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Posts tagged “西藏

EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA (ལྷ་ས་ 拉薩), Tibet (བོད་ 西藏)

Other than the spiritual monasteries, wonderful mountainous scenery and marvelous night sky, one thing we miss from our Tibetan trip is undoubtedly the faces of the Tibetan people.  Their devotion to Buddhism, friendliness to foreigners, connection to their Himalayan homeland, and colourful clothing contribute to a unique and beautiful culture that we would always remember.

DSC_8835One face we would certain miss is the cute dog that always lingers at the entrance of Trichang Labrang Hotel (赤江拉讓藏式賓館).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADespite the presence of tourism, there is still a community atmosphere in Barkhor Old Town near our hotel, especially in the morning when locals comes out to get breakfast and grocery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANear our hotel, delightful kids often run around the narrow alleyways.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd so as Buddhist monks who found their way towards Jokhang Monastery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVivid colours is everywhere to represent the unique Tibetan culture.

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DSC_9779Large flag poles are pilgrim magnets along the kora route around the Jokhang Monastery.

DSC_8829The forecourt of Jokhang Monastery is always a great place for people watching.

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DSC_9819Pilgrims on the kora route of Jokhang Monastery in traditional clothing and accessories.

DSC_9787Prostrating pilgrims express their devotion to Buddhism through their physical actions.

DSC_2281Pilgrim and prayer wheels along the kora of Jokhang Monastery.

DSC_9630Pilgrim and prayer wheels at Sera Monastery.

DSC_9598Pilgrim at the kora route of the Potala Palace.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd that concludes the posts on our Tibetan trip 2017.

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More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet


DAY 10 (2/2): LAST DAY IN LHASA (ལྷ་ས་ 拉薩), Tibet (བོད་ 西藏), 2017.09.25

Our driver Sangzhu dropped us near our hotel Trichang Labrang (赤江拉讓藏式賓館) in Barkhor Old Town.  After dropping off our bags, we stopped by the eatery beside the hotel for a quick bite.  The friendly eatery owners, a talkative young couple, were excited to welcome us and chatted with us.  We ordered a Nepali platter, fried momo and two cans of local beer to celebrate the completion of our road trip.  The momos were quite delicious, and went well with the beer made with Highland Barley.  It was the last full day of the trip.  After filling our stomach, we didn’t want to visit any attractions, but spent time wandering in Barkhor Old Town, checking out souvenirs, watching people, and photographing anything that interested us, until the dinner time.  For dinner, we decided to try the Tibetan hotpot at “Our Tibetan Restaurant” (咱们的藏餐馆).

01After returning to Lhasa, we stopped by the small local eatery next door from Trichang Labrang Hotel.  The young owners were friendly and talkative.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo celebrate the completion of our 6-day road trip, we ordered some local beer and highland barley wine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe most delicious snack we ordered was the fried momo (Tibetan dumplings).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor dinner, we revisited the “Our Tibetan Restaurant” (咱们的藏餐馆), the atmospheric courtyard restaurant nearby.

03Again we ordered the highland barley wine (青稞酒).  The wine came in an interesting bird-like pottery jar.

04The main dish of the meal was the Tibetan hotpot.  It came with vegetables, melons, beef, ham and yak meat.

05We wanted to linger around Barkhor Old Town for a little longer after dinner.

09In front of Jokhang Monastery (གཙུག་ལག་ཁང༌། 大昭寺), pilgrims, worshiped on the stone pavers as usual. 

08Other than pilgrims, tourists also gathered at the Jokhang forecourt.

10In front of Jokhang main entrance, more pilgrims gathered to worship, including some Buddhist monks.

11The sky was getting dark but the Jokhang forecourt was getting even more crowded.

12Some pilgrims preferred to stay near the large flag pole in front of the Jokhang.

13Around Jokhang, groups after groups of pilgrims and tourists walked the kora in clockwise direction around Lhasa’s most sacred site.

14The kora route was flanked one side by souvenir shops and the other by the majestic facade of the Jokhang.

17Along the kora route, many pilgrims were performing prostration the entire way.

16Some tourists treated the pilgrimage forecourt as a public plaza and sat on the pavers to chill out among the pilgrims.

18Among pilgrims and tourists, chilling out in the Jokhang forecourt included this large and gorgeous husky.

15We would certainly miss the spiritual atmosphere of the Jokhang forecourt.

20On our way back to Trichang Labrang Hotel, we passed by one last time the store where we bought our bottled water everyday of our Lhasa stay.  The next morning, we would take the airport shuttle bus near the Potala and fly back to Hong Kong via Chengdu.  Although short, it was a delightful experience for the three of us on the unique Tibetan culture and magnificent Himalayan landscape.  Hopefully next time we could have more time and travel further to the western corner of Tibet.

* * *

More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet


DAY 10 (1/2): SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (གནམ་མཚོ་ 納木錯), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.25

At 4718m, staying the night at Namtso was cold, but metal cabin at Sacred Sheep Guesthouse (當雄神羊賓館) allowed us some decent rest.  We woke up at 6:30am, quickly get ourselves ready and headed up the hill at the tip of Tashi Dor Peninsula (扎西半島).  Like many visitors to Namtso, we get up early just for the sunrise over the placid water.  At 7:15, we found ourselves standing among several dozens of tourists standing at the north side of Tashi Dor Peninsula, awaiting for the first beam of sunlight from the east.

DSC_1970Facing northeast, we stood on the slope overlooking the placid water of Namtso Lake.  At 7:20am, the horizon began to brighten up.

DSC_1995At 7:35am, a tint of orange signifying the arrival of the sunrise.

DSC_2005It felt like all visitors at Namtso were standing on the northern slope of Tashi Dor Peninsula to watch the sunrise.

DSC_2031Over at the southern side of Tashi Dor Peninsula, sunlight cast a orange glow on the highest peaks of Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains (གཉན་ཆེན་ཐང་ལྷ 念青唐古拉山).

DSC_2047Sunlight slowly swallowed the darkness on the hills of Tashi Dor Peninsula (扎西半島).

DSC_2048Looking north to where we saw the Milky Way the night before, the focus of the morning scenery was shifted to the placid water of Namtso Lake and Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains.

DSC_2057The campsites and tourist facilities at the waterfront were blanketed in the shadow of the Tashi Dor Peninsula.

DSC_2064Finally the sun rose above the Tashi Dor Peninsula.

DSC_2090While most tourists watched the rising sun, I preferred the scenery of the Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains and the lakefront lagoons.

DSC_2107At 8:50am, the sun was already high up.  Namtso Lake returned to its famous deep blue colour under the pristine mountain air.

DSC_2120At 9am, we walked down the hill and returned to Sacred Sheep Guesthouse.

DSC_2123We took one last look at the Namtso Lake on our way down.

DSC_2127We passed by the trailhead one last time before entering the area of Sacred Sheep Guesthouse.

DSC_2130For a brief moment, I walked off to the lakefront near Tashi Dor Temple (扎西島寺).

DSC_2138Looking back up the cliff I could see the lookout where we photographed the Milky Way the night before.

DSC_2136On the otherwise bare landscape near the shore, simple structures and metal cabins were erected catered for tourism.  It is actually a good idea to restrict all tourist activities of Namtso Lake only at Tashi Dor Peninsula and minimize tourist access to the rest of the lake for natural conservation purpose.

DSC_2131Before leaving Namtso Lake for Lhasa, I quietly bid farewell to the beautiful lake, and soon the Tibetan Plateau all together.  In less than 24 hours we would be on the plane on our way back to Hong Kong via Chengdu.

