Tibetans spend big as New Year approaches
LHASA -- Tibetans have thrown themselves into a spending spree to embrace the Year of Water Snake, giving a particular boost to jewelry, commodity and catering business.
Bargaining in different Tibetan dialects could be heard on Friday on Barkhor Street, as Tibetans from various places traveled to this heartland of Lhasa to shop for the Tibetan New Year or "Losar," which falls on February 11 in 2013.
New year shopping is a "very pleasant experience" for sanitation worker Droma, who rarely has the opportunity to spend so much time with her 14-year-old daughter.
"Apart from homework and watching TV, my daughter has no other entertainment in this winter break and spends most of it at home alone. We both enjoy this once-a-year festival shopping, and she can learn more of the Tibetan tradition," said Droma.
"Losar is a time for family reunion. Shopping together makes us feel the warmth of family," she added.
With her family income slightly exceeding 3,000 yuan ($477.7) a month, Droma used to be bothered by new year purchases.
This year, however, the local neighborhood committee granted the low-income family a stipend of 900 yuan and a gift coupon redeemable for five kg of butter and 10 kg of beef.
"We've got enough good food this new year. I will pray to Buddha for all those who have helped us. May them have an auspicious new year," Droma said.
In Yutuo Road, 300 meters west of Barkhor Street, jewelry stores were crowded with Tibetans cashing in on holiday discounts to make investments.
Tasang and his brother made a special trip from remote Nagqu and spent 16,560 yuan on a gold bracelet at a jewelry store on Friday morning.
"Gold prices have been rising fast. My previous gold bracelet cost me only 5,000 yuan a few years ago," she explained.
Jewelry seller Wang Hui from Fujian has witnessed the purchasing power of Tibet residents growing significantly in the past few years.
"Tibetans, both men and women, love to wear jewelry. I feel that many more Tibetans now like to try investing in gold," he said.
As goods-hunters wear themselves out with daytime shopping, many retire to the restaurants, pubs and cafes in the regional capital of Tibet to enjoy their nightlife.
Many restaurants have launched Losar parties to lure both local residents and tourists.
Chen Haizhi from Sichuan who runs a small business in Lhasa, said he was planning to experience a different type of Tibetan New Year with friends in a theme pub.
Tenzin Dondrup, who works for a singing and dancing hall called Langmar on East Beijing Road, said the number of guests will rocket for Tibetan New Year as watching Langmar, the court music previously exclusively reserved for Tibetan nobles, is a popular entertainment in Losar.
An American who runs a Western restaurant in the same road and prefers to be called Feidlong said his restaurant had been packed by both tourists and Tibetans these days.
"I didn't expect Western cuisine could be so popular in this highland. To meet customers' needs, we have extended our closing time by nearly two hours till late night," he said.