running, screaming: ‘Go up, go up!’ We understood that there was fire downstairs. We turned and started run upstairs again, pushing each other, not really knowing where to go to. We hardly arrived back on the 3rd floor when another order called us to head down again. This time we were pushed down dark stairways to a backside exit. We were just with a few of us, the group had split and we didn’t know where the others were. Although I was still coughing and my eyes were tearing, I felt relieved to see daylight and to be outside. Well … we were not yet allowed to leave the building but had to wait for … I actually didn’t know what for. Maybe a vehicle, maybe a police escort. The waiting anyway seemed to last for hours. Finally we were called to go back to our rooms, there was said that there was no fire and the safest place for the night would be our hotel. In spite of being disconcerted about the constantly changing decisions and interpretation of the situation and our safety there was nothing else to do than to follow up the order. So we turned back to our rooms and/or the coffeeshop on the 3rd floor. Around 6.00 PM our guide announced that there was a diner at 7.00 PM. It was great and we all relaxed a bit. After that we all gathered again in the coffeeshop on the 3rd floor trying to make out what was going on in the city. We still could hear explosions, gunfire, sirens and meanwhile there were tanks rolling through the streets below. It seemed we were in the middle of a war. Nobody could tell us whether plains and/or trains would run by tomorrow. Before going to our room to try to get some sleep, I checked the nearest emergency exits. We went to bed with all our cloths on, ready to leave at any moment.
At 6.00 AM we got up, it was silent in the hotel. There still was no electricity. I caught my flashlight and went to the big panorama window of the coffeeshop right in front of our room (3rd floor). That was the second step of consciousness of what really had happened last night. ‘Wouw!!!’ was the only thing that escaped my mouth. I run back to the room to inform my roommate and to pick up my camera. All the buildings I could see from here were completely burned out; black carcasses was all that remained. Some buildings were still on fire, others where only smoking. Fire-brigades were raced through the streets in different directions. The city still was covered by a curtain of black smoke. The streets were blocked by armed police, set up in double lines, ready to defend or attack at any moment. They only moved to let pass fire-brigades, military trucks and tanks. The sound of the rolling tanks was horrible. We didn’t see any protesters anymore, some first civilians dared to go outside and have a look, carefully watched by the police. One by one our group showed up in the coffeeshop. Short after our guide told us to get our luggage and come down to the receptionhall, we would get evacuated. Released to leave the place, we all headed down. The whole glass frontage of the hotel was smashed and there was a car lying right in front of our door, turned over and burned out completely. The shoeshop next door was damaged and plundered empty. – It took hours before there was coming a small touristbus to pick us up and a police escort to accompany us out of the city. Our guide clearly emphasized not to take out any camera. He would end up in prison for that and his company would be shut down. All of us already had taken out there foto memorycards off their camera’s avoiding to have them confiscated by the police. That didn’t seem to be exaggerated. Leaving the centre by bus, there were many strict police-/military control posts, where we and our luggage got checked. Actually nobody was allowed to enter or leave the city. But the Chinese authorities wanted to get rid of all foreigners as soon as possible. Witnesses of the events were not wished. And who knows what may follow the coming hours and days?! The Tibetan tour-operator wasn’t less interested in getting rid of us as he was in great danger himself, carrying full responsibility for all of us as long as we were on Tibetan territory. So he suggested to bring us to the Nepali border by jeep. When the vehicles finally arrived and we could start it was 3.00 PM. Relieved but with very mixed feelings we started our long journey back.
Well, and that’s were this report started…
OM MANI PADME HUM - I burned some oil lamps this morning in a small temple near my guesthouse, praying that all this would soon coming to an end.
… and there it is again, this feeling of contradiction: I understand so well the anger of the proud of deeply religious Tibentan people who have been oppressed for such a long time. But last night I also saw violence against innocent people and meaningless devastations. Which price is worth to pay??? Where do I have to pray for???
OM MANI PADME HUM – OM MANI PADME HUM – OM MANI PADME HUM