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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

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DAY 4: ALCHI & LIKIR GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh, India

We had high expectations for Alchi Gompa, which has long been famous for its wall paintings dated back to the 12th century.  It was already past noontime when we were done with Lamayuru.  By the time we reached our next destination Alchi, we couldn’t wait to sit down at the outdoor restaurant of Zimskhang Holiday Home for a quick bite.  Under the shades of trees and fabric canopies, Tachi and we had a relaxing lunch of local dishes.  After the meal, we entered a winding passageway and through a lane full of souvenir stalls until reaching the monastery compound.   A number of centuries-old stupas decorated with colourful prayer flags flanked the monastery forecourt.  There were three ancient shrines that visitors could enter and admire the wall paintings, along with the huge statues of Buddha.    It was not allowed to take photographs inside the shrines.  We could only admire the richly decorated halls while we were there.  The Buddhist statues and interior architectural details dated back to almost a thousand years were amazing.  However, many of the wall paintings were either darken over the years or were partially ruined by brutal restorations painted over the originals.  There wasn’t as much to see at Alchi as we imagined before our visit.  After visits of the three halls among the crowds of local tourists we decided to move on to Likir Gompa.

Situated at an relatively isolated about 10km away from the Leh-Srinigar Highway, Likir Gompa is a beautiful Tibetan Buddhist monastery of the Gelug sect founded in the 11th century.  As we approach the monastery, we could see the 23m golden statue of Maitreya Buddha (Buddha of Future) from a distance.  Tashi didn’t join us for our tour of the monastery as he wanted to wash the car.  On our own, we first walked to the platform where the 23m Maitreya Buddha sat.  Opposite from the golden plated statue stood a lama school complex.  Several young lamas were playing and chasing each other at the school courtyard.  Their laughter certainly lifted our spirit a little in the grey and cool afternoon.  Inside Likir Gompa,  we visited two assembly halls: an older hall with rolls of seating flanked by wall shelving full of ancient texts and a newer hall decorated with glossy wall thangka depicting Mahakala (a fierce looking protector deity) in various gestures.  We took our time to admire the wall paintings and walk around the monastery from its rooftop to exterior platforms.  By the time we returned to the entrance plaza, Tachi was done cleaning the car and ready for our return journey to Leh.

dsc_5175The winding passage that led into Alchi Monastery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe twin trees marked the location of the original spot where Lama Rinchen Zangpo put his walking stick down and founded the monastery in the 10th century, so as the legend said.

dsc_5144Old timber entrance structure of Alchi’s Sumtseg (three storey building) survived to the present day.

dsc_5140The ornate woodwork of the columns and the interior decorations at Alchi were created by Kashmir artists.

dsc_5148Details of the entrance woodwork.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEntrance into one of the two shrines at a garden near the Dukhang of Alchi.

dsc_5166The oldest stupas (chorten) at Alchi dated back as far as the 13th century.

dsc_5173A mother and daughter at a prayer wheel at the entrance of Alchi.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe arrived at Likir in late afternoon.

dsc_5233The Buddhist school complex across from the statue of Maitreya Buddha.

dsc_5239The 23m Maitreya Buddha could be seen from far away.

dsc_5262Entrance to one of the two main assembly hall at Likir.

dsc_5269Inside the assembly hall, yellow ropes of each lama were folded neatly on the rows of seating.

dsc_5274Hundreds of ancient Buddhist texts were stored in glass cabinets against the wall of the assembly hall.

dsc_5286Detail of an old wall painting.

dsc_5328Detail of a new and glossy Mahakala wall painting at the other assembly hall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto of Likir Gompa from distance.

dsc_5335The lush green Indus River Valley below Likir.

dsc_5346The main courtyard of Likir as seen from rooftop.

dsc_5377Likir wasn’t a popular destination comparing to Alchi or Lamayuru.  We could hardly see any visitors in the monastery and the entrance plaza was also empty.

