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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

 

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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 (6/6): NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa (拉薩), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.17

Across the street from the Potala lies the 600m x 400m Potala Square (布達拉宮廣場).  Every night, at the centre of the square the large musical fountain attracts a small group of spectators to watch the dancing water jets in front of the architectural icon of Lhasa.  The once mystical scene of the Potala with flickering candle lights at each window is now replaced with consistent flood lights illuminated from below.  Today, after the palace museum closes for the evening, there are hardly any light appear from inside the palace windows.  In the evening, stream of pilgrims pass in front of the palace, and so as the busy traffic on Beijing Road, and groups of tourists by the musical fountain at the Potala Square.

We didn’t come for the fountain show, but for the water puddles on the floor.  According to Pazu of Spinn Cafe, the water puddles of the musical fountain provide a great opportunity to photograph the splendid reflection of the Potala Palace.  All we needed to do was to wait for the moments of gaps between the water jets changed their programmed movements.  The uplights changed colours simultaneously as the water rose and fell.  Beyond Beijing Road, the well-lit backdrop of the Potala seemed a little distant and lonely.

DSC_9379.JPGAfter a nice chat with Pazu of Spinn Cafe, we took a taxi to the Potala for its evening view.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANear Potala west entrance, we crossed Beijing Road via a pedestrian tunnel and arrived at the enormous Potala Square.

DSC_9417We walked to the musical fountain near the centre of Potala Square.

DSC_9406Then we waited for the photogenic moments when the water jets stopped and the tranquil reflection of the palace appeared on the ground.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWatching the tourist silhouettes posing in the reflection was quite a pleasant scene.

* * *

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 (3/6): DREPUNG MONASTERY (འབྲས་སྤུངས་ /哲蚌寺), Lhasa (拉薩), Tibet, (西藏), 2017.09.17

Tsongkhapa was a famous teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, whose activities led to the founding of the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism.  Drepung Monastery was found in 1416 by Jamyang Choje Tashi Palden, one of Tsongkhapa’s disciple.  He was also known as the second Dalai Lama.  Soon after, Drepung had become a large institution consisted of lamaseries and colleges, forming a religious community of several thousand monks at the foot of Mount Gephel.  Drepung remained as the residence of Dalai Lama until the 5th Dalai Lama moved to Lhasa’s Potala Palace.  Today, a few hundred monks resided at Drepung.  Compared to many Tibetan monasteries, damages caused by the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s was relatively small for Drepung.

Along with Ganden Palace, the residence established by the second Dalai Lama, the four Dratsang (college and administrative organization) still exist today at Drepung Monastery.  After our kora hike, we started our brief visit of Drepung from Gomang College (果芒扎倉).  As one of the four Dratsang, Gomang has its own main Sutra Hall and a number chapels.  We were able to visit most of these spaces, including the flat roof above the Sutra Hall, despite we could not take photos inside the building.  We spent roughly two hours to wander around Drepung Monastery and its main buildings, including Loseling College (洛色林扎倉), Tsogchen Main Assembly Hall (措欽大殿), Ngagpa College (阿巴扎倉), Ganden Phodrang (甘丹頗章), etc.  The entire monastery was like a village with stairs, courtyards and winding alleyways connecting different buildings.  There weren’t many tourists around, except two groups of Western tourists in front of the Main Assembly Hall.

After a thorough wander in the monastery compound, we waited a bit at the parking lot and asked around for the minibus.  No one seemed to know when the minibus would leave.  We decided to follow several pilgrims to walk down to the main gateway.  The walk took about 20 minutes.  We walked past the main monastery gate and continued along the main retail street out to the main road.  Before we reached the main road, we flagged down a taxi who was willing to take us back to Central Lhasa.

DSC_9118A monk carrying a water container in front of the Gomang College (果芒扎倉).

DSC_9115A pilgrim with a bead necklace walking up the entrance stair of the Gomang College (果芒扎倉).

DSC_9141Gomang College (果芒扎倉), the second largest Dratsang (college) in Drepung, was the first building that we visited at the monastery.

DSC_9125The beautiful wall painting at the entrance of Gomang College (果芒扎倉) seemed recently repaired.

DSC_9132It was awfully hot with the sun above our head, but we couldn’t resist not to visit the flat roof above Gomang College (果芒扎倉).

DSC_9146Resembled a village, the Drepung Monastery is a huge compound with lots of buildings and alleyways.

DSC_9154Wandering around the alleyways in Drepung Monastery was quite pleasant especially when there weren’t too many tourists around.

DSC_9158After a while, we soon lost track on how many buildings we had visited as most halls looked quite similar with their white walls, golden roof decorations and entrance setting.  Despite of their similarities, every single building we visited looked gorgeous both outside and inside.

DSC_9162With the powerful highland sunlight, most monastery windows are protected by textile awning canopies.

DSC_9181With 183 columns and an area of about 1800 square metres, Tsogchen Main Assembly Hall (措欽大殿) is the grandest structure in Drepung Monastery.  The plaza in front of the hall is also the largest square in the compound.

DSC_9197The roof above the Tsogchen Main Assembly Hall (措欽大殿) is well worth a visit.

DSC_9198The row of windows on the left is actually celestial windows for the main assembly hall below.

DSC_9201A group of local tourists posted for photograph on the roof terrace of Tsogchen Main Assembly Hall.

DSC_9211We meandered through narrow alleyways and stairs between buildings.

DSC_9221Occasionally we would pass by small stupas where pilgrims would circle around in clockwise direction.

DSC_9219Loseling College (洛色林扎倉), the largest Dratsang (college) in Drepung Monastery, was another highlight in the monastery.

DSC_9240Before the establishment of the Potala, Ganden Phodrang was the residence of the Dalai Lama from the 2nd to the 5th Dalai Lama.

DSC_9241Our visit of the Drepung Monastery ended at Ganden Phodrang (甘丹頗章).

* * *

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 5: PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh, India

Our driver Tashi dropped us off at a bridge at the highest point of Phyang Village.  He suggested us to walk further downhill to first visit the tiny Guru Gompa atop a rocky mount and met us at the Phyang Gompa downhill.  We walked leisurely along the main road into Phyang, the village famous for the Phyang Gompa under the majestic backdrop of Mount Stok Kangri.  The glacial Phyang Nullah carved a narrow river valley into the rocky landscape, extended from the highlands where we just visited down to the village.  Along the nullah were terrace fields of barley, corn, rapeseed flowers, wheat and local vegetables.  Occasionally the lush green fields in the middle of the valley were used as pasture plains for livestock.

We passed by several local homes and reached an open area where several stupas stood.  We climbed the pathway beside the stupas up to a rocky mount where a small Buddhist shrine stood.  We figured it should be the Guru Gompa.  In front of Guru Gompa, there were a few dried goat horns and a colourful prayer flag.  The door was locked locked and no one was around.  From Guru Gompa we had a clear view of Phyang Village, Phyang Gompa and the mountain range beyond.  After a quiet moment on the rocky mount, we headed back down to the main road and continued walking downhill towards Phyang Gompa.  Founded in the 16th century, Phyang Gompa is one of the two monasteries in Ladakh belonged to the School of Drikung Kagyu.  The lamas opened the doors of one of the prayer halls for us.  We spent a short while wandering around the monastery and checked out the colourful stupas in front of the monastery.  By the time we were done visiting Phyang Gompa, Tashi was already at the main parking lot waiting for us.

dsc_5755Water channel led the glacial water of Phyang Nullah downhill to irrigate the farm fields of Phyang.

dsc_5774Terrace fields of rapeseed flowers offered a peaceful utopian setting for Phyang.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWalking down the main road of Phyang Village.

dsc_5779A village school at Phyang.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHigh up on a rocky mount stood the Guru Gompa.

dsc_5800Dried goat horn by the entrance of Guru Gompa.

dsc_5791From Guru Gompa we had a clear view of the village down below and the river valley upstream.

dsc_5830Further downhill from Guru Gompa stood the famous Phyang Gompa.

dsc_5839Local shepherd and livestock.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASeveral green fields were used as pasture lands.

dsc_5845Stupas in front of the Phyang Gompa.

dsc_5892Lamas resting after lunch break at Phyang Gompa.

dsc_5900Young lama at a prayer wheel in Phyang Gompa.

dsc_5906The Phyang Gompa viewed from the stupa cluster.

dsc_5907A cluster of colourful stupas outside of Phyang Gompa.

dsc_5917View of the village from Phyang Gompa.

dsc_5921The Stok Mountain Range viewed from Phyang 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 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