Gyanze Monastery and a sunny afternoon in Xigaze
Xigaze Travel Blog› entry 8 of 24 › view all entries
We wake up this morning to a sunny sky. Luckily yesterday's grey and wet weather has vanished and I make use of the oportunity to take new sunny pictures of Gyanze's fortress through the back door of the hotel.
Breakfast is served in the big hall behind the reception, decorated with really nice murals of life size horses and landscapes. There is a buffet breakfast and to my delight I spot cornflakes,but they turn out to be hard as rock and inedible. So back to stale toast and jam after all.
After breakfast we load our luggage again in the trunk of the jeep and we head for the monastery. It's still very early in the morning but yet there are already quite many pilgrims out and about.
I again take advantage of the morning sun to make nice pictures of the kumbum, the largest stupa in Tibet.
We start our tour inside the monastery and get into the main prayer hall. Afterwards we visit all the side chapels. Over here the prices for taking pictures are rather reasonable. The tall guilded Buddha statues are really impressive and at the same time it's a chance to capture the devoties on film. I am even allowed to have my picture taken with one of the monks. And heck, it was even his suggestion!
Near the exit of the tempel we find a little stall where another monk is selling prayer beads and all sort of blessed relgious talismans. I am seduced by a prayer bracelet with fake jade stones and a little heart-shape pendant (the pendant has already come off and got lost by lunch time! So far for the blessings!).
After the impulse shopping it's time to climb the kumbum. Every niche of the stupa is filled with colorful status of gods and demons. We take a look at the first couple of alcoves but quickly realize that if we want to make the summit, we would need to hurry up!
At the last part of the climb, we have to get up via two very steep ladders but get rewarded with a fenomenal view. From one angle we can see the fortress and the old Tibetan quarter, on the other side there are the barren mountains, the defence wall, the monastery and the overpowering nature of the surroundings. I would love to stay here much longer to take in the view, but alas, time is short. On the way back to our jeep I make a quick stop at the public toilets, but these are downright filthy again.
Unfortunately nearly the enire old quarter is broken up for construction and we have to cancel our walk through this area. So we continue our journey by jeep through the wonderful landscape with brown barren mountains, green pastures and yellow fields of bio-oil seeds. What a sight!
After a while we stop at a little building at the side of the road which serves still as a traditional mill for tsampa. Tsampa is the staple food of the Tibetans. The barely is grounded by a simple but ingenious water powered mill. Behind the mill there's a farm with pigs and a couple of cows, but it's the landscape that is really idyllic!
In the mean while Jimmy arranged for us a visit to a traditional Tibetan house.
It's a fairly large dwelling, this Tibetan farm, but that's perhaps because several families and generations live here under one roof. The entire ground floor is used as stables for the cattle and farm animals. Upstairs we then get to meet the family and see the living quarters. The mom of the family takes us to her "kitchen" on the courtyard and shows the use of the parabola to boil water. The dad takes us then to their holy room where they pray and keep their holy water. The altar is richly decorated with colorfully painted figures.
We also get to meet the twins and a woman in her early twenties (I guess) with a baby. While the group is taking pictures again in the courtyard, the dad motions for a few of us to come and check out the nicely furnished living quarters. The traditional brightly painted furniture is really lovely and I am surprised to see a picture of the Dalai Lama so openly on display!
After this nice intermezzo we drive in one go all the way to Shigatze. Since it's already past noon, we stop first for lunch before heading to the hotel. We have lunch in front of the monastery in a typical Tibetan restaurant, but fortunately with English menu! De spring rolls taste quite okay, even though they are prepared with naan bread.
With filled stomachs we head for the Wutze hotel. We get a room on the 2nd floor but there appears to be no elevator. Two flights of stairs aren't that easy to manage at this altitude. Especially not with luggage! After checking out the bathroom, it's clear that we have no water. So I need to descend again to the reception to report the problem. Very quickly two men come and check it out, but they cannot get it fixed. Then luckily a third technician appears who luckily manages to get the tab running again.
There's not much time left anymore to get changed, because we leave again for the centre. We are devided in two groups. Some want to visit the centre and the market. Ils and I decide, with a little of group of fellow travellers, to walk the kora around the Tashilumpo monastery.
It's still early afternoon and the sun is ferocious. Moreover, the monastery is built high against the mountain side, so the first part of the walk is a serious climb! Nonetheless it's a wonderful walk. Tibetans are demolishing a wall with their traditional methodes and the kora is doted with prayer wheels and memorial stones. Time to time we pass high aged pilgrims who defy the heat to pay their repspects and burn incense. On the hills on top of the monastery, we see numerous prayer flags. High in these hills, they still practice sky burrials. A little further on our tour, we have a wonderful view of the baby Potala; the little brother of the Potala Palace in Lhasa.
We pass a few little houses, that according to our tour guide, are still inhabitted by nuns.
Now the kora goes downhill again, all the way into the old Tibetan quarter of the city towards a market where the goat carcasses are all neatly aligned, sitting on their bums... the little tail sticking out!
Right next to this, there's a little souvenir market with the same old stuff we have seen in Lhasa. There's not much time to browse around as our tour leader still wants to take us to the local market.
Ils and I decide to leave the group and continue on our own. After a quick peek at the stalls and refilling our water supply, we head towards the main street. I had read in my Trotter guide about a nice bakery and since we haven't had dessert yet, it seems like a great plan to go and look if it's still around! After a bit of a walk we do find Aili Cake. There's a counter with all kinds of cakes and sweets and in the back of the store there's a confectioner preparing huge birthday and special occassion cakes. We order a delicious pink cake with colored sprinkles and take a seat on one of the many swings, from where we can observe the confectioner's work.
After this sugar fix we check out the main shopping street and visit various supermarkets. I wanna buy some yoghurts for breakfast, but it seems a mission impossible. They seem nonexistant here in Tibet!
We hang around the main street until dinner time, but we do not really know where we should go. Apart from the bakery, we didn't encounter any decent looking eatery all afternoon. It seemed smartest to return to the car free street in front of the monastery, where we have eaten lunch. There are several restaurants in this street, but after a look around, the restaurant where we ate earlier: Songtsen Kitchen, still looks the most appealing. And we surely aren't the only ones with this tought! The place is full of fellow group members! Heck, the entire place is nock full, not a single table is free anymore.
Ils and I order noodles and our food arrives at the time the family is ready to settle their bill. We joke that they have to be careful and make sure that our food is not put onto their bill. We even tell the waiter to make sure ours is seperate and he is nodding heavily to make clear he understands!
Anyhow, the family leaves and we continue our meal. But when we then ask for the bill, the same waiter tells us that it is already paid!!! What a circus! Anyway, we'll settle it tomorrow with our fellow group members, but how embarrasing is this!
After diner we take a taxi back to the hotel. It's gotten already quite late.