* * *

Other posts on 2016 Ladkadh & Delhi:
Introduction – LADAKH – The Land of High Passes, India
Day 1.1 – ENROUTE TO LEH, Ladakh
Day 1.2 – WALK TO MAIN BAZAAR, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.3 – LEH PALACE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.4 – HOTEL LADAKH GREENS, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.1 – NAMGYAL TSEMO GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
Day 3.2 – THIKSEY GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.3 – CHEMREY & TAKTHOK GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.4 – HEMIS & STAKNA GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.5 – MATHO GOMPA & SHEY PALACE, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.1 – ON THE ROAD WEST OF LEH, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.2 – LAMAYURU GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.3 – ALCHI & LIKIR GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.4 – FORT ROAD IN THE EVENING, Leh, Ladakh
Day 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi


DAY 4: LAMAYURU GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh, India

Our first monastery of the day along the Srinagar-Leh highway was Lamayuru Gompa.  Lamayuru is one of the largest monasteries in Ladakh.  Apart from Thiksey Gompa, Lamayuru was the monastery in Ladakh that we enjoyed visiting the most.  Affiliated with Drikung Kagyu, Lamayuru Gompa is founded in the 11th century.  We spent half of our time indoor checking out various prayer and assembly halls, and the other half walking around the exterior of the compound along a prayer route lined with prayer wheels and stupas.

Our driver Tachi was kind enough to accompany us at Lamayuru.  In simple English, Tachi told us stories about the monastery and the statues in the prayer halls, and taught us about the six Tibetan Buddhist syllable mantra “om mani padme hum” (ཨོཾ་མ་ཎི་པདྨེ་ཧཱུྃ) while we examined the inscriptions on the prayer wheels.  Each time we turned a prayer wheel one cycle we were actually reading the six syllable mantra once.  The six syllable mantra is often associated with Avalokiteśvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion.  Under the crisp air of Ladakh highland and the shadows of ancient stupas, Tachi gave us a brief lesson of scattered information on Tibetan Buddhism.  As we chatted and laughed, a few elderly pilgrims passed by, nodded and smiled to us.

dsc_5086Lamayuru Gompa from a distance.

dsc_5085Ticket office at the entrance of Lamayuru.

dsc_4951The first prayer hall that we entered at Lamayuru.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA window lama seat near the front altar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAButter sculpture is a common handcraft for Tibetan lamas.

dsc_4952The prayer hall was vividly decorated with Tibetan textiles and furniture.

dsc_4986Ancient Buddhist statues at the back of the Prayer Hall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Cave of Meditation where Naropa, the founder of Lamayuru meditated in the 11th century.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAncient stupas of jewels, gold and silver at the altar of a prayer hall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPrayer oil lamps in a glass chamber is a common sight at a Tibetan lamasery.

dsc_4996One of the 150 monks residing at Lamayuru.

dsc_5001A cluster of vernacular dwellings below the Lamayuru Gompa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARoute of prayer wheels, stupas and a pilgrim.

dsc_5024Route of prayer wheels, stupas and a pilgrim.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the main buildings of Lamayuru Gompa.

dsc_5031 Stupas of various sizes mushroomed around the lamasery compound.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPilgrim and the old prayer wheels.

dsc_5041The Snow Lion is the emblem of Tibet.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany mani stones were placed around the ancient stupas.

dsc_5043River valley and arid mountains dominate the surrounding landscape at Lamayuru.

* * *

Other posts on 2016 Ladkadh & Delhi:
Introduction – LADAKH – The Land of High Passes, India
Day 1.1 – ENROUTE TO LEH, Ladakh
Day 1.2 – WALK TO MAIN BAZAAR, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.3 – LEH PALACE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.4 – HOTEL LADAKH GREENS, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.1 – NAMGYAL TSEMO GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
Day 3.2 – THIKSEY GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.3 – CHEMREY & TAKTHOK GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.4 – HEMIS & STAKNA GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.5 – MATHO GOMPA & SHEY PALACE, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.1 – ON THE ROAD WEST OF LEH, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.2 – LAMAYURU GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.3 – ALCHI & LIKIR GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.4 – FORT ROAD IN THE EVENING, Leh, Ladakh
Day 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi


