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Posts tagged “Tibetan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DSC_2281Pilgrim and prayer wheels along the kora of Jokhang Monastery.

DSC_9630Pilgrim and prayer wheels at Sera Monastery.

DSC_9598Pilgrim at the kora route of the Potala Palace.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DSC_2064Finally the sun rose above the Tashi Dor Peninsula.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DSC_1940Tourist cars kept on arriving at the Tashi Dor Peninsula.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

 


DAY 8 (1/2): SAKYA MONASTERY (ས་སྐྱ་དགོན་པ། 薩迦寺), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.23

Founded by Konchok Gyelpo in 1073, Sakya Monastery is the seat of Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. During its heyday in the 13th and 14th centuries, Sakya abbots were the actual governors of Tibet under the Mongol’s rule.  There are actually two monasteries in Sakya at either side of Trum-Chu River.  While the older north monastery (1073) with its 108 structures has been reduced to ruins over the years, the fortress like south monastery (1268) survives and remains as one of the largest in Tibet.  The impressive fortress like monastery washed with ash grey and white and red vertical stripes symbolizes the trinity of Bodhisattva, and had became the symbol of Sakya.  Everything at Sakya is large in size, from its 16m high main assembly hall to the extensive defensive walls.

Many refers Sakya Monastery as Dunhuang (敦煌) of Tibet because of its remarkable murals, artefacts, and medieval scriptures.   Sealed behind a wall and rediscovered in 2003, the 60m long by 10m tall library wall (拉康欽莫大經堂) behind the altar in the main assembly hall is particularly impressive.  It contains a huge variety of text, 84000 in total, made of different materials and about different subjects from the Yuan Dynasty when Tibet was under Mongol rule.  The equally important murals made in the Mongolian style are also a rarity in China nowadays.  In the main assembly hall, the most valuable object is probably the white conch shell (海螺).  Legends has it that the conch shell originally belonged to the Buddha.  Then it went into the hands of an Indian king, and later became an offering to Kublai Khan (忽必列).  Kublai Khan gave the sacred object to Sakya and it remained in the monastery until present day.  Still capable to make a soft low sound, the conch is still blown by the monk to give blessing to pilgrims.  While we were visiting the main assembly hall, we did see a monk took out the conch to offer blessing to the pilgrims, who were so excited and eager to get as close as possible to the sacred object.  Also from Kublai Khan was one of the huge wood columns in the assembly hall.  With a diameter ranging from 1m to 1.5m, these wood columns are quite impressive disregard who its donor might be.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs soon as we arrived in Sakya, our driver Sangzhu took us to the large dining hall of Manasarovar Sakya Hotel Restaurant for lunch.

02Unlike most other Tibetan monasteries, Sakya’s grey walls with red and white stripes offer a unique visual symbol for Sakya in the past 900+ years.

03.JPGWe headed into the entrance courtyard of Sakya and soon found out that almost all buildings were locked.  Apparently the monks were having lunch somewhere else and we had no choice but to wait for their.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn front of the main assembly hall, we stood by the stone lion and wait for the monk’s return.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASoon more local visitors arrived and waited for the monk’s return.  We decided to take a walk in the enormous compound.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe followed the long and narrow kora route around the central complex.  There were prayer wheels on one side and the defensive high walls on the opposite.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe buildings in Sakya Monastery all seemed really large to us.

06The Western style lamppost and the ash grey wall with red and white stripes somehow didn’t seem too coherent visually.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt last the monk with the keys showed up and led us into the inner monastery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeyond the gate, a dark hallway with beautiful murals and old prayer wheels led us into the inner courtyard.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGoing through the dark hallway with religious murals on both sides felt like going back in time.

12Without extensive renovations, many murals in Sakya were gradually fading.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom the inner courtyard, we walked into the main assembly hall.  In the main hall, we saw the famous white conch shell, wood columns, historical murals and most impressive of all, the 10m high library wall behind the altar.  Just like most other monasteries in Tibet, photography of the interior is prohibited.

