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China Day 5 - In Lhasa

Added: August 17, 2009

Tags: Tibet castle city mountains photos temple
We looked forward to explore Lhasa for nearly a year since we decided to go and paid deposit. It finally happened on Friday 10th of July.

I could not sleep whole night, but not because of excitement. It was due to headache caused by time shift (I had some problems since Monday) mixed with problems with high altitude. And to make it worse I forgot to buy enough bottles of water in the evening and I was really thirsty. Drinking tap water is not the best idea as we were told and I eventually tried it myself (it was bitter). So shortly after midnight I set out for a quest. To find the bottle of water somewhere in the hotel. I have tried to ask some people in courtyard, I am not sure they were employees or they just lived there. Then I tried reception. It was deserted, but after short time dark figures got out of the sofas in the lobby. Receptionist and some more staff members were sleeping there (sorry guys). No water as well (or just too annoyed staff?).

So the first thing after "waking up" in the morning was that I went out to city to buy water. Most of shops we have seen yesterday were still closed. Only a few of them were preparing for next working day. But all of them located around hotel sold clothes, shoes and souvenirs so I had to wander further away.

It is pity I was primed to my task so much I could not concentrate and enjoy morning life around Jokhang Temple. It is very nice experience, Tibetan pilgrims going around it on the sacred path of worship named kora. They are nicely dressed, with prayer wheels in the hand. Some of them are doing prostrations.


Ani Tsankhung Nunnery

When we finished breakfast Tenzin took us to Ani Tsankhung Nunnery. It was not far away from hotel, but we probably would not find it ourselves. It is not very visible. You are going on the normal street and in one moment you just turn into arcade and you are there. We noticed not-so-obvious label as we finished, but it was easy to miss. OK, colours of the fa├žade could be used for detections too, but we were new here :-)

Here it is. The shop is marked, but it is easy to miss if you automatically filter gift shops in your head. Next unmarked door is entrance (but it is possible to pass also through the shop).

We were lucky we did not come 10 minutes later. Nuns were just finishing their gathering.


And back to work. This is print room where they print texts for putting into praying wheels. (It is smartly devised that by spinning praying wheels with prayer inside also illiterate people can pray).

Potala Palace

Our next stop was short stay in typical old courtyard and then we headed to Potala Palace.

The Potala Palace was the main residence of Dalai Lamas, but it is a museum now. Because it is not a temple, but a palace also monks are not wearing traditional clothes. It is huge. It has 13 floors and at some time it had 1000 rooms.

We had still some time so we went to take frontal pictures. A few pilgrims were making their kora around Potala. I have noticed one that seemed bit different to me. Like he was lazy or something. Later we were told he is faking it in order to gather some money from tourists.

Finally our time came. We had to leave water and other stuff typically prohibited in cabin baggage of planes in the bus. We also passed through passport check (to confirm we belong to group "boarding pass" at 12:00 was issued for). If we missed our "boarding time" we would not be allowed in. And of course, don't forget about security with scanner...

Then the hardest part was awaiting us. To go up by many stairs. OK, not so many, but yesterday we were loosing our breath going to 2nd floor... In order to make it easier for us, novices in Tibet, Rich ran quickly forward to buy some water and returned back (we were in the middle then). Heroic act from my point of view.



Yellow buildings are "private" monastery of Dalai Lamas.


We are nearly there... One more turn and we are in!
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Finally we got in. It is pity is it not allowed to take photos from the roof (and of the golden roof). So we at least bought some postcards (some of them of very bad quality, but we have noticed it only later).

I am not sure how long we had been inside, but whole trip took longer that 2 hours. But it did not feel like that. Only short stop here and there to learn something interesting about room we are in. Like for example that tomb of 5th Dalai Lama (stupa) was built of 3700 kg of gold and I do not remember how many gem stones.

Last possibility to take pictures and the only one to buy some drinks.

Sera Monastery in distance. Directly beneath the mountains.

If I liked sight of modern Lhasa it was this one. Still I think it is misplaced.

We headed down by north stairs. Last glimpses of palace.