Lhasa Travel Blog› entry 11 of 22 › view all entries
We met Ross in our hotel lobby at 9:20 this morning before hopping in a taxi on our way to the Potola Palace. The Potola Palace, built on Lhasa's highest point, is a monumental structure with over 2,000 rooms. It was also once home to the Dalai Lama, who now resides in India, and was the center for spiritual and temporal power. We were immediately struck by the beauty and size of the palace, which consists of a white palace (once used for governmental affairs) and a red palace (the spiritual and religious center).
We began to slowly climb the stone steps to the white palace, resting at each landing to catch our breath in the oxygen-depleted air.
As we climbed, Ross informed us that the crimson facades of the buildings are not due to red paint, but are a type of red, dry bush that grows from the building and can last for thousands of years. This red hue is a status symbol that is only permitted on holy and prominent structures in Tibet. It was also used on the building because its porous structure allows the air to enter the building, but it supposedly keeps the humidity out.
Once we reached the top of the stairs, and caught our breath along with the other visitors, we were prepared to enter the white palace. The entrance to the main building has a triple stairway made of steep, thin slabs of crimson-colored wood. We carefully climbed up the left stairway, angling our feet so that it would fit on the steps. We steered clear of the middle set of stairs since it is for the sole use of the Dalai Lama. Inside the palace were vibrant Tibetan carpets made of Yak's hair, colorful walls and ceilings covered with brilliant frescoes painted with minerals, and elaborate statuettes and thrones. We entered the meeting room where the Dalai Lama met with Chinese officials, and the highlight wass viewing the room in which the Dalai Lama, leader of the Yellow Hat Sect, attended to his daily affairss.
Following the white palace, we explored the red palace, which contains the elaborate tombs of all the previous Dalai Lamas. Each of the tombs was decorated with gold and large jewels, and some tombs stood as tall as 43 ft high. Also in the red palace, we had the pleasure of viewing intricate 3D mandalas covered in precious metals and jewels. Ross explained to us that mandalas are visual representations of what enlightenment may look like. We also viewed colorful thangkas, which are religious paintings, often mounted on brocade.
After having spent an hour and a half in the Potola Palace, we began our descent to the street level, which was significantly easier than the climb to the top.
We then enjoyed lunch at the Tibetan Steak House before we walked on foot to the Tibetan Museum. We spent nearly 2 hours in the museum viewing religious artifacts, Tibetan musical instruments, and medical tools. The museum gave us a thorough background on the history of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism, once we looked past the Chinese propaganda.
After being dropped off at our hotel, Jason and I took a short rest before venturing through the streetss on our own for a couple of hours.