DAY 4: ON THE ROAD WEST OF LEH, Indus Valley, Ladakh, India

Another day of fine weather, another day of lamasery visit in the Indus Valley.  This time, we headed northwest along Indus River towards Kargil and Kashmir.  With limited time, we could only reach as far as Lamayuru Gompa, and stopped by Alchi and Likir on our way back to Leh.  We would have to wait till next time to see the lush green Alpine scenery of Kashmir near the border with Pakistan.  Unlike the day before when we spent the day to hop from one monastery to another, this time around we would spend considerably more time on the road traveling greater distances between the three monasteries.  Therefore, the hotel manager suggested us to hire a decent SUV for the day.  We took his advice and hired an experienced driver and a comfortable SUV from our hotel.  Tashi, a designated driver employed by Ladakh Greens Hotel, turned out to be a good guide and excellent driver who mastered great driving skills necessary for the treacherous mountainous roads. Apart from the time spent at the three monasteries, we were pretty much on the road for most of the day, speeding through the arid landscapes west of Leh.

dsc_4769_01Our SUV left Leh at about 7:30 in the morning and headed west along Indus River.

dsc_4774Soon after leaving Leh behind, we were completely surrounded by desert like landscape.

dsc_4786The confluence of Indus and Zanskar River at Nimo is a famous spot for white water rafting.

dsc_4797Students waiting for transportation at a small mountain village.

dsc_4833The mountain roads in Ladakh are popular for motorcyclists.

dsc_4909Road maintenance staff taking a break by the curb.

dsc_4925Before reaching Lamayuru Gompa, we reached a famous area with unique earth formation called the Lamayuru Moonland.

dsc_4941Peaceful landscape of wild flowers and scattered vegetation near Lamayuru.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApproaching Lamayuru.

dsc_5183Series of white stupas along mountain foot.

dsc_5191Crossing a bridge of prayer flags.

dsc_5193A group of students leaving a school building in a small mountain town.

dsc_5207A group of road maintenance staff resting beside the road.

dsc_5423Locals getting off a public bus at a small village.

dsc_5384Dramatic moon-like landscape and prominent gateway on our way back to Leh from Likir.

dsc_5408Basgo Gompa is another famous monastery west of Leh.

dsc_5449Magnetic Hill of Ladakh: an optical illusion of what looks like a downhill road is actually an uphill road.

dsc_5445Lots of colourful trucks were on the road with us during the day.

dsc_5483After seeing Lamayuru, Alchi and Likir, we headed back to Leh under the yellow sunlight in the late afternoon.

* * *

Other posts on 2016 Ladkadh & Delhi:
Introduction – LADAKH – The Land of High Passes, India
Day 1.1 – ENROUTE TO LEH, Ladakh
Day 1.2 – WALK TO MAIN BAZAAR, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.3 – LEH PALACE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.4 – HOTEL LADAKH GREENS, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.1 – NAMGYAL TSEMO GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
Day 3.2 – THIKSEY GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.3 – CHEMREY & TAKTHOK GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.4 – HEMIS & STAKNA GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.5 – MATHO GOMPA & SHEY PALACE, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.1 – ON THE ROAD WEST OF LEH, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.2 – LAMAYURU GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.3 – ALCHI & LIKIR GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.4 – FORT ROAD IN THE EVENING, Leh, Ladakh
Day 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi


DAY 3: MATHO GOMPA & SHEY PALACE, Indus Valley, Ladakh, India

The last two destinations of our day at the Indus River Valley were Matho Gompa and Shey Palace.  Situated on a mount directly opposite from Thiksey Gompa, Matho offered us a fantastic view of Thiksey beyond the lush green river valley.  The late afternoon sun and moving clouds cast a series of dark blue shadows on the the yellow mountain slopes.  We wandered around Matho on our own but didn’t stay for long.  The Buddhist prayer halls were colourful and parts of the monastery were relatively new, but we were more more interested in the surrounding landscapes.  Matho is the only Sakyapa monastery in Ladakh.

