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Tibet - Part 1

Lhasa and road to the west of Tibet

View Round-the-world-trip on samandmarta's travel map.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to travel freely in the Tibet Autonomous Region, so we had to join an organized tour for this part of our journey. After arriving in Lhasa, we were welcomed by our tour guide Dundup at the train station and brought to our hotel. Our tour group consisted of 2 Italians, 2 Canadians, 2 Israeli, 7 Russians and us. Together, we were going to travel to the far west of Tibet to do 2 koras (Buddhist pilgrimages), one around Lake Manasarovar and one around Mount Kailash. But first, we spent two days in Lhasa to see the most important temples of the Tibetan capital.


On the first day we visited the Drepung and the Sera monastery, two of the most active monasteries in Lhasa. The most interesting sight for us was the debating monks at the Sera monastery. Every day from 3 to 4pm, the monks meet in a courtyard of the monastery to practice their knowledge of Buddhist philosophy and other topics. They build pairs and one monk sits down while the other stands and fires question after question on the sitting monk who has to answer as quickly as possible. The whole scene is very entertaining, loud and lively. Another interesting sight in the monasteries are the yak butter lamps. Apparently, it is common for believers to bring yak butter as a donation to the monastery and they use it to burn candles. This fills the monasteries with the unique scent of melted butter.


On the second day we went to visit the Potala Palace, the official seat of the Dalai Lama and thereby the former independent Tibetan government. The visit to this palace is very strictly regulated by the Chinese government and there is a lot of police and military around. While the palace is very impressive and beautiful, there is also an air of sadness around it, like looking at a nicely decorated gravestone. Around the palace there is a lot of Chinese propaganda, while inside you cannot find any pictures of the current Dalai Lama, since his image is banned in China. We also learned from our guide, that while China considers Tibet to be a part of China, Tibetans cannot get a Chinese passport and are therefore prohibited from travelling abroad. Later that day, we also visited the Jokhang temple in the middle of the city, which was built in the 7th century and is thereby the oldest temple in Lhasa.


After the two days of sightseeing in Lhasa, we embarked on our journey to the west of Tibet, which consisted of 3 days mostly spent inside the car. Along the way, we drove over several passes higher than 5000 meters above the sea, visited some more temples (of which we got a bit tired at that point), saw many interesting landscapes and got our first views of the Himalayas in the distance.


Posted by samandmarta 20:00 Archived in China

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Stunning mountain photos.

by irenevt

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