A fine night of rest had rejuvenated our bodies. Angela decided to rest a little longer at the hotel to tackle her altitude reactions. Maggie and I headed out at around 6:45am for a special mission. We walked to the nearby main street Jiangsu Road and hopped on a shared taxi (all taxis in Lhasa are shared taxis, meaning that the driver can take other customers along the way as long as everyone are heading for the similar direction). We got off near the west gate of the Potala Palace. Our mission was simply to queue for a time slot of our visit at the next day. Apparently during the high season (May to October), visitors of the Potala can only line up for a time slot a day in advance. On the actual day of visit, one would then need to arrive at a specific checkpoint at the given time slot, in order to get onto the main path that goes up to the ticket office high up in the palace.
We were told that even obtaining a time slot the day before would involve considerable amount of queuing time. Luckily we were not visiting Lhasa during the hottest time of the year, namely in August or the October 1st golden week of the Chinese National Day, when visitors would arrive at Potala’s west gate before 5:30am to guarantee a visiting time slot for the next day (according to bloggers online). It was mid September and we were told to come at around 7:30am for the queue. We arrived at around 7:20am and there were about 40 people standing in front of us. Every individual visitor must have an ID in order to obtain a single time slot ticket for the next day.
The sun wasn’t entirely up yet at 7:20. The sky was getting brighter by the minute. We stood at the parking lot in front of the reservation office, and admired the majestic Potala under the morning sun. At around 8:40am, Maggie decided to get some takeout for breakfast. She set off to a small eatery over at another parking lot nearby. Two minutes after she walked away, the queue began to move. I had no choice but to follow. Fortunately I had the ID of my two travel buddies with me, so had no problem reserving a 9:20am time slot for everyone of us in the next morning. Time was still early after we got our reservation tickets. Maggie and I decided to hop on a taxi to visit Drepung Monastery in the western suburb of Lhasa.
We arrived at the time reservation office at 7:20am.
There were about 40 people standing in front of us.
While we stood at the queue, the sky to the east was getting brighter.
Most shops near the reservation office were tourist related such as travel agents.
At around 8am, the morning sun began to cast a golden glow onto the sacred palace of Potala.
The golden glow on the Potala lasted for about 10 minutes. The splendid architecture of the red and white palaces created a perfect harmony in a majestic manner.
At around 8:15am, there was no sign that the reservation office would open any time soon. We watched the golden glow gradually disappeared on the Potala.
After we got the reservations for the next day, we walked over to the main street in front of Potala. The street was full of pilgrims walking the kora around the palace, which takes appropriate half an hour to complete.
Devoted pilgrims stopped in front of the Potala to read prayers and spin their ritual wheels.
As we walked east along Beijing Road in front of the Potala, we passed by the central gate of the palace where we would return the next day for our visit.
Looking from the southeast, the Potala looks as if surrounded by rows of young evergreen.