* * *

More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet


DAY 9 (3/3): EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (གནམ་མཚོ་ 納木錯), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.24

Often considered as one of the most beautiful lakes in China, Namtso Lake ((གནམ་མཚོ་ 納木錯) failed to disappoint us.  Sangzhu dropped us at Sacred Sheep Guesthouse (當雄神羊賓館) where we stayed the night.  Probably the most established guesthouse in Tashi Dor Peninsula (扎西半島) of Namtso, Sacred Sheep Guesthouse is in fact a simple building lined with metal cabins as guestrooms.  We dropped off our bags in our room and stepped out right away hopefully to catch a glimpse of the scenery before sunset.  Behind our guesthouse, there was a trail leading up the hill at the northwestern tip of Tashi Dor Peninsula.  Several motorcyclists gathered at the trail-head.  They offered to take us up the hill for a small fee.  We preferred to walk despite the sky was getting dark.  Before twilight, we reached a lookout overlooking the southern shore of Namtso Lake and the beautiful Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains (གཉན་ཆེན་ཐང་ལྷ 念青唐古拉山) beyond.  The last twilight was soon replaced by myriad of stars in the indigo sky, then came the moon and the Milky Way rising above the tranquil Namtso.  It was a different starry night than two nights ago at the Everest Base Camp, but the wind was equally chilly and the scenery revealed the same magic of the Himalayan night sky.

DSC_1869The tip of the Tashi Dor Peninsula (扎西半島) is the only spot around Namtso where tourist facilities are allowed to establish.

DSC_1873As we reached the lookout on the hill, the sun was setting fast behind the mountains.

DSC_1877The southern shore of Namtso Lake and the snow-capped Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains (གཉན་ཆེན་ཐང་ལྷ 念青唐古拉山) defined the horizon ahead of us.

DSC_1882Slightly after 8pm, the sunlight began the fade away beyond the horizon.

DSC_1919At around 8:45, the Milky Way emerged from the indigo sky over Namtso Lake.

DSC_1925At around 9pm, the sky was dark enough for us to count the shooting stars.

DSC_1938Once again we were fortunate to admire the beautiful Milky Way in the clear sky.

DSC_1940Tourist cars kept on arriving at the Tashi Dor Peninsula.

DSC_1943Despite the chilly wind and our hungry stomachs, the magnificent night sky made us to stay for longer and longer.  There were three other visitors, two from China and one from Hong Kong, taking photos of the starry night with their tripods alongside us.

DSC_1957I set up the tripod and camera on a rock to capture the night sky, and we just sat on the rocks behind to enjoy the scene.

DSC_1959Appeared as bright as the white cliffs of Dover, the majority of the Tashi Dor Peninsula was actually made of limestone.

DSC_1961At about 9:45pm, we decided to call it a day and return to Sacred Sheep Guesthouse for a late dinner.  If not the cold temperature we could have perhaps stay a little longer at the lookout.  No matter what, it was another magical night for the three of us.

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More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet


DAY 9 (2/3): ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (གནམ་མཚོ་ 納木錯), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.24

Before noontime, we left Shigatse behind and headed northeast towards the sacred Namtso Lake (གནམ་མཚོ་ 納木錯).  It would be another long day on the road.  We would not reach our destination until 8pm in the evening.  It was a journey of mixed feelings: being excited about seeing the famous sacred lake and troubled by the fact that Namtso would be our road journey’s final stop before returning to Lhasa for the last day of our trip.  Unlike the past, the road conditions had significantly improved throughout Tibet, but the distances between sights are enormous.  In 2005, a paved road had been constructed to the Tashi Dor Peninsula (扎西半島) at Namtso Lake, where most tourists including us would stay the night right by the lake.  This would offer us the opportunity to enjoy the night sky and sunrise by the sacred lake.

“Namtso” in Tibetan literally means “Heavenly Lake”, so as the Mongolian name “Tenger nuur”.  Given its high altitude, sublime scenery, and pristine deep blue water, there was little surprise why the ancient Tibetans and Mongolians would consider Namtso “heavenly.”  With an area of 1920 sq.km, Namtso Lake is the largest lake in the Tibet Autonomous Region.  The famous salt lake is surrounded by snow-capped mountains, notably the magnificent range of Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains (གཉན་ཆེན་ཐང་ལྷ 念青唐古拉山).  At an altitude of 4712m, the lake surface is frozen for over six months in the year.  During summer, the lakeside lush green plains offer great pastures for cattle and sheep.

DSC_1782The first part of the road journey passed along the valley of Yarlung Tsangpo River (ཡར་ཀླུངས་གཙང་པོ་ 雅魯藏布江).

DSC_1785The railroad along Yarlung Tsangpo River (ཡར་ཀླུངས་གཙང་པོ་ 雅魯藏布江) stood out from the landscape.  It was probably Tibet’s only rail service between Shigatse-to-Lhasa.

DSC_1788We also passed by many narrow strips of Highland Barley fields on the steep slope above the river.

DSC_1821At 4pm, we were approaching the lush green valley plains of Yangbajain (羊八井).

DSC_1834At the green valley plains of Yangbajain (羊八井), yaks and sheep grazing in front of the 700km Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains (གཉན་ཆེན་ཐང་ལྷ 念青唐古拉山).

DSC_1838Yangbajain (羊八井) is also famous for the geothermal fields and hot spring resort.  We stopped by the hot spring resort but decided not to take a dip.

DSC_185015 minutes before 7pm, we reached Lakenla (那根拉山口) at 5190m.

DSC_1847At 5190m, the Lakenla Mountain Pass (那根拉山口) offered us a glimpse of the Namtso Lake from a distance.

DSC_1857Time was getting late.  Under the late afternoon sun, the Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains welcomed us at the gateway into the Namtso Lake area.

DSC_1862After over eight hours on the road, we finally reached the Namtso Lake.

DSC_1867With Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains (གཉན་ཆེན་ཐང་ལྷ 念青唐古拉山) to the southwest, our car headed over to the tourist accommodation and restaurant area on the Tashi Dor Peninsula (扎西半島) in full speed.

* * *

More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet

 


DAY 9 (1/3): TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY (བཀྲ་ཤིས་ལྷུན་པོ་ 扎什倫布寺), Shigatse (日喀則), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.24

Before leaving Shigatse for Namtso Lake, we spent the morning at Tashi Lhunpo Monastery (བཀྲ་ཤིས་ལྷུན་པོ་ 扎什倫布寺).  Probably the most influential monastery in the Shigatse area, Tashi Lhunpo Monastery is very popular with local pilgrims.  Founded by the 1st Dalai Lama in 1447, the 70,000 sq.m monastery remains as the largest functioning monastery in Tibet.  In the past five centuries, Tashi Lhunpo has been the traditional seat of Panchen Lama (པན་ཆེན་བླ་མ 班禪喇嘛), the second highest tulku (སྤྲུལ་སྐུ 活佛) in the Gelug school, just after the Dalai Lama.  During the turbulence years of the Cultural Revolution, buildings and relics of the monastery had been damaged.  Fortunately, damages of the Tashi Lhunpo was relatively small compared to most other monasteries in Tibet.

Walking in the labyrinth of cobblestone lanes of the enormous monastery ground, visitors can absorb the spiritual air and wander through prayer halls, chapels, chortens and courtyards, admire beautiful Buddhist artworks including the 26m statue of Jampa (Maitreya) Future Buddha, and pay respect to the tombs of the past Panchen Lamas.  Other than the gold gilded statues and architectural features, what interested us during our visit of Tashi Lhunpo were the pilgrims who came from all over Tibet and China.  From teenagers to elderly, the pilgrims’ gratifying expression and devoted prayers demonstrated to us how Buddhist traditions still remained strong in today’s Tibet.