On our way back to Leh, we dropped by our last stop of the day, Shey Palace.  Shey was the summer palace of the Leh royal family in the past.  A sloped path led us to the main entrance of the former palace, which stood mostly in ruins nowadays.  A beggar woman dressed in dark shawl was gaining attention of passing tourists.  Most of the palace was empty and free for explore, except the hall where a 12m statue of golden Shakyamuni Buddha stood that we needed to purchase admission tickets.  At almost three storey tall, we could only see the top third of the Buddha statue.  On the roof and around the palace compound, there were white stupa, colourful prayer flags and mani stone pebbles at every corner we turned.  The little marsh across the street and the distant mountains glowed in the golden afternoon sun.  By the time we returned to Leh, it was already over 6:30pm.  We were tired and hungry and decided to go for Tibetan food before returning to our hotel.

DSC_4484Thiksey Gompa and distant mountains viewed from Matho Gompa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEntry stairway into the main compound of Matho Gompa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMain courtyard of Matho Gompa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASupreme scenery was everywhere at Matho Gompa.

DSC_4499Some of the prayer halls were quite new and richly decorated.

DSC_4505Some parts of the building still maintained the centuries-old atmosphere.

DSC_4516View from the rooftop of Matho.

DSC_4545The golden Wheel of Dharma and deer sculpture on the roof of Matho.

DSC_4553_01Two local women rested near a stupa at the entrance of Matho Gompa.

DSC_4559Prayer flags and distant mountains at Matho Gompa.

DSC_4577Entry pathway up to the Shey Palace.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFront view of Shey Palace.  Much of the former royal palace was much in ruins today.

DSC_4610The three-storey tall golden Shakyamuni Buddha at Shey Palace.

DSC_4630Some of the crumbling buildings above the palace mount were poorly maintained.

DSC_4653Prominent stupa, distant mountains and the lush green Indus River Valley.

DSC_4665Large stupa back lighted by the afternoon sun.

DSC_4678Some parts of Shey Palace was really crumbling down.

DSC_4695White stupa and colourful prayer flags against the blue sky were quite photogenic.

DSC_4697Mani stones of various sizes with the six syllabled mantra of Avalokiteshvara were common at Shey Palace and many other monasteries in Ladakh.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe nearby marsh across from the Shey Palace under the late afternoon sun.

* * *

Other posts on 2016 Ladkadh & Delhi:
Introduction – LADAKH – The Land of High Passes, India
Day 1.1 – ENROUTE TO LEH, Ladakh
Day 1.2 – WALK TO MAIN BAZAAR, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.3 – LEH PALACE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.4 – HOTEL LADAKH GREENS, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.1 – NAMGYAL TSEMO GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
Day 3.2 – THIKSEY GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.3 – CHEMREY & TAKTHOK GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.4 – HEMIS & STAKNA GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.5 – MATHO GOMPA & SHEY PALACE, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.1 – ON THE ROAD WEST OF LEH, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.2 – LAMAYURU GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.3 – ALCHI & LIKIR GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.4 – FORT ROAD IN THE EVENING, Leh, Ladakh
Day 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi


DAY 3: HEMIS & STAKNA GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh, India

Famous for its annual festival celebrating the birth of Padmasambhava (8th-century Buddhist master who built the first monastery in Tibet), splendid architecture, and rich collections, Hemis Gompa is the biggest Tibetan monastery in Ladakh.  We arrived at the wrong time as the monastery was almost closed for lunchtime.  We had no choice but to skip the museum, and had a quick peek of the golden statues in the two main halls before wandering around the complex’s exterior and rooftop areas.  As the most well known monastery in the region, Hemis certainly was the most popular destination in Ladakh in terms of number of tourists.  Other than tourists, there were also local pilgrims who came for worship.  There was an old couple with their children walked around the gompa, lay prostrate on the ground and prayed in front of different prayer halls.  We found our way up to the rooftop of Hemis.  On the roof, we followed a black dog wandering around from one flat roof to another.  It was a pity that most rooms were locked while we wandered around the building.  Situated in a rocky valley, the rooftop of Hemis offered good views of the surrounding rocky mountains.  After a leisure stroll around the compound, we returned to the main courtyard where tourists were waiting for the museum and prayer halls to reopen their doors after lunch break.  We, however, decided to move on to our next destination of the day.

DSC_4286All visitors including us arrived at a short staircase in front of Hemis.