14After seeing the interior of the main assembly hall, we climbed the adjacent stair up to the flat roof of the complex.

15The flat roof offers another unique angle to admire the robust architecture of Sakya.

16Via the flat roof, we could walk to a variety of side chapels.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe small chapels are accessible via doorways in the otherwise fortress like walls.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALayers of eaves form a series of interesting lines on the flat roof.

19As we departed from Sakya Monastery, more pilgrims arrived to pay respect to this once most powerful monastery in Tibet.

* * *

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


DAY 8 (2/2): PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road (珠峰路), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.23

After some good rest in the Tent 21 of the Tent Village, we get up at around 7:15am.  The plan was to return to Shigatse (日喀則) for the night and visit the Sakya Monastery along the way.  Outside the tent, many drivers were getting their cars ready for departure. Some travelers would return to Shigatse just like us.  Some would continued heading west to Ngari (阿里) for the sacred Mount Kailash, while others would travel southwest to Zhangmu (樟木) and continued their journey into Nepal.  No matter what destination one chooses to go, every car would require to take the Zhufeng Road (珠峰道) and pass by the spectacular Pang La Pass or the Kya Wu Lha Pass (加烏拉山口).  At about 5200m, the mountain pass is one of the best spots in the world to enjoy the panoramic scenery of Mahalangur Himal, the section of Himalayas that includes four 8000m+ peaks: Everest (8848m – 1st, ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ 珠穆朗瑪峰), Lhotse (8516m – 4th, ལྷོ་རྩེ 洛子峰), Makalu (8485m – 5th, 馬卡魯峰), and Cho Oyu (8188m – 6th, ཇོ་བོ་དབུ་ཡ 卓奧友峰), plus Gyachung Kang (7952m – 11th, 格重康峰).  We wish we had stayed longer at Pang La Pass, but even just a brief stop has already made the journey to Pang La Pass one of the most beautiful roadside lookouts we have ever been to.  The scenery was so dramatic that it truly touched our hearts.  The thrill of seeing all these world famous mountains was hard to describe in words.

01At the Tent Village, the first place every tourists visited after they woke up was of course one of the two toilet facilities.  Headlamps were very helpful even in daytime.

02Unlike the night before, it was foggy and grey at the Everest Base Camp in the morning.

03At 7:45, we took out our backpacks from Tent 21 and prepared for our departure from the Tent Village of the Everest Base Camp.

04It was foggy everywhere.  We were lucky to had such fine weather the evening before to enjoy the scenery of Mount Everest.

05From 5200m at the base camp, our car drove on Zhufeng Road and gradually descended.

06Along the way, we passed by highland pastures…

07…occasionally farming villages in a arid context;

08…fields of Highland Barley where farmers were busy harvesting.

09Most areas along Zhufeng Road were dry and rocky.  Ruins of abandoned houses along the way revealed the harsh survival conditions on the arid Tibetan plateau.

10At 9:30am, we were approaching Pang La Pass.  The first glimpse of the Gyachung Kang (7952m – 11th, 格重康峰) and Cho Oyu (8188m – 6th, ཇོ་བོ་དབུ་ཡ 卓奧友峰) excited us.

11The section of Zhufeng Road at Pang La Pass includes 64 switchbacks climbing gradually from 4100m and to 5200m.  The panorama includes four of the world’s six tallest mountains, including Makalu (8454m), Lhotse (8516m), Everest (8848m), and Cho Oyu (8188m).

12A closer look at Gyachung Kang (left: 7952m, 格重康峰) and Cho Oyu (right: 8188m, ཇོ་བོ་དབུ་ཡ 卓奧友峰) was breathtaking.

13Left of Gyachung Kang and Cho Oyu, the spectacular panorama continued to Mount Everest (8848m, ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ 珠穆朗瑪峰) and Lhotse (8516m, ལྷོ་རྩེ 洛子峰).

