Thursday 18 October 2018. Tibet Photos
Highlights: Barkhor Square, Jokhang Temple, Debating Monks (Sera Monastery), Polata Palace at Night
Last night was a very difficult night to sleep. The altitude is having a very big effect as I woke up every few hours thirsting and with the onset of a headache which never fully come and the onset of a cold. This didn’t stop an amazing day.
At breakfast I found out that I was in the majority with almost everyone having the same experience. At approximately 3,500 metres above sea level it is difficult to adjust but that is what the next few days are for before we head out of the comfort of Lhasa and to higher altitudes.
After breakfast our local Tibetan guide and our tour guide Gelu took us out into Lhasa. First up was a visit to Barkhor Square. The locals all walk around this area in a clockwise manner. You immediately notice hundreds of stalls selling all kinds of food types but we a heavily focus on Yak products (milk, meat, clothing, masks etc).
It was at this point I noticed the heavily police and military presence which was both overt at places and covert in others. You need your passport to access this part of the city. I also noticed that the motor cycle is the major mode of transportation and they are all electric. This means you don’t hear them at all which results is you nearly getting run over with you don’t pay full attention with your eyes.
The main point of today was to visit Jokhang Temple. Out the front of this Buddhist temple was worshippers praying. The Jokhang Temple was founded during the reign of King Songtsen Gampo. According to tradition, the temple was built for the king’s two brides: Princess Wencheng of the Chinese Tang dynasty and Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal. The oldest part of the temple was built in 652.
Upon entering the temple we had special yellow water put in our right hand so we could cleanse our head to clean our spirit. You can find various paintings or previous Dalai Lamas in this temple but not the current exiled 14th Dalai Lama. It’s amazing just our much gold is used in this temple. At one point Tibet was very wealthy and run by the Dalai Lama and it appears a lot of money went into this temples and monasteries.
When I left I really noticed that the burning of incense was everywhere.
From here we took a local bus to the Sera Monastery. The Sera Monastery was founded in 1419 has a range of structures with the Great Assembly Hall and three colleges. During the 1959 cultural revolt in Lhasa, Sera Monastery suffered severe damage, with its colleges destroyed and hundreds of monks killed, they are still building back up their number and rebuilding the complex.
The main attraction of the monastery to me was the debating monks. The monks pair off to debate topics they learnt during the day or wider life issues. One monk sits down and poses a question which the other responds to. It gets very rigorous at times, the standing monk claps his hands hard during key points. It was fascinating to watch.
Gelu took us out to dinner at a family owner Tibetan restaurant. Afterwards mot of us headed out to view the Polata Palace light up at night which was very specular. At times it felt like this stunning complex was a painting and not real. Looking forward to visiting it tomorrow.