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Posts tagged “Shannan

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.

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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

 

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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.

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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 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 5 (1/4): ON THE ROAD IN TIBET (西藏), 2017.09.20

With an area about twice the size of France and including some of the most remote mountainous landscapes in the world, traveling in the Autonomous Region of Tibet takes time and patience, and requires a reliable SUV and an experienced driver. We didn’t have sufficient time to venture out to the furthest areas of Tibet, such as the sacred Mount Kailash in Ngari Prefecture.  We did, however, managed to include a 6-day excursion out of Lhasa as the second part of our Tibetan journey with a classic tourist route taking in Shannan (山南), Gyantse (江孜),  Shigatse (日喀則), Mount Everest Base Camp (珠穆朗瑪峰大本營) and Lake Namtso (納木錯).  We hired the SUV and driver through Pazu, the owner of Spinn Cafe.  As our agent, Pazu took care of our border travel permit (for visiting the Mount Everest area) in Lhasa.  He also told us a little about the habits of Tibetan drivers, meals and accommodation options before departure.

Many Chinese travelers who come to Tibet would arrange a shared SUV through online tourist forum or notice boards in hostels and local travel agents.  In a small group of three, we decided to hire a 4-seat SUV on our own.  Writing to Pazu prior the trip, we requested for an experienced and safe Tibetan driver who would not smoke in the car, and a decent 4×4 SUV vehicle with a proper AL or BL license plate (official license plate of local tourist vehicle).  It turned out that Sangzhu (桑珠), our Tibetan driver for the journey, was a highly experienced driver.  Despite his sometimes unpredictable attitude and services, his driving was safe and efficient.  The intercity roads in Tibet were better than we expected.  The roads to and from Everest Base Camp were dusty and occasionally treacherous.  Everyday we spent hours on the road between towns or destinations.  Scenery along the way was often spectacular with golden barley fields, sleepy pastures, picturesque villages, rugged plateaus, and distant snow-capped mountains.

01The white Toyota SUV offered us a comfortable means of travel and a movable resting place between different sights.

11Our driver Sangzhu (桑珠) with Mount Everest in the background.

02Most of the intercity highways were decently paved.

05Along the way, we saw various new infrastructure under construction, including highways and railways linking Tibet to other parts of China.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor most of the time, we passed by a number of arid landscape such as the huge sanddunes in Shannan.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFields of Tibetan Highland Barley, a local cereal for Tibetan milk tea, alcohol and tsampa, were common sights along the roads.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur SUV was occasionally blocked by flocks of sheep and cattle in the rural areas.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the road, we encountered quite a number of motorcyclists and cyclists who were willing to brave the chilly winds of the high altitude.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs one of the high profile tourist attraction in Tibet, our SUV drove along the Yamdrok Lake (羊卓雍錯) after our brief stop for photos.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe scenery on the road to and from the Everest Base Camp was breathtaking.

10Most parts of the Friendship Highway between Tibet and Nepal was decently paved.

12Due to point-to-point speed and driving time limit, our SUV occasionally would take breaks on the road.  Our driver made use of the last break on the journey to wash the SUV.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn a few occasions, we stopped by a roadside Sichuan eatery for a quick 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