14At Pang La Pass, we bid farewell to Mount Everest and the rest of the Mahalangur Himal peaks.

15Turning our back to Pang La Pass, we continued the journey on Zhufeng Road towards National Road 318 (China-Nepal Friendship Highway).

* * *

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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


DAY 7 (2/3): EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.22

Formed by Everest’s Rongphu Glacier (絨布冰川), the Rongphu Valley offers us a designated natural approach to the majestic Mount Everest from its north side.  The valley stretches from Rongphu Monastery (རྫ་རོང་ཕུ་དགོན་ 絨布寺) in the north to Mount Everest in the south.   In front of Rongphu Glacier sits the base camp for professional climbers.  Somewhere between the climber’s base camp and Rongphu Monastery lies the Tent Village catered for the rest of the visitors.  At the terminus of Zhufeng Road (Mount Everest Road), the Tent Village is the closest spot to Mount Everest accessible by vehicle.

screen 3Thanks to Google Maps, we can now obtain a clear three dimensional birdeye’s view of the Tent City of Everest Base Camp and Mount Everest.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASlightly after 6pm, we had finally entered the Tent Village of Everest Base Camp.  The first impression was like arriving at a busy parking lot in a valley.

01Crafted by the Rongphu Glacier (絨布冰川), the base camp is flanked by peculiar rock cliffs towering up the sky.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur driver Sangzhu parked the car and led us into Tent 21.  Apparently all tents were pretty much identical with similar price per bed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInside Tent 21, there were about 8 bed spaces in a common dorm setting, a shelf of food and drinks, a stove, a few tables and a counter selling tourist souvenir.  The owner also stayed with us in the tent.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the middle of the Tent Village, there was the world’s highest post office where a few tourists were waiting for the postman’s return.  Apparently the post office doesn’t sell postal stamps there but can mail out postcards if a postal stamp is already attached.

06Behind the Tent City, we could see Mount Everest emerging from the fast moving clouds.  Perhaps the time was too late, the environmental friendly shuttle bus between the Tent Village and the climber’s base camp was not running when we were there.  We followed other tourists to walk along the rocky path towards the mountain, and reach a stone plaque after 15 minute’s walk.

07The rewarding moment had finally arrived as the clouds began to thin out.  The tallest mountain on Earth was right in front of us.  At 8848m the summit of Mount Everest was still over 3600m above us, despite we had reached 5200m above sea level.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur rewarding minutes ticked by as the sun began to set.  Everywhere was getting dark quickly except the snow-capped Everest that was tall enough to receive the day’s last bit of sunlight.

09At 8pm just before sunset, Mount Everest stood silently under the yellow spotlight of the setting sun.  Looking at the shear beauty of the snow-capped summit, recalling all the past expedition stories and absorbing the legendary aura and spiritual power of the Everest, it was truly magical.

10It was time for us to retreat into the tent and shook off the cold.  We had a simple meal of instant cup noodles and canned sardines.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt 9pm, the boy of the owner was already sleeping soundly in bed under thick comfortable blankets.

* * *

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

 


DAY 7 (1/3): ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.22

Referred by Tibetans as “Goddess Mother of Mountains,” Chomolungma (ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ 珠穆朗瑪峰) which commonly known as the Mount Everest, towers beyond the rest of the Himalayan peaks along the border between China and Nepal.  From the north, tourists can come close to admire Everest’s majestic north face from the Tent Village (珠穆朗瑪峰大本營), where a cluster of tent structures were set up to serve tourists, while the real base camp for climbers at 5200m is off limit to normal tourists.  At 5150m above sea level, the Tent Village of Everest Base Camp was the highest point in our entire journey.  Arrived in Tibet for a week’s time and we were well acclimatized for the high altitude.  Our plan was to stay the night at the Tent Village to boost our chance to see the world’s highest peak.  Weather was of course the biggest unknown.  It was not uncommon for tourists to be let down by poor weather and find the snow-capped Everest well concealed in the clouds.