01All visitors to Tashi Lhunpo Monastery would pass through the  lingkhor (sacred path) along the external enclosure wall.

02The 70,000 sq.m Tashi Lhunpo Monastery sits on the mountain slope west of Shigatse city.

03Inside the monastery ground, a network of flagstone paths led us to a village of chapels, chortens and prayer wheels.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe first objects captured our eyes as we entered to the core area of the monastery were the three large chortens.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt 9:30am the sun of the highland was already scorching hot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPilgrims and monks in the vivid setting of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery provided us the best subject for photos.

08Many lamas we saw at Tashi Lhunpo were actually visitors from other areas of Tibet.

09Jamba Chyenmu or Maitreya Temple (强巴佛殿) is the tallest building in Tashi Lhunpo Monastery.  Erected in 1914 by the ninth Panchen Lama, it houses the 26.2m statue of Maitreya Buddha.  The enormous statue contains 279kg of gold and 150,000kg of copper and brass.

10The chorten of the Tenth Panchen Lama is one of the most popular pilgrimage spot in the monastery.  The three-tiered chorten is decorated with large amount of gold, silver and gemstones.

11Semi-precious stones were used to decorated the entrance vestibule of chapels (in this case the Buddhist swastika was created on the floor).  Many pilgrims would knee down and touch the decoration before entering the building.

12Other than statues and chortens, a number of architectural features such as a building column could also become a subject of worship for worshipers.

13Outside of the monastery, we could see the beautiful mountains across the city of Shigatse.

14After visiting a number of the chorten halls (chapels housing the tombs of Panchen Lamas), we arrived at the upper court of the Gyeni Chanting Hall.  The gilded roofs and turrets of the Gyeni Chanting Hall can be seen from far away.

15As we walked down the ramp near the Gyeni Chanting Hall, we could see right behind us the Thangka Wall used for unfolding the gigantic thangka during festivals.

16Below the Gyeni Chanting Hall, we arrived at the Chuajing Duogang, the great courtyard paved with flagstones.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Chuajing Duogang was another popular spot for pilgrims.

18.JPGSurrounding the cloister of Chuajing Duogang, we could admire the fresco depicting over 1000 images of Sakyamuni (Buddha).

19The Sakyamuni were drawn with hands gesturing the five symbolic poses (mudras).

20Looking up from the colonnade of Chuajing Duogang, the splendid Gyeni Chanting Hall looked grand and magnificent.

21Beautiful fresco could be seen all over Tashi Lhunpo, including the wall at the lower exit of Chuajing Duogang.

22After a 2.5 hour visit of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, it was time for us to find our way to the exit and departed from Shigatse.

* * *

More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet

 


DAY 7 (1/3): STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp (珠峰大本營), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.22

After a instant noodle meal, I rested in the tent for a bit and decided to head out with my tripod to test my luck.  I put on all the warm clothes I brought with me.   At 5200m above sea level, it could get below freezing temperatures and gusty wind even in the summer nights.  Luckily the coldness was bearable, at least for a period of half an hour that I stayed outside.  I didn’t venture far but just returned to the rocky path behind the Tent Village.  At 9pm, the sun was long gone but there was still a tiny bit of twilight light behind Mount Everest.  With a tint of lilac colour on the snow-capped summit, Chomolungma (ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ 珠穆朗瑪峰) or Mount Everest appeared to be even more mystical than two hours earlier.  Fortune was on our side as it was a clear night with the new moon, offering one of the darkest night of the month.  It also coupled with the right season that the Milky Way was already high up in the sky at the particular time of the night.  If not the frequent interruptions from other travelers who either walked by with strong flashlights or those overly curious ones who urged me to show them my photos and taught them how to photograph the night sky, I could have stay longer to enjoy the peaceful starry night in front of the mighty Mount Everest.

DSC_1262I came out a little late.  There were only a few minutes of purple twilight light.  Away from any source of light pollution, the sky over Rongphu Valley was filled with stars and shooting stars.

DSC_1264A moment later, the purple light was gone and the tone darkened.  The Milky Way appeared to be brighter but the mystical aura faded away.

DSC_1279As I stood silently, other tourists kept on coming with strong flashlights.  There were a few similar to me who brought out tripods to try their luck shooting the night sky.  Surely they had the same fortune as I did with the perfectly clear sky and magnificent Milky Way.

DSC_1287Without the purple twilight, Mount Everest remained as a recognizable silhouette in the background.  The true protagonist of the night sky was undoubtedly the fascinating Milky Way.

DSC_1290After half an hour standing in the wind, I thought it was time to call it a day.

* * *

More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet


DAY 6 (1/3): WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse (གཞིས་ཀ་རྩེ་གྲོང 日喀則), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.21

Shigatse (གཞིས་ཀ་རྩེ་གྲོང་ཁྱེར། 日喀則), also named Xigatse, is the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama, and an important base for travelers to visit the Mount Everest Base Camp and the nearby Sakya Monastery.  Lying in the middle of the Friendship Highway between Nepal and China, Shigatse is Tibet’s second largest city.  We arrived at Shigatse at around 8pm.  After checking in at Sakya Lhundup Palace Hotel, we went for a walk in the area to look for a place to eat.  The area was not particularly lively, despite we were just 300m from the Summer Palace of Panchen Lama and 500m from Tashilhunpo Monastery (བཀྲ་ཤིས་ལྷུན་པོ་ 扎什倫布寺), the largest monastery in the city.  On the upper level of a two-storey building across the street from our hotel, we saw the soft lighting and lively ambience of what looked like a decent restaurant.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe followed a passageway at the end of the building into a tranquil courtyard with colourful flags, lush green plant pots and patio tables.  We headed up a stair beside a large kitchen and arrived at a large dining area known as Wordo Courtyard.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA small group of musicians were performing traditional music while staff were busy bringing out all kinds of interesting dishes to the tables.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe restaurant was decently decorated in traditional Tibetan style.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe ordered three dishes and yogi berry tea.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYak meat was a Tibetan specialty.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe music performance at the central stage proved popular among the audience.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt Wordo Courtyard, we enjoyed a relaxing night of fine Tibetan food.  After dinner, we returned to the hotel for an early rest.  The next day would be another long day on the road, taking us to the highest point of our Tibetan journey, the Mount Everest Base Camp.

* * *

More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet

 

 


DAY 6 (1/3): YAMDROK LAKE (ཡར་འབྲོག་གཡུ་མཚོ་ 羊卓雍錯), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.21

At 4441m above sea level, Yamdrok Lake is one of the three sacred lakes in Tibet.  This was where Tibetans came to search for the reincarnated soul of the Dalai Lama through chatting, praying, and throwing holy items into the water to get a reflecting hint on the location of Dalai Lama’s soul.  Devoted Tibetans come to do the kora around the lake to pray for good luck and happiness in the following year.  For tourists, Yamdrok is famous for its stunning scenery with its coiling scorpion shape, pristine turquoise water and surrounding snow-capped mountains.  Located in Shannan along Road S307, between Lhasa and Shigatse, Yamdrok Lake is pretty much on everyone’s travel itinerary who ventures beyond Lhasa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe knew this would be a long day on the road.  We needed to travel for about 380km from Samye Town to Shigatse via Yamdrok and Gyantse.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe left Samye at about 9am and reached Yamdrok Lake slightly after noontime.  We first stopped by a lookout along Road S307 to enjoy the overview of Yamdrok Lake from a high level.

