Day 6: Drepung Monastery and Jokhang Temple

Lhasa Travel Blog

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Again we can more or less sleep in, because we won't leave for the Drepung Monastery until nine. We're a little earlier than yesterday at breakfast and at least it's easier to score a vacant table now. None the cleaner though! The breakfast selection is no different than yesterday so I opt again for greasy fried eggs. Oh well, I can surely use the energy here!

Too bad the sun isn't shining today. The grey sky surely works on my mood, but I have good hopes it will clear out eventually. Anyhow, I still think it's smart to wear long trousers and take a rain coat.

It's only a short ride to the Drepung Monastery, just outside of Lhasa. The bus drops us neatly at the parking lot from where we start our climb up again. As I mentioned earlier, most Tibetan monasteries are built on a hill.

On the way up we pass a few little houses where Buddhist nuns live and we get a demonstration of the use of the parabola to boil water using solar power. It comes as no surprise that some group members need to use the loo again. But in the mean while we can observe the local labourers who are restoring some of the monastery buildings. The women carry the stones up, on their back while the men are working on the roof.

When our companions have finally emptied their bladders, we can continue the tour. First we visit the monastery's kitchen. It's enormous! Huge pots are simmering on a giant wood oven.

Afterwards we visit the main temple. Too bad we missed the chanting of the monks (too long toilet stop again!) but we do get to observe the pilgrims kneeling before various statues in the little chapels.

The most important chapel is not accessible for women though and we have to call back a too eager tourist.

Also the amount of offerings is enormous. A monk is counting huge scales filled with bank notes!

Back out, we slowly walk our way down passing many more monastery buildings and chapels. We take our time to take pictures of the Monastery and the surroundings. Not all buildings are accessible for tourists but we can peek in to a little chapel filled with butter candles, where a monk is reciting prayers from a book.

After checking out the various souvenir stalls near the parking lot again, we leave for Norbulingka. This is a park now but it used to be the summer residence of the Dalai Lama. We don't have time to see all the different residences, but we visit the palace of the first and the current Dalai Lama.

  Both palaces are crowded with devote pilgrims throwing themselves down to earth to pay their respects.

In between the palaces there are beautiful gardens. In the palace of the current Dalai Lama, we are allowed into pretty much all the rooms. It's from this Summer residence that the Dalai Lama fled to India and nearly all rooms are left untouched and seem to be waiting for his return from exile.

It strikes me that the interior of this palace is very sober. The small bedroom has nothing but a simple little single bed and also the bathroom is very basic.

Afterwards the bus takes us back to the hotel and we have free time until 3PM, when we'll visit the Jokhang temple. It's close to lunch time again and following our pattern, we head for Dunya again.

Fellow travellers Joep and Anja join us and we share a table. I order onion soup and bread and it's once again delish!

After lunch we finally discover the bananas we were looking for from a little stall on the road. And we score some soft rolls and chocolate filled bread at a bakery shop a little further down the same street. It would be a good alternative for the friend egg breakfast tomorrow.

By 3 PM we gather in the lobby to walk towards the Jokhang temple. This is the most holy temple for the Tibetans and it's located in the old Tibetan quarter, just around the corner from the hotel. In front of the temple it's again full of pilgrims and devotees.

Inside the temple is very dark but it does look pretty much similar to the previous temples we visited in the Sera and Drepung monasteries.

There is the slightly sour smell of butter in the air and everything you touch: columns, door knobs, balustrades etc... All is slippery with yak butter.

After a small tour inside, we climb via the first and second floor to the roof of the temple. What a view! The sun is shining brightly and makes the golden ornaments on the roof shimmer like a diamond. From this angle you can overlook the entire Barkhor Square with its pilgrims and the little stalls and from afar you can see the Potala towering over the city. In one word: FANTASTIC! We get a bit of free time to look around and then we gather again with the group. A few members appear to be missing still. We wait and wait but they never show up. In the end we assume that they have just left without notifying anyone.

Not very nice of them!

Jimmy still wants to take us for one more stop. Nearby is a large store where the real Tibetan artefacts are sold. It's a big state owned store and hence also very expensive. We take a quick look but then inform that we'll go and do our own thing for the rest of the afternoon.

We walk one last time the barkhor and shop for the last souvenirs. This time I actually score the little prayer wheel I had been looking for. After this last shopping spree, we take a quick look at the antique street, but it is not much of a sight. Beside, there's not too much time to hang around anymore because we need to get ready for dinner. Ils and I signed up for a dinner annex dance performance.

At 7PM we leave the hotel with a small group. At the very last moment a few more people cancelled and now there are only seven of us left.

The restaurant where we are going is really close so we can walk. Tashi II turns out to be a small and cosy place with a typical Tibetan interior. And we are lucky 'cos our group is given a table right next to the stage. First there still is a buffet dinner. Usually I am not too keen on this type of meals so I am not expecting much. But it turns out quite alright! There are noodles, rice with raisins, momo and other delicious and fried titbits. Only good stuff! There is even yoghurt for dessert.

After dinner the show kicks off. This is equally small scale and rather intimate. Some music is being played and a group of three female dancers show us some traditional dances. It's all very simple but exactly this simplicity makes for the beauty of it all.

You can clearly see that the dancers and the musicians are having a good time.

There's a man playing the banjo with a big smile on his face all performance long. It works contagious!

The show ends with a surprise: there is the yak jumping through the crowd of astounded spectators and playing around pulling all sorts of jokes. And with that the performance is finished. It's quite early still. It's barely past nine. On our exit we receive another white scarf for good luck and blessings.

Ils and I are not in the mood yet to return back to our hotel and are thinking of getting one last "altitude sickness" tea at Dunya. Our tour rep and a couple of travel buddies decide to join us. This time we get a table from upstairs, at the bar and we hang around for a while chatting along. But nonetheless we do not make it late. No sleeping in tomorrow as we will be leaving Lhasa to go and explore the countryside of Tibet. I  really look forward to that!


















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Jokhang temple, Lhasa
Jokhang temple, Lhasa
trying yak butter tea
trying yak butter tea
Pilgrims outside the Jokhang temp…
Lhasa Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
cosy and traditional
The Tashi II is one for the two restaurants belonging to the Kirey hotel. It's located in the courtyard of the hotel, right off East Beijing Road. … read entire review
photo by: mountaingirl