Lhasa Travel Blog

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Right so on to Lhasa, the Tibetan capital. Its only a few hours from Lake Namtso so we arrived the evening on the same day I tried getting up super early at Namtso. And it was such a relief to reach this hotel!. The rooms were big clean and had nice bathrooms. The accomodation at Namtso didnt even have toilets let alone dirty ones! It felt like a proper return to civilization (yeh I know we'd only been in sub average accomodation a few days...but like I said, day one we had 4* hotel and got a taste of luxury far too early!). So straight away me and Vik checked to see if we had HBO (way back in Xi'an our hotel had HBO which was showing 4-5 western movies every English. So after that looking for HBO was the first to do in any new hotel...we never found it!). And there was a huge supermarket across the road selling all the snack foods id been craving for days! So it was a very very Chinese city. Well... except there were clear blue skies (seriously rare in China), it was surrounded by hills, and of course there are still plenty of Tibetan pilgrims.

2nd night in Lhasa everyone met up for a trip to an all you can eat hot pot restaurant. So you just tick off whatever you want from the menu and theyll bring it all out in stages. Obviously all our tables ordered about 4 times as much food as they needed. By the end of the meal everyone was a bit merry and about 6-7 ppl decided to check out the Lhasa nightlife so we went to one of the local nightclubs. It was pretty much the same as any club in China (a bit smaller I spose), which means pretty much the same as anywhere else in the world. Heh but it was a really fun night.

So the next day feeling a bit hungover and constantly out of breath (yeh wed gotten lower since Namtso but probably much more active) a few of us went to one of the monasteries just out of town where the main attraction is the debating monks. Every day at 3pm in one of the monastery courtyards, all the younger monks gather and split up into pairs, one sitting on the ground, and one standing trying to make his argument heard. Apparently they are debating about all different aspects of buddhism and the purpose is to keep things evolving and relavent. But its pretty entertaining! The guy standing has to clap his hands and stamp his feet and really scream whenever he makes a point. So the courtyard is just filled with monks clapping and shouting and sort of pretending to be angry, while the others sit on the floor looking scared, entertained, thoughtful, whatever! But we just watched this for about and hour.

Just before the debating monks Id gone into one of the other buildings which at that time was full of monks chanting led by some guy at the front on a microphone. It was really strange, really cult like! They charge around 60 quid if you wanted to take videos though.

And we made a trip to the main monastery in the town centre (I think it was called Jhokang monastery?), which is THE monastery for tibetan buddhism. So it was surrounded by pilgrims who'd come from all over Tibet, especially around sunset when everyone (maybe thousands) are walking clockwise round the monastery, spinning their prayer wheels and chanting, showing unbelievable devotion and creating a great atmosphere for those of us who arent quite so into the whole Karma thing!

Then on I think the 3rd day the whole group went to Pothala palace. To avoid queueing (4-5 hours apparently) we had to go through local agents who hiked up the price by around 500%. So it cost us 40 quid to get in! Then it is a pretty famous place so it wouldve been stupid not to pay I guess. But it wasnt really worth it. Iniside it was basically a museum of the Dalai Lamas former home, pretty much unrearranged since he was there, but I cant say im particularly into museums at the moment. One interesting thing is all the rooms are tiny! Theres exactly 1000 rooms, but in order to achieve there cant be any particularly large rooms whatsoever unlike what youd see in European palaces. I couldnt take any photos inside...we were told the Chinese army guards would smash your camera if they saw you trying to take a photo. But on the whole I reckon its not a patch on the Forbidden City. Then again plenty of people were blown away, one guy saying he thought it was better than the Vatican museum.

Ha! Yeh I completely forgot to mention the whole everest drama which had been unfolding over the last week. As I mentioned in one of the previous blog entries (Shanghai - written in Lhasa) we werent sure if we'd be able to make it. At first we were told the border between Tibet and Nepal was closed, then that the whole area between Lhasa and Nepal was closed, which would cut out Everest and the rest of Tibet, so everyone was a bit anxious to say the least! Then in Lhasa we found out that was all clear, everything was fine. So we never found out why it was closed, its not like other places where therell be an official announcement, but one things for sure is that the reason it took so long to find out if it was gonna be open or not is that all the officials were on holiday for the big Tibetan yoghurt festival! pfft. It also turned out that archie was pretty much dead and would have to wait in Lhasa to be fixed - and this was probably gonna take weeks. So Riki stayed in Lhasa waiting for the truck to be fixed. And all he could do was wait for weeks! The Chinese were refusing to allow the replacement engine part to be imported from nepal...I heard a rumour they were gonna try and smuggle it across. But eventually somehow Archie was fixed and Riki made it to Kathmandu. I think he only made it about a week ago...well after the rest of us left.

So from now on we were gonna be travelling in a convoy of jeeps, 4 people in each jeep. And the last night was sort of goodbye drinks for Riki, and it ended up being another one of those boozy acoustic guitar singalong nights, in a weird bar which was really just someones living room. Good times.

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photo by: mountaingirl