Monasteries and mountains

Gyangze Travel Blog

 › entry 16 of 33 › view all entries

With just a 2 hour drive on to Gyantse, we continued through a valley of baron hills without any sign of life except the occassional cluster of Tibet style houses with a trickle of water icily flowing through.  Stopped briefly to see a mill using traditional techniques of water power to grind the flour.  Worthy of a 5 minutes stop.

Gyantse is a relatively small town dominated by a fort and its own djong.  With a little free time we found a modern looking cafe.  Half full of Chinese military they were very watchful but suprisingly friendly.  Looking and smoking over Lev and my shoulder as we looked through the menu they recommended a couple of items off the Chinese only menu.  Guided by pictures only, Lev went with their recomendation.

  I stuck to our tourist picture menu.  Lev's meal came immediately and was a plate of cold meat with a serious amount of chilli.  Not sure if the military smiles was their practical joke or just them appreciative of us fllowing their advice.  The group overordered again and had our own little Chinese banquet with enough for Lev to share.

Phalkor monastety found within the fort is more photo friendly than previous Tibetan trips.  A small fee and we were ok to take limitless photos of the inside. Another complex of houses for the monks surrounding one central monastery with three inner chapels.  The prayer hall big enough for 500 monks in one sitting.  The three chapels all containing impressive Buddhas either on top of a stupa or 25 foot tall statues shoulder to shoulder around the outer walls.

  One chapel also had two walls full of Buddhist scriptures that looked antiques themsleves. A further chapel upstairs contained a room dedicated to the Nature Lama (where did he come from ?? - apparently the Nature Lama is different to Dalai and Panchen as the Nature Lama is chosen through wiseness as opposed to re-born in to the Dalai or Panchen).  The Nature Lama chapel contained 8 forms of medicine Buddhas that attracts many worshipping for good health.  The latest Nature Lama died in 2009 so a selection process is underway for a replacement.

The other building of worship in complex is the Kumba Stupa.  An impressive building from the outside, it contains 4 levels of Protectors that have various ugly guises and need worshipping to keep evil events happening.

  The lower 3 levels each containing about 20, 6-15 foot statues with mainly scary grimaces in bright blue, red, yellow or gold colourings.  Not even trying to understand all the different protectors, but appreciate the artwork and the apparent importance within Buddhism.  The top floor contained another impressive 20 foot Buddha presiding over visitors.  Every single one of the statues had masses of money thrown at it by local worshippers.

After the tour a few of us went to conquer the hill up to the djong.  Unable to find the path and struggled up scree only to find the road on the other side of the hill.  Djong closed again but provided good views over the city and monastery.  Walked back through the town and became the point of interest and quickly got a crowd following us.

  The kids loving the drawings Antony and Martha made on their school books.  The houses very well made stone structures and every house seemingly owning their own yak or goat that was tethered to the house making the street interesting but very smelly. 

Last day of driving was a big one.  12 hours to get to Lhasa.  Thankfully another lovely morning to climb up again over the high passes.  With my jeep leading out we got 5 minutes out when we saw a bike crash.  Our driver wanted to carry on but we forced him to stop not expecting to see a body lying next to the motorbike.  With blood splattered in the road and the bike a mangled mess against a lamppost, not sure whether the crash killed him or the cold if knocking him unconscious, but there was no way back for him.

  The whole group asked to call the police or an ambulance but our guide advised that we would be questioned for the rest of the day if we did.  We drove off leaving the body at the roadside ! 

Leaving Gyantse there was a lot more farmers plots around with well formed irrigation channels.  However no sign of anything growing as we climbed back over 4000m.  Soon back in amongst ice capped mountains and frozen lakes.  Possibly best scenery of trip. Road still in excellent condition but thiniking I would not like to have been building this road in such a harsh environment.  Made it over the Karola Pass at 4995m and stopped to get some wonderful panoramic pictures with the lake we had been driving alongside for the past 3 hours in the background.

  Descended down through hairpin bends until down in to the Lhasa valley where suddenly there are trees.  After 5 days of little villages and a couple of small cities, Lhasa a sign of a modern city.  Big wide straight avenues and American style blocks.  The buildings bigger versions of elsewhere.  A massive increase in the number of Chinese flags on the top of houses and noticeably on the front row of houses, with the Tibetan flags forced to the rows behind.  Some of the streets displaying boutiques and high end produce.

Our hostal a country mile better than the rest on our trip with electric blankets and in room heaters.  Even though at lower altitude, very much needed as still freezing and trying to snow.  Having lost the rest of my group, went for a wander out to the local market.

  Surrounding the Jokhang temple we will be visiting, a mass of people.  Keeping my hands firmly on my wallet and camera got carried along with the tide of people as we moved in the customary clockwise direction around the temple.  Market selling absolutely everything.  Front of temple full of worshipping Buddhists. However their prostrations upper class compared to elsewhere as they had their own mattresses to knell and lie on.

Went to find a mid range restaurant avoiding the expensive looking tourist places and the street vendors, found a little cafe with an English sign in the window.  However, unable to make myself understood ordering a tea or chai, went with what sounded like jasmine.  Ended up being a half pint of warm milk with yak butter.  Not the tastiest in the world but went with it.  My picture of ribs wasn't ribs, but luckily turned in to sliced pork with wild mushrooms, chilli and spring onion.  Really nice. 

Lhasa sightseeing starts tomorrow.


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photo by: sweettangerine