Days 4 to 8
30.05.2007 - 02.06.2007 20 °C
On Wednesday we had a long drive again all the way to Lhasa. We passed a beautiful river which was running next to our road and looked amazing. Bright turqois which looked beautiful to the contrast of the brown mountains. Our hotel in Lhasa was really nice, just by the Potala and I also managed to swap rooms mates. I am now sharing with Eduardo, the Chilen guy, which is much better than weird Pascal. Pascal took it okay.
In search of the travel agency, the partner agency of the one in Kathmandu, I went to the Potala in the evening after we arrived which looks incredible. It's difficult to stop looking at it. Its so impressive. The rest of Lhasa is again very Chinese. In the evening we went out for dinner and for drinks which turned out to be run by a Dutch guy and was quite a nice bar. At midnight we celebrated into Jon's birtday.
The following morning we went to Barkhor which is the part of the city that is still Tibetean and is also the heart of the city where all the markets are etc. As there was a big festival on, pilgrams were circling the Jokhang Temple. Unbelievable how religious Tibetans are. Everywhere the smell of incense, the smoke, the pilgrams... an amazing atmosphere. As it is the festival today it is of course even more packed and all the monks were in the main courtyard. They were dressed up for the occasion, sitting on the floor, receiving gifts and mumbling away. They were wearing incredible costums (ther probably is a more religious name for that....) with really cool wigs. So incredible their culture. On a sad note, I keep loosing things and today I lost my so loved jadestone from NZ! So pissed off about that. Must have just fallen off my neck. It wasn't a very good day for me, as my bad luck continued and the neglace was just the beginning. It started already that Eduardo set the alarm an hour too early and we both didn't realise and even got up and only noticed at breakfast..... I then lost my neglace and confirmed my misfortune over lunch. I did the Jokhang Temple with Eduardo and Jon which was great. Some of the parts are from the 7th century and you have several chapels with statues and buddhas and everything is packed with pilgrams praying and prostrating. It smells of incense and yackbutter everywhere. Latter one is used for the candles. There is so much yackbutter around that even the floor is very slippy. :-)
From the roof you had great views into the courtyard where all the monks were and also over the city and the Potala.
After the temple the 3 of us went for lunch at Barkhor to a nice rooftop restaurant. I ordered a grilled sandwich and just after thinking that there is an interesting herb in it (while I am having my last bite), I am trying to establish what herb it is and are pulling something out of the sandwich which I believe to be the herb but turns out to a worm or maggot!!! And quite a big one too! You can imagine the expression on my face. Jon and Eduardo loved it and of course tryed to freak me out with telling me that it has probably put eggs in my stomach and that those kind of worms are never alone and I have eaten all the other ones. Disgusting!! thanks to the grilling the maggot was at least dead.
I even paid for the sandwich , as I figured that there is no point in complaining in a country that can't kill any living creature. The waitress would have probably griefed more over the dead worm, as it could have been her re-incarnated grandmother than feeling sorry for me.
Never mind. After lunch we were going to the Potala but my bad luck continued here too. 3 people who were meant to go the following day sneaked into our group which was strictly restricted to 20 people, so Francois, Kirby and myself ended up being refused at the entrance. The Chinese are so strict.... You even have to show your passport in order to get in. Our guide just left us outside and suggested to go to Drepung Monastery. Needless to say that I wasn't happy at all, as the bus had of course left for the monastery so ended up having to get a taxi.
Drepung Monastery used to be the biggest one in Tibet with 7000 monks. Today there are max. 500 left and even that is unclear as they have been asked to denounce from the Dalai Lama. As that monastery was very close to His Holyness and also involved in demonstrations againg the Chinese they are only allowed to do education these days and no marchel arts or anything else. I bought some protection amulets as souvenirs there which are great and so cute. They are little square amulets which contain prayers written on paper inside and are then covered with colourful thread. I also bought a mask called Bah. It was used by monks for religious dances and symbolised protection of health and life. It's really cool, a bit scary but quite unique.
After that we went to the Internet cafe and got quotes for our trip to Namtse. We went out for dinner and a few drinks for Jons birthday.
The final day, Friday, we finally went to the Potala after all. It was incredible. Such a massive building. It has around 1000 rooms and everything is empty, as the Dalai Lama is in exile in India. You start at the top with the rooms of the current Dalai Lama. His name is only mentioned once and apparently there is one single picture of him shaking I thinnk Mao's hand but I didn't even see it, so it must be well hidden. Pictures of him are prohibited in Tibet and they even tear them out of your guidebook if they find it. You can still see his bedroom which has a great view over the city and also ironically over the "Liberation" statue that the Chinese built right in front of the Potala. That monument is guarded by armed Chinese. You can also see several rooms and thrones etc. of all previous Dalai Lamas and there are very impressive tombs. Some are several tons of gold. Incredible! It ws amazing and certainly the highlight of this trip.
After lunch we went to the second biggest monastery - Sera which is fmous for its marchel arts. As great as they are but after so many monasteries they all look a bit the same...
We then went to the Tibetan Medical Center which was quite cool. I got a massage and was also inspected by a Tibetan doctor. They check your pulse and your hands and I was diagnosed with "Anti-Women-Disease" much to the joy of Kirby who had diagnosed me with it the moment he saw it written down on a leaflet.
I also found out that my flights were changed after all. As I didn't expect that anymore, I was now actually really looking forward to spending a few more days in Tibet and to go to Chitwan and was no quite disappointed that he could change them. What can you do... never happy!! :-)
I am sure it's the way it is meant to be.... It is going to be strange though to say good bye to the boys. We have been travelling for a whole month together and had such a great time. But I suppose that is travelling for you. Hopefully I will be able to meet Kirby back in London before he moves to Paris. With Jon going back to Boston doing his MBA it might a bit more difficult.
I got my flight from Lhasa to Kathmandu changed too, although it was a very close call of missing it. If it wasn't for the best room mate ever, Eduardo, I wouldn't have been able to get it in a million years. Jon, Kirby and myself celebrated our last evening together in style and got so drunk (especially me). I can't even remember how Eduardo managed to get me on to that bus. Poor him... he really deserves a medal for that effort.
Thanks to my state I slept through the whole flight which was probably the most scenic flight you could possibly imagine going all the way over the Himalaya.... Always the same! If an English couple wouldn't have woken me up in the waiting room I would have missed the boarding too....
What an ending to a trip!
All in all it was an incredible experience and next to Nepal probably one of the most impressive ones on this trip.
An amazing and sad place! Incredible people and scenary but also very sad to see the results of the Chinese invasion. In certain places there is not much left, well actually in most places.
Still the attitude and faith of the Tibetans is just inspiring. They are apparently the most religious people on earth and it is not difficult to believe that when you get there.
One last note on sanitary hygiene... Oh my God, what I have seen and experienced in the last month is incredible. Getting used to the squatting is one thing but what I have seen in Tibet is just out of this world. Dirty, disgusting and also no privacy, as there is either one whole with no door and everyone can just walk into it or there is a gutter instead of the whole like in public places in monasteries tec. and everyone is just squatting behind each other with a little divider in between. Again, no flushing there or water at all, so everything stays in the gutter..... nice!!
One very entertaining bit in Tibet are the markets, as all merchants try to get you to their stall by saying:"Looky, looky... cheapo, cheapo.... whoever taught them that, but they all use it :-)