03Some travelers would just stop by the road to take in the scenery.

05If the sky was clear, we would see the distant snow-capped mountains.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlong the balustrade visitors crowded at the best spots to photograph the turquoise lake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEateries and souvenir vendors surrounded the parking lot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADozens unfortunate Tibetan mastiffs dressed in funny outfits or had their hair dyed in vivid colours stood by the balustrade for everyone who was willing to spend 10 yuan for a souvenir photo.

10Partly due to the strong and chilly wind at the 4441m altitude, and partly due to the noisy and overly energetic tourist crowds, we didn’t stay for long at the upper lookout.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext Sangzhu drove us down to another lookout by the water, where we final got a close encounter with the sacred turquoise water of Yamdrok.  Souvenir vendors set up their stalls along the steps down to the shore.  By the waterfront, Tibetan mastiffs were replaced with Tibetan yaks posing for souvenir photos.

11By the time we reached the water, the sky seemed to a little clearer than when we were on the upper lookout.

12Local tourists gathered at the signage that said “Yamdrok, Three Great Sacred Lakes, 4441m.”

13After Yamdrok, our journey continued to head west.  The blue sky was well hidden.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASoon we saw an open area along the highway with a lookout to the Korola Glacier (卡若拉冰川).  The sky was grey and we were a little behind schedule, so we chose to stay in the car and take photos of the glacier from the road.

* * *

More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet


DAY 5 (4/4): SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan (山南), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.20

Before sunset, we walked out Samye Monastery to the main plaza of Samye Town.  Listed as one of China’s special villages, the home of the splendid Samye Monastery aims to further develop its tourism industry.  Simple guesthouses, convenient stores and eateries mushroomed around the monastery and along the main street.  Despite Samye Monastery is on the itinerary of many tourists, most travelers prefer to stay at a bigger city or town such as Tsedang or even Lhasa.   As a result, Samye remains a quiet community after all day-trippers left.  We stayed the night at Samye Monastery Guesthouse, probably the biggest accommodation establishment in town.  For dinner and breakfast, we chose Friendship Snowland Restaurant at the main street just outside Samye Monastery.  The plaza and main street outside Samye Monastery turned out to be a great place for people watching: balloon vendor interacting with a local family, laundry powder vendor giving away plastic wash basins to customers, a flock of sheep passing by… our memories of sleepy Samye Town.

01.JPGOutside the main gate of Samye Monastery, the plaza and main street was a great place for people watching.

04After the tourists and pilgrims left, the Samye Monastery returned to tranquility.

03We wandered a bit on the main street to pick a restaurant for dinner.

07Locals gathered at the vendor selling all kinds of household goods.  The vendor gave away plastic wash basins to customers who bought her laundry powder.

08Vendor selling colourful balloons at his auto rickshaw captured much attention in front of the monastery.

05Local eateries dotted along the main street, but most of them were empty as we looked for a place for dinner.

 

09To us, Samye was pretty laid back, including its sleepy dogs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe finally chose the guidebook-recommended Friendship Snowland Restaurant for supper.

14At the restaurant, we were greeted by friendly staff and two cute puppies.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were the only customers at the restaurant.  The interior was decorated in traditional Tibetan style.

16Like the monasteries, the interior of Tibetan restaurants are also filled with vivid colours.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASamye Monastery and Yungbulakang Palace are probably the most important landmark in Shannan Prefecture.

18Any meal in Tibet should start with Tibetan sweet tea.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe food was surprisingly good.  We enjoyed a taste of Tibetan family cuisine with three local dishes and a bowl of vegetable soup.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOutside the restaurant, a flock of sheep walked by the main street.

10After dinner, we picked up a few bottles of water and followed the enclosure wall of Samye Monastery back to our hotel.

* * *

More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet

 


DAY 5 (3/4): SAMYE MONASTERY (བསམ་ཡས 桑耶寺), Shannan (山南), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.20

After lunch, Sangzhu drove us to Samye village where we would visit the famous Samye Monastery and stay the night.   We took a short break at Samye Monastery Hotel before heading over to the monastery.  We followed its enclosure wall to reach the main entrance of the monastery complex.  Beyond the enclosure, we arrived at a large open space with buildings spread out here and there.  At first glance, we couldn’t comprehend the building arrangement within the enormous monastery ground.  Not until we reached the higher levels of the main building and looked down, then we came to realize the concentric layout of this famous monastery.   First constructed in the 8th century, Samye Monastery is known as the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet.

01We walked over to the main building’s forecourt, which was dominated by three tall prayer flag poles and incense burners, and started our monastery tour at the main building.  The monastery is laid out in shape of a giant mandala with buildings positioned according to the Buddhist cosmology.

02Situated at the very centre of the site, the main building is the tallest building in the complex, representing the mythical Mount Meru, the sacred cosmological mountain at the centre of the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain universe.

05Before entering the main building, there was an interesting sign about the risk of fire.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe entered the inner courtyard of the main building through a beautifully decorated gateway.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the gateway, we bought our admission tickets from an old man.

06The inner courtyard was actually a cloister surrounded by colonnades and prayer wheels.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABehind the row of prayer wheels, there were Buddhist murals on the walls.

10Unfortunately many murals were vandalized during the Cultural Revolution.

09At the far corner of the cloister, we found the famous white rooster.  According to legends, once upon a time there was a fire broke out during midnight.  Luckily all monks escaped unharmed because a white rooster woke them up just in time.

11We headed up to the upper level via a steep wooden stair.

12We reached the highest level of the main building after climbing several flights of steps.  On the highest levels, we could admire the scenery at all four directions.

13Many pilgrims left behind offerings at different parts of building, such as leaving money at the joint of wall panels.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooking out from the top level of the main building, we could see the distant mountains and the spectacular chortens at the four directions.  The scattered buildings in the monastery ground actually symbolize the four continents at the cardinal directions, and also the sun and moon.

15Walking down the main building, we reached the lower roof terrace, which offered us another look at the magnificent main building of Samye Monastery.

16At the monastery ground, there were minor restoration work going on here and there.

17We spent the second half of the visit wandering in the open spaces, and climbed up one of the four chortens.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the red chorten, we enjoyed a beautiful view of the main building under the late afternoon sun.

19Before sunset, we walked to the enclosure wall of Samye Monastery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe walked part of the kora route, following pilgrims who turned every single prayer wheel in the clockwise direction.

* * *

More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet


DAY 5 (2/4): MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.20

We get up at around 7am and got ourselves ready for the departure of our journey out of Lhasa.  Leaving Trichang Labrang Hotel behind, we put on our backpacks and walked out to the community medical centre on Jiangsu Road to wait for our driver.  We got the name and license plate from Pazu.  At slightly after 8am, our driver Sangzhu (桑珠) arrived and we were all set to embark on our 6-day journey.  Shannan (山南), or Lhoka (ལྷོ་ཁ།) in Tibetan, was the first destination.  Bounded by Lhasa (拉薩 ལྷ་ས་) to the north, Nyingchi (林芝 ཉིང་ཁྲི་ས།) to the east, Shigatse (日喀則 གཞིས་ཀ་རྩེ་གྲོང) to the west and the international border of India and Bhutan to the south, Shannan is considered as the legendary birthplace of the Tibetan people.  The landscape of Shannan is dominated by the middle and lower sections of the Yarlung Valley and Tibet’s most important waterbody Yarlung Tsangpo River (雅魯藏布江), as we had seen it from the sky upon our arrival at Gonggar Airport by plane.

