Welcome to Potalaworld. We’re Andrew Failes and Rachel Park, from Glasgow, Scotland and Massachusetts respectively. We’ve been bringing things back from Asia since an eventful trip overland to India in 1975 long before Lonely Planet guidebooks plotted the way. Every stop was full of the unexpected --sometimes seemingly miraculous and sometimes, in retrospect, probably quite dangerous. You just had to wing it on dilapidated buses and dusty roads through Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and over the Khyber Pass. Six weeks later we were in India, considerably thinner and a bit wiser. Though our timing was a little off. India is not really the place to be during the hot season so after 3 months of heat, dust, temples and hustlers, we escaped to Nepal. |
Many people would say that trekking during the monsoon was a bad idea, what with leeches, no views and rain every day but off we went only to find that our trek coincided with the August full moon festival at the holy lake at Gosaikunda. Thousands of pilgrims, Buddhist and Hindu, climbed, rode ponies and danced their way through the snow up to 16,500 ft. Tamang shamans and Tibetan oracles in trances chanted and Indian saddhus wearing only a loincloth bathed in the lake. So did Andrew but then he’s from Scotland. Then, after 2 days everyone disappeared back into the mist. We were hooked.
Back in Kathmandu we also managed to go into every shop and explore every market that we found. We loved that almost everything was utilitarian, handmade, and was much more beautiful than absolutely necessary. We bought silk scarves, embroidered skirts, incense and silver jewelry and brought it back to sell first in the Piazza Navonna in Rome and in a flea market on Canal Street in New York City.
We managed to sell what we had and went back – again and again as it turned out until we settled in Cambridge, MA, home of some really good street fairs, our soon-to-be wholesale business, and a Tibetan Rinpoche named Thupten Kalsang who worked in a doughnut shop but gave classes on the side. For some reason Rachel had always wanted to learn Tibetan so she studied with Rinpoche for the next four years. Thupten Kalsang had had to leave Tibet shortly after the Dalai Lama and, in the time when Tibetan Buddhists were really searching for their place in the world, he was sent to study other Buddhist cultures in Thailand and Japan. So while Rachel studied Tibetan, Andrew learned Thai.
Now, 22 years later, Rachel is just back from Tibet for the 4th time. Andrew travels in Thailand every year with side trips to Laos and Burma. Together we wanted to bring a little of what is out there back with us, especially in the case of Tibet which, in order to survive, needs the help and interest of the outside world. We also would like people to go there and, after all these years, have a lot of travel information that we can share.