We arrived at the central gate of the Potala at around 9am. We excitedly looked up at the magnificent icon of Lhasa as we entered the palace ground beyond the first security checkpoint. We found our way towards the main ramp that ascend up to the Potala. Before climbing up, we made a brief stop at a small museum that housed a decent collection of treasures from the palace. Despite its interesting exhibit, we didn’t stay long as we wouldn’t want to miss our time slot for the palace visit. The walk up the main ramp looked easier than it actually was. Because of the 3700m altitude, the climb up the main ramp to the Potala may prove challenging to many tourists who haven’t completely acclimatized to the Tibetan highlands. We took our time walking up to the ticket office near the top palace level. After all the effort of pre-booking and climbing, we finally got a real admission ticket for the Potala. A flight of steps led us up a colourful passage to a open courtyard known as Deyang Shar. After a brief break at Deyang Shar, we walk to the far side of the courtyard and followed other tourists and tour guides up a small set of triple stairs into the White Palace. The Deyang Shar was the final spot of our visit that we were allowed to take photographs.
The first room we arrived at was the throne room of the Dalai Lamas. Walking into the former throne room felt like entering into a scene of Scorsese’s movie Kundun. The visit continued to a series of Dalai Lamas’ former reception rooms, meditation room, study room, etc. After the Dalai Lama’s living quarter in the White Palace, we continued our visit to the Red Palace from the top (3rd floor) down. On our way down the floors and through the chapels and assembly halls, we passed by impressive statues, golden chortens of former Dalai Lamas, mysterious chapels such as Chapel Arya, one of the oldest structures in the Potala built by King Songtsen Gampo. If not the noisy tourists and their rude tour guides were virtually everywhere in the visitor route, our Potala visit would be much more pleasant. One of the highlights was the 12.6m chorten of the 5th Dalai Lama. Gilded with 3.7 kg of gold, the chorten of the 5th Dalai Lama was significantly larger than the other chortens displayed in Chapel of the Holy Born.
In 7th century, King Songtsen Gampo erected his royal palace on the Marpo Ri (Red Hill). A thousand years later, construction of the Potala’s White Palace (Kharpo Podrang) began in 1645 under the order of the 5th Dalai Lama. In late 17th century, the larger Red Palace (Marpo Podrang) was also built to house the funeral chorten of the 5th Dalai Lama. Since then, the Potala has become the residence and final resting place of the Dalai Lamas. In modern days, the Potala was largely spared from the destructing forces of the Red Army during the Cultural Revolution. Extensive renovations took place in the 1990s to restore the palace. Since then, the Potala has been turned into an open air museum that attracts thousands of visitors everyday.
The palace visit took us about 2 hours. We exited the Potala from its back entrance. A prominent walkway zigzagged down the Marpo Ri, leading us to the kora path of pilgrims that surrounded the base of the Potala. We followed the kora path and entered the Zongjiao Lukang Park (宗角祿康公園) north of the palace. Large groups of park users were dancing at different open areas in the park under loud music. We strolled for a bit in the park and then moved on to find a small noodle eatery for lunch.
Unlike the mysterious night scene, the morning view of the Potala was splendid and elegant.
During our visit, we only had access to small parts of the White and Red Palace.
Despite the access and photography restrictions, a visit to the Potala is still a must-do for most tourists in Lhasa.
To reach the ticket office of the Potala, walking up the main ramp is the second major challenge for many tourists (the first challenge being getting up early to queue for the pre-booking.
From the main ramp, we could clearly see the Potala Square (布達拉宮廣場) beyond Beijing Road.
After an exhausting climb to the top, we finally reached the entrance gate and the ticket office.
From the entrance gate, we could see the beautiful landscape outside of the city of Lhasa.
The mural of the heavenly guards and other mythical figures caught the attention of every visitors passed through the entrance gate.
The entrance door was beautifully decorated with colourful details.
After the entrance gate, we passed through a flight of colourful stair up to the entrance courtyard of the White Palace called Deyang Shar.
The Deyang Shar is a pleasant courtyard that serves as the entrance for the White Palace, and the courtyard is also the last spot where visitors are allowed to take photographs during their Potala visit.
The visit of the Potala for all tourists begins with the White Palace.
At the Deyang Shar, groups of tourists began their palace visit via a steep stair.
After the visit we exited the Potala at the back side of the palace.
We walked down a pleasant walkway down the Marpo Ri.
The walkway led us down to the kora path of pilgrims that surrounded the base of the Potala.
Along the kora path there were small shrines for pilgrims.
Near the Zongjiao Lukang Park, we passed by a popular shrine frequented by pilgrims.
We followed the kora path and entered the Zongjiao Lukang Park (宗角祿康公園) north of the palace.
We strolled for a bit in Zongjiao Lukang Park and then moved on to find a small noodle eatery nearby for lunch.
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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