A recent driving trip of mine to Tibet ended in Yunnan’s Shangri-la.¬†¬† From there I returned to Hong Kong by plane.¬† My flight from Shangri-La to Kunming was scheduled to depart at 8:55am. The driver of the taxi that took me to the airport was a burly Tibetan fellow with a comfortable smile and an infectious laugh. The ride from my hotel to the airport was to take all but 10 minutes.
At the south-end of Shangri-La town there sits a large stupa at the centre of an expansive round-about. As we approached it, I expected the driver to turn right and whirl around it counter-clockwise (as is the custom in right-hand-side driving countries). Instead, he turned left and swung around it clockwise. Even though there was no traffic coming at us, I cried out in alarm, ‚ÄúWhat are you doing? Aren‚Äôt you supposed to go the other way round?
‚ÄúNo, in the mornings we‚Äôve got to go around it this way,‚ÄĚ he assured me with his warm smile.
As he said it, I recalled that Tibetans circle all holy things, including stupas, clockwise. ‚ÄúFrom when to when is this rule in effect?‚ÄĚ I asked him incredulously.
‚ÄúNo ‚Äėfrom‚Äô. Just before 10am,‚ÄĚ he explained.
‚ÄúAnd what if an infidel should come the other way round?‚ÄĚ I couldn’t resist pursuing the argument to its inevitable conclusion.
‚ÄúThere might be a crash,‚ÄĚ he said with a dead-pan face.