01We hit the road out of Lhasa before 8:30am.

02Under the morning sun, the highland barley fields and distant mountains signified we had entered the southern countryside of Lhasa.

05On Provincial Highway 101, we stopped by a lookout by the Yarlung Tsangpo River (雅魯藏布江).

04As the longest river in Tibet, Yarlung Tsangpo River originates from the Angsi Glacier in western Tibet. From the lookout, the Yarlung Tsangpo River continues to run downstream into India and Bangladesh known as the Brahmaputra River.  From the lookout, we could see the desert environment of large sand dunes along Yarlung Tsangpo River.

03We continued to drive along the south side of Yarlung Tsangpo River until reaching Tsetang (澤當), the capital of Shannan region and the fourth largest city in Tibet.  Sangzhu stopped the vehicle at the regional security office to register our travel plan.

06Near Tsetang (澤當), Sangzhu drove us to the nearby Yungbulakang Palace (雍布拉康 ཡུམ་བུ་བླ་སྒང།) to check out the supposedly the oldest structure in Tibet, and the legendary palace of Nyatri Tsenpo, the first king of Tibet in the second century BC.  Later in the 7th century AD, it became the summer palace of Songtsen Gampo and Wencheng Princess, and turned into a Gelug monastery in the 17th century.

07Erected atop a high ridge, the legendary Yungbulakang Palace was heavily damaged during the Cultural Revolution.  The palace then went through extensive reconstruction in 1983.

08.JPGAs we saw the long flight of stairs up to Yungbulakang Palace, we began to discuss how long it might take to reach the palace from the parking lot.  We soon realized that the palace was closed to the public due to a $1.5m restoration work.  That left us no choice but to turn back to the car.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur visit to Yungbulakang turned out to be a brief photo stop.  We soon returned to the Tsetang (澤當) for lunch.  Sangzhu took us to Abba Home Tibetan Restaurant, one of the Lonely Planet recommended local restaurant.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFeaturing traditional seating, the interiors of Abba Home Tibetan Restaurant was cosy and welcoming.  Almost all customers were locals.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe ordered three dishes, including the local yak beef, and invited Sangzhu to join us.

09For touring in Shannan, many jeep tours would stay at Tsedang for the night.  Sangzhu suggested to stay in a smaller town further down the journey so we could save an hour’s drive at the next day.  We decided that we would stay at Samye (桑耶鎮), the village where we would visit Samye Monastery, the first monastery in Tibet and probably the most important attraction in Shannan.  After lunch, we were on our way to Samye at the north side of Yarlung Tsangpo River.  On the way, we stopped by another beautiful lookout filled with vivid prayer flags.

10From the lookout, we could once again admire the arid landscape of the Yarlung River Valley.

11It was refreshing to take in the open scenery of the surrounding sand dunes and mountains.

12The wind was really strong and we couldn’t stop for long at the lookout.  After a few photos, we continued the journey towards Samye (桑耶鎮).

* * *

More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet

 

 


DAY 4 (3/3): TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa (拉薩), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.19

Traveling to Lhasa is not complete without paying a visit to some of the city’s many tea houses and Tibetan restaurants.  After returning to Lhasa from Ganden Monastery, we spent the rest of the afternoon at Guangming Gangqiong Sweet Tea House (光明港瓊甜茶館), one of Lhasa’s most well known sweet tea houses in Lhasa.  Sociologist Ray Oldenburg defined “third place” as the place other than “home” and “workplace” where people spend most of their time hanging around to socializing.  As a home away from home, a Tibetan sweet tea house is the venue where locals gather everyday for community news, causal chats, and a sip of traditional sweet tea.  Located at Danjielin Road (丹傑林路) just a stone throw away from Jokhang Monastery (大昭寺), Guangming Gangqiong Sweet Tea House (光明港瓊甜茶館) is a popular mingling place for locals and foreign tourists.  Once we stepped in the door, we were immediately overwhelmed by the animated atmosphere.  It took us a while to find three empty seats at a communal table in the largest tea hall.  From a shelf at the far corner we picked up three empty glasses.  On the table, we each put a one yuan bill under the empty glass.  Soon, a staff came by our table, took the money and filled our glasses with Tibetan sweet tea.  From the serving counter at the back of the tea house, we ordered three bowls of beef noodles.  As we chatted about the upcoming travel itinerary, sipped our tea and devoured our belated lunch, our eyes were rolling from left to right taking in scenes of lively interactions of local customers.

DSC_0286The vibrant Danjielin Road has many souvenir shops and restaurants, including Guangming Gangqiong Sweet Tea House (光明港瓊甜茶館).

DSC_0284We passed by a smaller tea hall where the ceiling was decorated with synthetic plants.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOther than Tibetan sweet tea, we also ordered beef noodles from the serving counter at the far side of the room.

IMG_2604Other than drinks and food, tea house is a popular venue for gossips and card games.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were a few staff constantly walking around the tea house to refill for customers.

 

Also on Danjielin Road, the Tibetan Family Kitchen (更潘藏家廚房) is a pleasant place to get a taste of Tibetan family cuisine.  Located on the second level of a residential block, it wasn’t easy to find the entrance to Tibetan Family Kitchen.  From Danjielin Road, we found our way through a retail arcade into a tranquil skywell where a flight of staircase led up to the upper level.  Stepping into the Tibetan Family Kitchen felt like walking into some local’s home.  Beyond the entrance, the first thing we saw was the busy kitchen.  We sat down at the communal table in one of the two dining rooms.  On the communal table, two kids were doing homework at one side, while we sat at the other side going through the dinner menu.  We chatted with the friendly hostess of the family restaurant, and ordered two dishes, a bowl of soup and rice.  The food was excellent, and so as the interior decorations of Tibetan Family Restaurant.  Surrounded by the walls of comments by visitors from around the globe, every single details of the interior design expressed a strong sense of Tibetan culture.

DSC_0292The Tibetan Family Kitchen is located on the second level of a mixed use building.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe followed a flight of stair up to the second level to reach Tibetan Family Kitchen.

DSC_9833Entering the family restaurant was like going into somebody’s home.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are two dining rooms in Tibetan Family Kitchen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany walls in Tibetan Family Kitchen were filled with visitor comments.

DSC_9829All furniture and decorations in the family restaurant express a strong sense of Tibetan culture…

DSC_9830…including this traditional lantern.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe shared the table with two kids of the owner’s family.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaving dinner at Tibetan Family Kitchen really felt like being a guest in a local Tibetan home.  Even the food was quite homey with nothing fancy but delicious and comforting.

* * *

More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet


Day 4 (2/3): GANDEN MONASTERY (དགའ་ལྡན་ 甘丹寺), Lhasa (拉薩), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.19

After Drepung and Sera, Ganden was the last of Tibet’s three great Gelug university monasteries we visited.  Ganden lies some 40km northeast of Lhasa atop Wangbur Mountain at an altitude of 4300m above the sea.  Founded by famous Buddhist teacher Je Tsongkhapa in 1409, Ganden was once a powerful monastery with a few thousand monks until 1959 when much of the monastery was destroyed by the Chinese army.  A further blow to the monastery occurred during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.  As the ancestral monastery of Gelugpa (Gelug school), the abbots of Ganden Monastery are considered as the abbots of Gelugpa, and hence the most powerful figures in Tibetan Buddhism after Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama.  Despite its destruction in the 20th century, the monastery has been subjected to series of reconstructions which lasted from the 1980s until the present day.  Today, Ganden is still very popular among the local pilgrims.  The monastery is consisted of more than 50 buildings with prayer halls, monk quarters, colleges, etc.  After the kora hike which passed around the back of the monastery, we had about 1.5 hour to wander around the religious compound.