DSC_4290The worshiping couple and their children at the main courtyard of Hemis.

DSC_4295The old couple took their time to pay respect at various locations at Hemis despite most doors were locked for lunchtime.

DSC_4307The rooftop of Hemis contained a series of walkways and sunken courts.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASimilar to other Tibetan Buddhist buildings, high windows above the main prayer hall provide a source of natural light shining into the hall interior below.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFlags were flying high by the time we reached the top.

DSC_4309Birdeye view of the main courtyard from the rooftop.

DSC_4314Stupa and rock mountains across the valley from Hemis.

DSC_4318The female worshiper appeared on the roof paying respect to some of the residing monks.

DSC_4333We followed this dog while touring the rooftop of Hemis Gompa.

DSC_4356Tourists were hanging out at the main courtyard of Hemis, waiting for the doors to reopen.

***

After Hemis, our next stop was Stakna Gompa, another monastery of the Drukpa Buddhist sect.  Atop a mount overlooking Indus River, Stakna is another Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Ladakh famous for its views.  Around 30 monks reside at the gompa, but we hardly saw anyone there except a lama who unlocked some of the doors for us.  Many murals and architectural decorations at Stakna were covered in a layer of fresh paint.  The paint colours were vivid and glossy and we could hardly see the original religious art work, except at some of the back halls behind altars where old manuscripts, murals and timber statues could be found.  After getting up at 6 and visiting four monasteries, we were already a little tired by the time we reached Stakna.  Still we enjoyed our brief time at this small monastery, especially the open mountain views from its terraces.

DSC_4367Approaching Stakna Gompa from the parking lot.

DSC_4390Walls and timber structures were coloured with a coat of fresh paint at Stakna.

DSC_4396The fresh paint touch ups found its way onto the walls of the main prayer hall.

DSC_4400Old golden statues at a back room of the main prayer hall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the back rooms of the main prayer hall was swamped with natural light from a timber window.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOlder murals appear at some of the back rooms.

DSC_4412Looking from Indus River, Stakna Gompa looked handsome standing proudly atop a rocky mount.

DSC_4382Prayer flags flew high at a terrace of Stakna with Indus River as backdrop.

DSC_4387Stupa and layers of arid mountains as seen from a terrace at Stakna Gompa.

* * *

Other posts on 2016 Ladkadh & Delhi:
Introduction – LADAKH – The Land of High Passes, India
Day 1.1 – ENROUTE TO LEH, Ladakh
Day 1.2 – WALK TO MAIN BAZAAR, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.3 – LEH PALACE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.4 – HOTEL LADAKH GREENS, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.1 – NAMGYAL TSEMO GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
Day 3.2 – THIKSEY GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.3 – CHEMREY & TAKTHOK GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.4 – HEMIS & STAKNA GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.5 – MATHO GOMPA & SHEY PALACE, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.1 – ON THE ROAD WEST OF LEH, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.2 – LAMAYURU GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.3 – ALCHI & LIKIR GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.4 – FORT ROAD IN THE EVENING, Leh, Ladakh
Day 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi


DAY 3: CHEMREY & TAKTHOK GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh, India

After Thikse Gompa, we continued our “monastic journey” in the Indus Valley.  Next we came to Chemrey, another monastery erected atop a rocky mount in a picturesque setting.  Built in 1664, Chemrey Gompa belongs to the Drukpa Lineage (Red Hat Sect) of Tibetan Buddhism.  We were the only visitors at the monastery.  We wandered around the complex for a bit, reached the top level and saw an entrance door with a sign that said “museum”.  Prayers could be heard from inside.  A little lama aged about ten sat by the door stared at us curiously.  We removed our shoes at the entrance and entered the small museum.  Inside, there was another lama, probably in his twenties, reading out loud from a book of Buddhist prayers.  The prayer that led us to the museum probably came from him.  He stopped and greeted us, and sold us admission tickets for the museum.  Although small, the museum contained a decent collection of Buddhist artifacts such as thangka, musical instruments, ceremonial items, ropes, etc.  After the museum visit, we looked down to the courtyard below the museum and saw a lama sweeping the floor.  Stood beside him was the little lama whom we met at the museum.  He waved and signaled us to follow him and we did.  He unlocked the door at one end of the courtyard and invited us to enter a dukhang (assembly hall).  The hall covered with fine timber flooring was richly decorated with murals and statues.  We took our time to check out the murals, while the little lama curiously kept an eye on us.  The little lama was a delightful child.  He grinned and giggled all the time and always turned his head to peek at us as we followed him from behind.  We tried to communicate with him in simple English and hand gestures.  Next he led us to a prayer hall.  At the window, he pointed down towards a school complex downhill that he attended.  We had a good time following the little lama around Chemrey.  His curious looks and innocent giggles left us fond memories of Chemrey.