At about 8:30am we left Shigatse for Tibet’s Everest Base Camp.  In the car, we were excited and kept our fingers crossed to hope for a moment of clear sky when we arrived at the base camp.  We spent most of the day to cover the 350km distance from Shigatse to the base camp.  The route was mainly well paved along the China-Nepal Friendship Highway, except the last 100km of gravel road before reaching the Tent Village.

01Shigatse is known as the “fertile land”.   Along the journey, we often passed by golden fields of Highland Barley (青稞).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPolitical slogan such as “strengthen ethnic unity, create a beautiful Tibet” could be seen everywhere in Tibet, even on remote mountain slope.

04As we headed west on the National Highway 318 (China-Nepal Friendship Highway), we passed by a number of roadside shrines and mountain passes with colourful prayer flags.

05Despite Tibet is mainly arid in climate, its river valleys are fertile and heavily cultivated.

07The National Highway 318, known as the China-Nepal Friendship Highway, is a nicely paved road that connects Shigatse with the Zhangmu border town.

08Some parts of the valley seems like a semi-desert, covered with sand, gravel, salt and moss.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt around 2:30pm, we stopped by a restaurant at the intersection of National Highway 318 (China-Nepal Friendship Highway) and Country Road 216 near Shelkar/ New Tingri (ཤེལ་དཀར། 協格爾鎮) for lunch.

09After lunch, we journey continued southwest towards the Everest Base Camp.  Before our car left the National Highway 318, we passed by some highland pastures.

DSC_1154In less than an hour, we finally left the highway and arrived at the gateway of Everest National Park.  Sangzhu dropped us at the admission office to get our admission tickets.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe continued to drive on Zhufeng Road (Mount Everest Road) for another 2 hours.  The sun was moving west as we get closer to our destination.  We were a little nervous because of the unpredictable weather, but also full of anticipation.  At 5:20pm, we were just minutes away from Rongbuk Monastery.  Beyond the clouds in front of us we could barely make out the profile and tip of Chomolungma or Mount Everest (ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ 珠穆朗瑪峰).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt 4980m above sea level, Rongbuk Monastery (རྫ་རོང་ཕུ་དགོན་ 絨布寺) is the highest monastery in the world.  It offers tourists simple accommodation.

13If the sky was clear, we could see the Mount Everest from the stuba at Rongbuk Monastery (རྫ་རོང་ཕུ་དགོན་ 絨布寺).  Yet, luck was not on our side.  All we could see was a thick layer of clouds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe knew Chomolungma or Mount Everest (ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ 珠穆朗瑪峰) was right in front of us, but we just couldn’t see it with our own eyes.  The Tent Village of Everest Base Camp (珠穆朗瑪峰大本營) was just minutes away.  All we could hope for was a moment of clear sky before sunset.

* * *

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


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

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

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

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe ordered three dishes and yogi berry tea.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYak meat was a Tibetan specialty.

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

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

* * *

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

 

 


DAY 6 (2/3): PALCHO MONASTERY (དཔལ་ཆོས་དགོན། 白居寺), Gyantse (རྒྱལ་རྩེ་ 江孜), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.21

Back in 2008 when we were living in London, we watched a five-episode documentary on BBC Four called “A Year in Tibet.”  Director Sun Shuyun followed and filmed the lives of a shaman and his family, monks at Gyantse Monastery, a rickshaw driver, a Communist party worker, a builder, a doctor, and a hotel manager in the city of Gyantse for a year.  In the film, Tibet’s third largest city appears to be peaceful and spiritual, while her inhabitants lead relatively simple, religious and traditional lives.   Director Sun spent a year to understand individual lives in and around Gyantse.  We, on the other hand, had only two hours to stop by Gyantse to see its iconic Kumbum (multi-level chorten with stacked Buddhist chapels) of Palcho Monastery.