DSC_0194Just like many Tibetan monasteries, Ganden is mainly finished with white and red paint.

DSC_0198Buildings are built on various levels on the mountain slope, connected by series of stairs and ramps.

DSC_0202We took our time to wander around the compound.  Not many buildings were opened, but we were delighted to walk around and take pictures of the colourful environment.

DSC_0207We saw different groups of local pilgrims interacted with the monks.  Some were visiting like tourists while others seek for blessing from senior monks in different buildings.

DSC_0211Despite most buildings were reconstructed, the atmospheric environment of the compound was spiritual and pleasant to walk around.

DSC_0219The traditional Tibetan motifs are present at entrance vestibules of many chapels and assembly halls.

DSC_0244Tsokchen Hall (措欽大殿), the main assembly hall, is an essential structure in the Ganden compound.

DSC_0221From the front terrace of the Tsokchen Hall (措欽大殿), we saw a large group of monks gathered outside the main parking lot engaged in some sort of rituals.

DSC_0225At the front terrace of the Tsokchen Hall (措欽大殿), two crows were attracted by the food offering on the balustrade.

DSC_0234With its golden roof, the Serdung (羊八犍) that houses the tomb of Tsongkhapa, is probably the most important building in Ganden Monastery.

DSC_0240The original tomb of Tsongkhapa was damaged by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution.  The new red building was reconstructed to house the salvaged fragments of Tsongkhapa’s skull.

DSC_0245We started heading back to the main parking lot half an hour before our bus departure time.

DSC_0256We walked towards the parking lot under the strong midday sun.

DSC_0266The sky was clear and the air was warm.  The view of Ganden Monastery from the parking lot was spectacular.

DSC_0274By the time we reached the parking lot, the group of monks were returning to the monastery after some sort of rituals outside the compound.

DSC_0278The incoming monks were in a delightful mood, chatting with each other with frequent laughter.

DSC_0281On the way back to Lhasa, our bus stopped by another small temple for a 15 minute visit.  We didn’t go in with the local pilgrims.  Instead we stayed with the friendly driver at the parking lot, thinking of where to visit back in Lhasa.

* * *

More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet


DAY 3 (2/2): SERA MONASTERY ( སེ་ར་དགོན་པ 色拉寺), Lhasa (拉薩), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.18

After a simple noodle lunch, we hopped on a taxi for Sera Monastery ( སེ་ར་དགོན་པ 色拉寺).   At the northern suburb of Lhasa, Sera is a popular destination among foreign tourists where its famous debate sessions usually take place in the afternoon.  Unlike Drepung where reaching the monastery required ascending the Mount Gephel, accessing Sera Monastery from the main road was just a few minutes’ walk.  There weren’t too many tourists around.  As one of the three main Gelug university monasteries in Tibet, Sera is consisted of a series of colleges, residences, and assembly halls on its 28 acres of land.  Once with a monastic population of about 5000, the current monastery is a shadow of its past.  Founded in 1419 by Sakya Yeshe, Sera Monastery has gone through ups and downs in history.  Fortunately, the monastery was left relatively undamaged during the Cultural Revolution in 1960s.

Beyond the main entrance, we passed by the large stupa Tsangba Kangtsang and a row of prayer wheels circled by several devoted pilgrims.  We turned left into a small alleyway between several small buildings and continued to the courtyard of Sera Me College.  We entered the main hall and visited the upper deck of the building.  There were hardly any tourists around, except a few prostrating pilgrims at the front veranda.  We then headed over to Sera Je College, the largest college in Sera, and Tsogchen, the Main Assemble Hall, before finding our way to the famous debate courtyard.  Many visitors had already gathered at the perimeter of the courtyard.  In the middle of the courtyard sat a large group of monks all dressed in red robes.  Full of anticipation, we sat down on the pavement curb behind the monks, hoping to witness their unique exchange despite we knew we couldn’t understand the Tibetan language.  We soon realized that the particular day of our visit was an exam day for the young learners instead of a regular debate session.  Instead of forming small debate groups, each young monk were given a brief time to perform his speeches and gestures in front of a panel of two teachers.  It was interesting to watch how the young monks perform their hand clapping and speeches in attempt to win over the crowds and the teachers.  We stayed for about half an hour before heading back to the monastery entrance and quickly hopped on a taxi returning to the Barkhor Old City of Lhasa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were more lamas than tourists at the entrance when we arrived at Sera Monastery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe first thing in Sera Monastery we encountered was a large stupa and a row of prayer wheels.

03We walked into a lane left of the entrance attempting to find Sera Me College.

04The colourful monastery buildings were quite eye catching.  We wandered into different empty courtyards before reaching Sera Me College.

06The Sera Me College dates back to the earliest years of the monastery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALike many other monasteries, the stair at Sera Me College was really steep.

08The front veranda of Sera Me College were occupied by prostrating pilgrims.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had seen this checker pattern several times at different Tibetan monasteries.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext we walked over to the largest college at Sera Monastery: the Sera Je College.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had a peaceful moment at the upper level of Sera Je College.

12The flat roof of Sera Je College was also accessible, but we couldn’t stay for long because of the strong afternoon sun.

13It was fortunate that most buildings at Sera Monastery escaped damages from the Cultural Revolution.

14We then returned to the maze of alleyways and headed towards the Main Assembly Hall.

15Dated back to 1710, the Tsogchen (Main Assembly Hall) is the largest buildings in Sera Monastery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe rested a bit under the shade on the upper level of the Main Assembly Hall.

17After Main Assembly Hall, we returned to the main path and walked to the Debate Courtyard at the far end.

18Through the doorway, we could see the courtyard was already filled up with spectators.

19The young monks walked out one by one to perform their debate speech and body gestures.

20We sat down behind a group of monks for a while and watched the performances by several monks.

* * *

More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet

 


DAY 2 (5/6): SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa (拉薩), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.17

Pazu Kong (薯伯伯), a young gentleman from Hong Kong, traveled to Tibet in 2006 with Oat, his travel buddy from Thailand.  They spent three months on the road from Thailand to Lhasa.  Once arrived, they decided to stay at the sacred city and opened a cafe in the Barkhor Old City.   Since then, Pazu’s Spinn Cafe (風轉咖啡館) has become a Lonely Planet recommended hub for travelers (from Hong Kong and elsewhere) to gather and seek for travel advises.  Pazu also arranges jeep hire for travelers.  We learnt about Pazu from his book “Spinning in Tibet, Selling Coffee in Lhasa (風轉西藏)”.  Written in 2009, his book offers a glimpse of his interesting Tibetan experience.  About a month before departure, we contacted Pazu for our jeep hire.  We asked for an experienced Tibetan driver to take us to the Mount Everest Base Camp, Namtso Lake and a few other destinations along the way.  Upon arrival in Tibet, Pazu told us to drop by Spinn Cafe to leave our ID for him to apply for our Everest permits.

After our visit to Jokhang Monastery, it was still too early for dinner.  We decided to drop by Cafe Spinn.  From Jokhang, it was just a few minutes’ walk to reach the cozy cafe at an alleyway behind the touristy Dan Jie Lin Road.  At Spinn Cafe, Pazu was busy serving another group of Hong Kong tourists for their jeep arrangement.  He looked talkative, energetic and friendly.  We settled down at one of the low tables in the cafe.  While waiting for Pazu, we ordered a specialty drink made with local goji berries, and toyed with a pulse oximeter on the table to examine the oxygen level in our blood.  Soon Pazu came to sit down with us after he bid farewell to the other group of tourists.  We first talked about our jeep arrangement, then soon drifted to Pazu’s hiking experience in Southeast Tibet, his recent travel diary in the Middle East, recommended alternative sights in Lhasa, social issues of Hong Kong, and so on, until Pazu had to leave and meet up with his friends for dinner.

