Beautiful Lhasa

14 Oct 2007, by Kim in Culture, Locale, People

Lhasa…where do I begin? This is a bustling city boasting the most amazing monasteries, markets and of course the honored Potala Palace. The smell of yak butter candles permeates everywhere, pilgrims prostrate on the street beside you, people sing as they complete their errands (the two baristas at this cafe are singing together in Tibetan right in front of me as I write this), and little Tibetan kitties roam the market stalls and monasteries. Brian is constantly stopped by Tibetan adults and children alike amazed with his tattoo. Sometimes they think it’s paint, and when we gesture that it’s a tattoo their faces turn to amazement. They recognize the script and symbols giving him big smiles, thumbs up and a boisterous “beautiful, cool!”

As you may have heard in the previous audio post we’ve visited several monasteries with our group. They are centuries old and still stand strong and regal against the mountains without the need for much renovation. It still takes a great deal of energy to climb the stairs that seem to ascend forever but the views are well worth it. Yesterday we visited Sera Monastery and the incredible Potala Palace. At Sera we were permitted to photograph the debating monks, whom you also may have heard from the audio post. We were the last group of the day to enter Potala meaning our tour was nearly private. Being within a few feet of the thrones of past Dali Lamas with their robes neatly folded on top was a great honor. We also passed by their enormous tombs, many well over 30-feet tall all adorned in gold leaf, turquoise and coral.

Unfortunately I contracted food poisoning after my last post on the second day (not a surprise to those of you who know me and my travel history) which has kept me in bed quite a bit. But I couldn’t miss Sera or Potala so with Brian to lean on I made myself go. (You might see me in a few of these pictures looking a little green and exhausted – this is an understatement – the smell of yak butter candles not helping my nausea any.) Although it took a lot out of me I’m very glad I did it. Today I was able to go out in the markets for a few hours this afternoon but had to sleep the rest of the day. I am getting better however, finally eating a bit of lentil soup and rice for dinner tonight and writing this post. (Don’t worry Mom and Dad, I’m taking my antibiotics!) Tomorrow we leave Lhasa to drive deeper into Tibet. Our group will be taking jeeps to Gyantse where we’ll visit another monastery and then taking a few days visiting smaller and smaller towns making our way to Base Camp.

We are downloading pictures as best as we can. The internet connections here can be very slow potentially taking hours to download what we have. Hopefully more pics will be up soon. I hope you are all well!

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