The sleepy Gyantse had its heyday between 14th and 15th century, when the city was an important stop in the trade route between India and Tibet.  The striking Kumbum was also completed in the 15th century.  Being the largest chorten in Tibet, the Kumbum is 32m high, consisted of 9 tiers (5 square and 4 circular) with 108 small chapels, and approximately 100,000 Buddhist figures in murals and statues.  The Kumbum belongs to Palcho Monastery, which also includes other monastery buildings, such as the Tsulaklakang Monastery main assembly hall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter a long day of car journey, we finally arrived in Gyantse 15 minutes before 5pm.   We came just in time to have a quick tour of the magnificent Kumdum..

02Inside the complex of Palcho Monastery, we first walk by the main assembly hall of Tsulaklakang Monastery.  Since the time was late, we skipped the main assembly hall and went straight to the Kumbum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe first look of the Kumbum was stunning.

04Five tiers of square layout and four circular, the Kumbumis a three dimensional representation of the Buddhist mandala.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn clockwise direction, we circled the building veranda and checked out the small chapels on each level.

06Despite many statues were damaged during the Cultural Revolution, fortunately many murals survived to the present day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEach chapel is dark and small, similar to a small cave, with an altar on one end and Buddhist murals on all walls.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASitting on a lotus platform, Achala or Chandamaharoshana is a wrathful deity that helps a person to turn negative aspects into compassion and wisdom.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALike most Tibetan monastery, there is a tall pole of prayer flags in front of the Kumbum.

10At the back side, we could see other monastery buildings as well as the red monastery wall on the rocky ridge.

12To the south lies the prominent Gyantse Dzong (江孜宗山城堡) and the old city of Gyantse.

13Built in the 14th century, the Gyantse Dzong (江孜宗山城堡) is celebrated today for the heroic history of the Tibetans who fought to the last breathe against the British invasion in 1903-1904.

14After reaching the 5th floor (Bumpa), we checked out the four last chapels.  The way up to the roof was locked.  After we returned to the ground level, it was time to bid farewell to this wonderful piece of architecture.

15A final look at the detail of the circular top, including the level with the eyes painted on the walls.

16Most tourists were gone as we exited the monastery complex.  We returned to where Sangzhu dropped us off and continued our last 90 minutes of journey to Shigatse.

* * *

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEateries and souvenir vendors surrounded the parking lot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10Unfortunately many murals were vandalized during the Cultural Revolution.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

 

 


DAY 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.

* * *

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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


Day 4 (1/3): KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (དགའ་ལྡན་ 甘丹寺), Lhasa (拉薩), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.19

The closest thing to Tibetan pilgrimage that we experienced in Lhasa was our visit to Ganden Monastery (དགའ་ལྡན་ 甘丹寺).  Slightly after 5am, we left the hotel and walked to the street intersection of Yutuo Road and Duosenge Road near the Jokhang Monastery.  Several locals had already gathered at the street corner waiting for the public buses designated for different monasteries around the city.  The bus for Ganden Monastery soon arrived and we were told to get on with the pilgrims.  Foreign tourists were not permitted to take these pilgrim buses.  As visitors from Hong Kong we were allowed to join the locals.  Before departure, a vendor get on the bus to sell prayer flags.  We picked a five-coloured one that costed 50 RMB.  Before leaving Lhasa, the bus stopped by a security checkpoint where all passengers were required to register with our identity cards, and a local bakery where the majority of the passengers including us went down to get some bread for breakfast.  Soon our bus left Lhasa into the countryside northeast of the city.  After a two-hour bus ride, our bus finally arrived at Ganden Monastery on Wangbur Mountain at about 8am.

Just like our Drepung visit, we decided to walk the kora pilgrim route around the monastery before visiting the actual buildings.  From the parking lot, we followed a sloped path heading up the hill behind the monastery.  After making a turn in front of a small security station, we soon arrived at the hilltop overlooking the monastery.  A pilgrim stood by an incense burner surrounded by myriad of prayer flags.  We took out our 5-colour prayer flags, tied it to the flag cluster, and made a wish for a smooth journey ahead of us.  We continued onto the winding kora path along the slope.  The path soon split into two: the upper and lower.  We followed the upper path and passed by a number of small shrines.  We took out the bread we bought and sat down beside the path for a brief rest.  Beyond the scenic valley of Lhasa River, layers of mountains extended as far as the eye could see.  Further down the slope there were more prayer flags, small shrines and probably a small platform for sky burials.  We followed several local pilgrims to finish the latter half of the kora and arrived at the monastery at its far end.

01We passed by the forecourt of Jokhang Monastery at around 5:30am.  Pilgrims were burning some sort of plants at the incense burners.

02After arriving at the parking lot Ganden Monastery, we walked uphill along a path heading to the trailhead of the kora pilgrim route.

03At the hilltop, the view of Ganden Monastery was spectacular.

04A local dog followed us from the parking lot all the way up to the hilltop.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the hilltop, a local pilgrim was preparing offerings at the incense burner.

06We tied our 5-coloured prayer flags at the hilltop overlooking Ganden Monastery.

07The kora path continues beyond the prayer flags to the backside of the hill.

08We soon reached the first shrines along the kora path.

09Below the kora path, the Lhasa River passed through the valley behind the Ganden Monastery.

10Also known as Kyi River, Lhasa River is a tributary of Yarlung Tsangpo River.

11Farming terraces occupy a valley below the Ganden Monastery.

12The kora path split into a few footpaths along the slope, connecting a series of pilgrim shrines.

13The kora offered us a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains.

14There were many violet wild flowers on the green slope along the path.

15 Some pilgrims took the lower kora route along the green slope.

17Towards the end of the kora path, we once again passed under a series of prayer flags.

19After the prayer flags, a few more Buddhist shrines came to sight, as we approached the Ganden Monastery at its far side.

18At the incense burner near the end of the kora path, we could see the winding vehicular road that our bus first arrived.

20The winding road where our bus zigzagged up earlier in the morning looked wonderful from a distance.

DSC_0190We entered the monastery compound from its far end.

* * *

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

 

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

 


DAY 3 (1/2): POTALA PALACE (ཕོ་བྲང་པོ་ཏ་ལ་ 布達拉宮), Lhasa (拉薩), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.18

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.

01Unlike the mysterious night scene, the morning view of the Potala was splendid and elegant.

02During our visit, we only had access to small parts of the White and Red Palace.

03Despite the access and photography restrictions, a visit to the Potala is still a must-do for most tourists in Lhasa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo 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.

05From the main ramp, we could clearly see the Potala Square (布達拉宮廣場) beyond Beijing Road.

06After an exhausting climb to the top, we finally reached the entrance gate and the ticket office.

07From the entrance gate, we could see the beautiful landscape outside of the city of Lhasa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe mural of the heavenly guards and other mythical figures caught the attention of every visitors passed through the entrance gate.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe entrance door was beautifully decorated with colourful details.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the entrance gate, we passed through a flight of colourful stair up to the entrance courtyard of the White Palace called Deyang Shar.

11The 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.

12The visit of the Potala for all tourists begins with the White Palace.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the Deyang Shar, groups of tourists began their palace visit via a steep stair.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the visit we exited the Potala at the back side of the palace.

15We walked down a pleasant walkway down the Marpo Ri.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe walkway led us down to the kora path of pilgrims that surrounded the base of the Potala.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlong the kora path there were small shrines for pilgrims.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANear the Zongjiao Lukang Park, we passed by a popular shrine frequented by pilgrims.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe followed the kora path and entered the Zongjiao Lukang Park (宗角祿康公園) north of the palace.

20We strolled for a bit in Zongjiao Lukang Park and then moved on to find a small noodle eatery nearby for lunch.

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe ordered yak meat and pancake.

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

05The forecourt of Jokhang is always busy with pilrims.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20Details of the golden ornaments on the roof.

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

* * *

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


DAY 2 (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).

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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