DSC_9364Looking from outside, we could already sense the cozy atmosphere in the Spinn Cafe (風轉咖啡館).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Spinn Cafe (風轉咖啡館) is a great place to take a break after a day of sightseeing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPazu Kong (薯伯伯) was really friendly and informative as we chatted about Tibet and other topics.

* * *

More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet


DAY 2 (4/6): JOKHANG MONASTERY (ཇོ་ཁང། / 大昭寺), Lhasa (拉薩), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.17

Maggie and I arrived at the Trichang Labrang Hotel at around 2pm, and were delighted to find Angela feeling much better after a good rest.  We decided to head out together for a decent Tibetan meal.  Recommended by Pazu, the owner of Spinn Cafe in Lhasa who also helped us to arrange a 4 wheel drive for our 6-day excursion, we decided to go to a nearby restaurant called “Our Tibetan Restaurant” (咱們的藏餐館).  We walked east from our hotel towards the Muslim neighborhood, searched for a while until finally arrived at the old courtyard compound called Bangdacang Compound (邦達倉大院) where the restaurant was located in the courtyard.   “Our Tibetan Restaurant” (咱們的藏餐館) offered many options of Tibetan and Chinese dishes and we had a delightful late lunch under a parasol and atmospheric Tibetan flags.

At 3:30pm, we finished our meal and walked out to the Barkhor Street towards Jokhang Monastery (ཇོ་ཁང། / 大昭寺).  At the heart of Barkhor old city, the Jokhang is often considered to be the most sacred destination in the entire Tibet.  Despite not all chapels were opened in the afternoon, we still wanted to visit the Jokhang before it closed for the day.  We entered the monastery through its side door next to the ticket office.  Immediately we arrived at a series of courtyards.  We followed a designated route around the perimeter of the central courtyard to reach the entrance of the main hall.  Similar to prayer halls at other Tibetan monasteries, rows of monk seats occupied the centre of the hall.  Small chapels with religious statues flanked three sides of the hall.  The main chapel at the centre housed a small statue of the Buddha called Jowo Shakyamuni.

Considered as the most sacred Buddhist image in Tibet, the statue was brought to Tibet from China by Wencheng Princess (文成公主) during the Tang Dynasty in the 7th century.  She came to Tibet to marry Songtsen Gampo, the King of Tibet.  To consolidate the foundation of Buddhism in Tibet, Songtsen erected a monastery to house the Jowo Shakyamuni.  Known as the Jokhang, the monastery soon became the primary pilgrimage spot for all Tibetan Buddhists.  The oldest part of the Jokhang dates back to 652.  Since then, the monastery had gone through up and down times, depending on the popularity of Buddhism and political situations.  The monastery was damaged in the 1960s during the Cultural Revolutuon, and took eight years to restore during the 1970s.  In 2000, Jokhang was inscribed in the World Heritage list as an extension to the Potala.

After the main hall, we walked one level up to the roof terrace, where we could admire the golden ornaments of the architecture.  Unfortunately the roof terrace where visitors could enjoy the view of the Potala was closed for renovation.  We could only wander around the roof for a little bit before heading back down.  Our tour of the monastery was brief but it offered us a decent introduction to Lhasa’s history and Tibetan Buddhism.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABangdacang Compound (邦達倉大院) was only a few minute walk from our hotel.

02“Our Tibetan Restaurant” (咱們的藏餐館) is located in the courtyard of the Bangdacang Compound (邦達倉大院).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe ordered yak meat and pancake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe mushroom momos (Tibetan dumplings) were good and deserved a longer waiting time.

05The forecourt of Jokhang is always busy with pilrims.

06Inside Jokhang, the first courtyard beyond the ticket entrance was rather peaceful.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe walked around the inner perimeter of the central courtyard to admire the wall paintings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was late in the afternoon with few tourists.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooking up, we could see parts of the golden ornament on the roof of Jokhang.

10At one side of the courtyard, there was a seat reserved for the Dalai Lama.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeautiful decorations could be seen everywhere in the building.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe walked around the central courtyard to check out the wall paintings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe wall paintings had undergone extensive restorations in recent years.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeyond the main hall were living quarters for monks.

16After walking around the courtyard, we entered the main prayer hall through its old entrance door.  Unfortunate photography was not allowed in the interior.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the roof terrace, we were overwhelmed by the extensive golden decorations.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA long courtyard near the main hall indicated the start of monk living quarter.

19On the roof terrace, the golden roof and decorations were clearly shown.

20Details of the golden ornaments on the roof.

21After visiting Jokhang, we walked over to the monastery’s forecourt where devoted pilgrims performed all kinds of worshiping rituals.

* * *

More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet


DAY 2 (1/6): FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (ཕོ་བྲང་པོ་ཏ་ལ་ 布達拉宮), Lhasa (拉薩), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.17

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.

01We arrived at the time reservation office at 7:20am.

02There were about 40 people standing in front of us.

03While we stood at the queue, the sky to the east was getting brighter.

04Most shops near the reservation office were tourist related such as travel agents.

05_01At around 8am, the morning sun began to cast a golden glow onto the sacred palace of Potala.

06The 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.

07At 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.

08After 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.

09Devoted pilgrims stopped in front of the Potala to read prayers and spin their ritual wheels.

10As 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.

11Looking from the southeast, the Potala looks as if surrounded by rows of young evergreen.

* * *

More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet


DAY 1 (3/3): KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa (拉薩), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.16

After we put down our bags into the hotel room, we couldn’t wait but to venture out into the alleyways of Barkhor Old Town.  Soon we arrived at a security checkpoint where we needed to show our ID and put our bags through the x-ray.  A little further beyond the checkpoint was a much wider stone paved street where almost all pedestrians moved in one direction.  We knew we had arrived at the famous Barkhor Street (八廓街).  We were all sleepy from the red eye flight.  Angela got a bad headache from the high altitude.  We had no particular itinerary for the day.  We took our time to walk around the Barkhor Street, taking in the energy and Tibetan atmosphere of the ancient street, and dropping by the nearby Summit Cafe and Spinn Cafe for brief breaks.

Kora (སྐོར་ར) is the term for a pilgrimage circumambulation for Tibetan Buddhism around a sacred site or object in the clockwise direction.  In Lhasa, if not the entire Tibet, the most popular kora route is undoubtedly the Barkhor Street (八廓街), the pedestrian circuit around the Jokhang Monastery (大昭寺).  For over 1300 years the stone paved circuit was the most sacred pilgrim route for Tibetan Buddhists.  Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo erected the Jokhang Monastery in 647, and the pilgrim path around the temple soon followed and had since then evolved into Barkhor Street.  On the hand-polished stone pavers, uncounted pilgrims stepped on the Barkhor everyday, some would even perform prostration while moving clockwise along the Barkhor.  Apart from prostrating, some pilgrims also spin their prayer wheels, chant mantra, or count their rosary beads.

Nowadays, other than its spiritual identity, Barkhor Street has also become a prime tourist destination of Lhasa.  Souvenir shops have lined up along both sides of the famous street.   For tourists, following the local pilgrims to stroll along Barkhor Street is compulsory.  Beyond souvenir stores and gemstone shops, visitors may find religious shops selling all kinds of items for the pilgrims.  For us, the Barkhor Street was the place that we walked by several times each day during our stay in Lhasa.

01The route from our hotel opens to the Barkhor Street at the south side of the Jokhang Monastery, near a colourful flag post.

02Many locals were dressed in traditional clothing while walking the kora on the Barkhor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA turn near the colourful flag post led us to the square in front of Jokhang Monastery, where a group of pilgrims and tourists congregated.

04At the Jokhang Square, local pilgrims passed by another colourful flag post.

05There were constantly pilgrims prostrating in front of the Jokhang Monastery.

06Visitors can no longer get in the original main entrance of Jokhang Monastery.

07The original main entrance of Jokhang Monastery has become a small plaza for prostrating pilgrims and spectating tourists.

08Going north from the Jokhang Square, the Barkhor Street gets narrow again into a retail street.

09The Barkhor Street is flanked both sides by traditional Tibetan houses.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlong the Barkhor, there are quite a number of benches and seating areas for the pilgrims.

11Makye Ame is a famous restaurant bar at the southeast corner of the Barkhor.  Legend has it that Tsangyang Gyatso, the 6th Dalai Lama, met the girl he loved at this bar in the 17th century.

12There are also hidden courtyards behind the traditional Tibetan houses on the Barkhor, where young artists and artisans gather to promote a new generation of Tibetan culture, as well as cool cafes and interesting bookstores targeted at the local youngsters.

13Late afternoon is a popular time to walk the Barkhor, when the fierce highland sun becomes a more bearable.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApart from Jokhang Monastery, there are a number of historical buildings at Barkhor, including this former office of the Qing government representatives.

16Smaller in scale than the famous monasteries, local Buddhist temples such as this one on the Barkhor Street is equally interesting with vibrant worshiping scenes.

17Both pilgrims and tourists love to interact with the Buddhist prayer wheels.

15Inside the small temple there is a much bigger prayer wheel where pilgrims move clockwise with the turning wheel inside.

19Police has a strong presence at Barkhor Street, with security stations set up at certain spots.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATea shops and shopping centre of gemstone shops dotted around the Barkhor Street.

21Before sunset, Barkhor Street can get pretty crowded with pilgrims and tourists.

22Among all the pilgrims and tourists that we had seen on the Barkhor Street, probably this old man and his seven dogs had captured the most attention.

* * *

More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet

 


DAY 1 (1/3): TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa (拉薩), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.16

Leaving all daily troubles behind, we left Hong Kong for Chengdu on a Friday evening in mid September.  By the time we arrived at the provincial capital of Sichuan two hours later, it was almost 11pm.  We had several hours to kill at Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport (成都雙流國際機場) before our connecting flight to Lhasa at 6am the next morning.  At Terminal 1 of Chengdu , we sat down at a quiet corner in the departure hall until 3am.  Then we exited the terminal, and walked over to Terminal 2 for our Lhasa flight.  We were sleepy as expected, and could only managed to get a bit more rest on the 2-hour flight.  After an hour into the flight, the sun was already up above the clouds.  As we approached Tibet, we could occasionally see beautiful snow-capped peaks sticking out of the clouds.  During the descend, after our plane passed through the thick layer of clouds, we were excited to find the glorious terrains of the Tibetan Plateau below.  The Yarlung Zangbo River (雅魯藏布江) and Lhasa River (拉薩河) near Lhasa Gonggar Airport (拉薩貢嘎機場) glowed under the morning sun.  Our plane made a few turns before touching down onto the runway strip surrounded by patches of yellow trees. We didn’t prearrange any pick up from the airport.  There were plenty of airport buses outside the airport and only costed us 25 RMB each (compared to 300 RMB for taxi and 500 RMB for private pickup).  The ride to Central Lhasa took roughly an hour.

DSC_8652It was almost midnight when we arrived at Chengdu.

DSC_8653.JPGAt 3am, we walked over to Terminal 2 for our Lhasa flight.

DSC_8687Occasional snow-capped peaks appeared above the clouds.

DSC_8711Despite exhaustion from the sleepless night, the excitement of seeing the mountainous landscape below kept our eyes opened until landing.

DSC_8720Descending below the layer of clouds was like entering a different world.

DSC_8721Under the clouds, the rugged landscape and the river valley received the first morning light of the day.

DSC_8729The flow of Yarlung Zangbo River (雅魯藏布江) offers a touch of colour to the otherwise dark brown terrain near Lhasa.

DSC_8738Under the light of morning sun, Yarlung Zangbo River (雅魯藏布江) glowed in the dark and rugged terrains.

DSC_8747The flood plains of Yarlung Zangbo River (雅魯藏布江) near the airport were dotted with yellow trees.

DSC_8753Surrounded by rugged mountains, Lhasa Gonggar Airport (拉薩貢嘎機場) is a simple airport that connects Lhasa to several Chinese cities including Chengdu and Beijing.

IMG_2337The bus ride out to Central Lhasa took about an hour.  The journey passed by river valleys and through mountain tunnels until reaching the suburb of Lhasa.

IMG_2354The bus passed by the majestic Potala as it approached the station nearby.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the bus station at the shadow of the Potala, our exploration of Lhasa officially began.

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More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet


JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)

It has been many years since I dreamed of visiting Tibet.  Yet it only took us a little over a month to plan for this trip and invite our Canadian friend Maggie to join.  The itinerary consisted of two parts: 4 days in Lhasa and surrounding monasteries, and 6 days on the road climaxed with a close encounter with Mount Everest’s north face at the Everest Base Camp.  Apart from occasional hassles of security checkpoints, our Tibetan story was largely filled with breathtaking scenery, photogenic monasteries and joyful laughter among the three of us.

Under rapid modernization in recent years, Tibet has been changing drastically.  Since the opening of Qinghai-Tibet Railway, more highways and rail roads are being constructed every year, connecting Tibet with the rest of China.  Modern infrastructure has brought in a large influx of local tourists and commercial goods.  Given the inevitable social changes and urbanization of Lhasa, we were delighted to discover that the local Tibetan lifestyle is still going strong at many places, especially at Buddhist monasteries where locals pilgrims and monks still practise their traditional rituals, and at rural areas where farmers still live off the land raising yaks and sheep, and farming the famous Highland barley.

For 11 days we had the blessing of promising weather, even the infamous gusty and freezing weather at Everest Base Camp and Namtso Lake didn’t come to trouble us while we enjoyed the spectacle of the Milky Way and shooting stars over snow-capped mountains.  The rich culture of Tibetan Buddhism was equally spectacular and visible almost everywhere from vivid prayer flags at mountain passes to the myriad of prostrating pilgrims around Jokhang Monastery and the majestic Potala in Lhasa.  For us, the centuries old spirituality was inseparable from the Tibetan landscape.  At the land of mystic Shangri-La where heavenly landscapes coincide with the spirituality of the Buddhist Mandala, we had experienced a marvelous journey that defied fatigue from a red eye flight, occasional altitude sickness, and days of awful toilets.

DSC_0385Our first part of the trip concentrated on exploring Lhasa, the sacred capital of Tibet.  Walking the clockwise kora (pilgrimage) on Barkhor Street around Jokhang Monastery was an interesting experience that we had everyday during our stay in Lhasa.

DSC_1963Our second part of the trip was an remarkable road journey of ancient monasteries and spectacular scenery of snow-capped mountains and pristine lakes.  We were fortunate to enjoy beautiful weather and clear sky while admiring the starry sky from the Everest Base Camp and Namtso Lake.

* * *

More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet