Tibet - from the border of Nepal to the streets of Lhasa
Tibet Travel Blog› entry 7 of 11 › view all entries
Crossing the Border
I can send this now I am out of Tibet but our first experience of the country was getting our books confiscated at the border, Lonely Planet Tibet and also the Michael Palin Himalayas book as both had mentions of the Dalai Lama, lucky I had suggested to Te Whata I keep his copy of 7 years in Tibet with my gear in Kathmandu or I am not sure we have made it across the border. I think we all know about what has happened to Tibet but to be there is to understand, There are military everywhere, on the rooftops, cameras watching your every move and on our tour we had a "minder". We quickly realised that the driver was there to keep an eye on us so had to mind our "ps" and "qs" not an easy thing for us kiwis.
Despite this, like I said.
The sights - Potala Palace is immense and dominates the landscape, we did the tour and only touched on about 30 of the 1000 rooms, We were in amongst the tourists and the locals who all wanted to add yak butter to the lighted candles, add their rupees to the pile in front of the statues of the different lamas and mumble their meditation as they fingered their prayer beads. Sorry I can't tell you all about the different Lama got lost about number 5 who was pretty special and built the top section of the palace in 17th century although some parts were from 7th century, picked up on a few in between and now we are at number 14.
We then had a further 2 days of planned tours with another couple of monasteries and like I said although we were in monastery overload each had their own style, some were very peaceful with lovely courtyards. One (Sera Monastery) had all the young monks debating the scriptures and their meaning where they sit in groups and one monk tries to catch out their logic slapping their hands to distract them, very loud and boisterous (like any group of young boys) but somehow relaxing in that there were no raised voices everyone listened and lots of smiles and laughter.
The nicest part of our stay was the two free days – yippee, we could go off and explore. We followed the locals on their pilgrimage around the Potala Palace which is a long but lovely walk and discovered some lovely gardens to sit and relax in. We circumnavigated a large area of the city and stumbled on a Buddha Choptra statue where you climbed the hill (yep more steps and the altitude still affecting us) to see masses of beautiful prayer flags a shrine and then a beautiful statue of Buddha surrounded by masses of colourful pictures. Not a westerner in sight and the locals were keen to chat , loved it,
We also found the only nunnery in Lhasa where apart from the mandatory shrines you could also have a cup of tea, I was the only one brave enough to try an old Tibetan lady guided me to buy my tea ticket. It is amazing what you can understand with smiles and gestures and I paid the princely sum of 2 yuan (5 =$1) for my flask of black tea only to be chased down by one of the nuns with my change ...mine was cheaper cos it was black tea not white. This is a place where all the old locals to go catch up and chat. It had a lovely community feel and rivaled any of our local cafes with an outdoor courtyard and long wooden tables and seating spruced up with pots of colourful flowers here and there. We also found the best shopping her. The nuns ran a lovely shop with really nice scarves, jewelry and other trinkets, whereas elsewhere most of the stuff in the market stalls is very junky. We were pleased that our purchases could contribute to a good cause here. The best part of the experience was being able to chat and ask about their life in the nunnery. I learned that the monks and nuns over the last two years have been stopped from getting visas to travel and so if their families are outside the area they cannot visit them. They said that life is very tough for them.
So guys that is my experience of Lhasa
Now just some exploring in Kathmandu and then travel home. Looking forward to getting back sometime soon.