Next we arrived at another lamasery about 46km east of Leh.  Founded in the 16 century, Takthok Monastery is the only Nyingma monastery (the oldest school of Red Hat Sect Tibetan Buddhism) in Ladakh.  Takthok contains two parts, the old and the new.  Our driver dropped us off at the new part, where we walked down a stepped pathway trying to find our way into the buildings.  Unfortunately all buildings we passed by were locked.  We then walked to the old part of Takthok.  Our driver was also there and he led us into a number of dark temple rooms against a rock cliff that resembled natural caves.  Much of the ceiling and wall murals were darken by centuries of candle smoke.  Other than murals, ancient scriptures were kept inside the prayer halls, on old wooden shelves by the altar.  They looked old and fragile.  Before we left Takthok, we went in to a new and richly decorated assembly hall with rows of seating.  No one was in the hall.  On the low prayer tables, there were musical and ceremonial instruments.  At the centre of the room we noticed an alcohol like odour coming from a bottle that seemed belonged to certain rituals.  It was already midday when we finished touring Takthok.  Then our next stop was Hemis Gompa, the largest monastery in Ladakh.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen we arrived at Chemrey Gompa, we saw a little lama stood by a lookout who would later become our private guide at monastery.

DSC_4133After we went through the monastery gate, we arrived at a small courtyard with prayer wheels and typical whitewash walls and vividly decorated shading device.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the top level of the monastery we arrived at the small museum.

DSC_4160The courtyard below the museum, where the older lama was swiping the floor in front of the prayer candles.

DSC_4148Inside the assembly hall, we could find several well preserved statues.

DSC_4163The assembly hall was colourful and richly decorated.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur guide, the little lama, stood in front of a window.

DSC_4177Our delightful local guide of the monastery.

DSC_4191A unique structure at another courtyard was erected to serve as a source of natural light for the prayer hall below.

DSC_4206The fields were lush green down at the Indus River Valley.

DSC_4207We bid farewell to the little lama and exited Chemrey through the entry gateway.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe passed through a covered walkway of prayer wheels near the monastery entrance.

DSC_4214The magnificent view of Chemrey Gompa was behind us as we left for our next destination.

DSC_4239At Takthok we followed our driver into the old prayer halls.

DSC_4243Many murals at Takthok were not in good conditions.

DSC_4244One of the cave-like prayer hall filled with statues and ancient scriptures.

DSC_4249Main courtyard of Takthok against the rock cliff.

DSC_4253The stair leading up to one of the cave-like prayer hall.

DSC_4265Brass trumpets on table in a new assembly hall.

DSC_4268The new assembly hall at Takthok.

* * *

Other posts on 2016 Ladkadh & Delhi:
Introduction – LADAKH – The Land of High Passes, India
Day 1.1 – ENROUTE TO LEH, Ladakh
Day 1.2 – WALK TO MAIN BAZAAR, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.3 – LEH PALACE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.4 – HOTEL LADAKH GREENS, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.1 – NAMGYAL TSEMO GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
Day 3.2 – THIKSEY GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.3 – CHEMREY & TAKTHOK GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.4 – HEMIS & STAKNA GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.5 – MATHO GOMPA & SHEY PALACE, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.1 – ON THE ROAD WEST OF LEH, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.2 – LAMAYURU GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.3 – ALCHI & LIKIR GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.4 – FORT ROAD IN THE EVENING, Leh, Ladakh
Day 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi