Archive for 'TIBET'

October 05

We saw Potala Palace yesterday and it was amazing. We hiked up all the way to the top!!! They only allow pictures outside, but once you go inside to go up the stairs and enter the temple residences, no cameras are allowed. We did sneak in a few, but the temples are very strict. I didn’t even want pictures of the residences or the tombs, I just wanted to take pictures of all the butter candles and the private monks meditating, but could not. oh well. On the platform, we were able to see all of Tibet from the rooftop of Potala Palace, the highest point in Tibet.

Climbing Potala was ridiculously hard. We are 3600 meters above sea level, so a flight of stairs is about 10 times as hard. Since all i do i climb stairs when I’m traveling, i thought it would be a lot easier to climb Potala. Nope. I was huffing and puffing my way up, and it wasn’t even hot or humid!! Breathing is ragged here from the lack of oxygen, but when you get to the top, oh boy, is it worth it! Here is Kat dying at the first level of the temple.

We are on the roof top and not allowed to take pictures. Kat made this face and i couldn’t resist it. I snapped one super quick and hid my camera. Thank god for the G10 and its inconspicuous qualities. Kat then took a pic of my side when she had the camera dangled on her neck. It’s one of my favorite pics on this trip so far…mostly because we were forbidden from taking any up this high. *_*

Inside Potala, we walked through the whole place and saw all the tombs of the old Dalai Lamas. The tombs are magnificent, all sheeted in gold except for the 7th Dalai Lama. His tomb is made completely of gold.  The 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th Dalai Lamas are in Potala Palace.

October 04

The train ride from Changdu to Lhasa is 44 hours. That’s 3 days on the train!!! We got a soft sleeper, and brought tons of ramen, books, and music to entertain us for the 3 days. This is the view during the trip, it’s quite serene, isn’t it? Our cabin mates was this Chinese couple that spoke no English whatsoever. They were nice enough, but we didn’t really even converse with them. They stuck to their own routine, and we to ours. It kind of made the trip a bit bland, since we are so used to meeting great people everywhere. However, the husband brought all of his photography gear, and was taking pictures like crazy. A few people stopped to look over his shoulder, but were unimpressed with what he captured. I think he was still new to the camera, and hasn’t figured out all of the settings yet. These images are from my G10, and i took them the last day, right before we arrived in Lhasa. Everyone agreed that this part of the trip was the most beautiful, and I agree.

It may have partly been the elevation, but as soon as i stepped outside the train station, my breath was taken away from the beauty of this place. The train station is fairly new, built within the last few years. The growth of the country’s accessibility has been amazing. The station is spotless clean and magnificent with the mountains as the backdrop. Stepping off, you are hit with a wave of altitude sickness, but thankfully, I prepared for it by taking the altitude sickness pills on the train.

our first dinner in Tibet at New Masala restaurant. sitting on the rooftop terrace

tashi delek with yak!

I cannot rave enough about this place. It’s another world up here! Set 3600 meters above sea level, it literally is the top of the world. We took a 44 hour train ride from Chengdu China to Lhasa Tibet and I have been awestruck since we arrived 3 days ago.

The heart of old Lhasa is near Jokrang Temple and we are staying 2 minutes from it. Everything is close by, walking distance and we cannot be happier with our situation. In Lhasa, you always have to be with a tour guide if you want to visit the landmarks like Potala Palace, NubalingKa, or any of the temples. We went to see the Jokrang Temple first. It is the first temple Buddhist pilgrims go to when they arrive in Tibet and is very important. Then we went to Sera Temple (Sera Monastery), which Kat and I have a very funny, but embarrassing story to. It is probably not funny to anyone else but us, but we are still cracking up over it now. Sera Monastery is one of the important temples to visit in Tibet as well. Here, the monks “beat” other monks…not literally, but kind of. They ask religious questions, and then other monks “beat” them for an answer. I’m not quite sure why…I have to google that tradition. They do it 3 times a week and it was the most interesting thing I’ve ever seen.

tibetan prayer flags are the most colorful…and they match my scarf *_*
Sera Monastery monk

turning the buddhist scriptures

Tibetans love their butter. Butter tea, butter candle, butter lamps, butter on bread, anything you can imagine. They carry these thermoses with melted homemade butter, and pour them into the basins while they pray. It’s their way of lighting candles in the temples. At first, I couldn’t figure out why i kept slipping inside the temples, and why this waxy material kept rubbing off on my hands. When they told me it was butter, it all made sense!!! Here is a sacred rock and tree at Sera Monastery where butter has been poured on. We are obsessed with this butter thing now that we figured it out. Our tour guide Dola shakes her head and laughs every time we ask her to take a picture of us with the butter. *_* “you girls and your butter, so funny.”

barley is used in prayer in the temples

staying liquidated
OMG!!! Is that an OX on the street?!?!
yes, yes it is!!!
I’m going to EAT YOU!!!!!

There are Chinese guards everywhere. Right now, China is celebrating National Day, so all of China is red and everything is nationalistic…including Tibet. The guards are stationed everywhere, but do not do much. Tibetans are peaceful people, and very helpful. Bargaining and talking to them i very different than in Beijing. Tibetans are beautiful. They have features that are part Chinese and part that is very broad and Mongolian like. A lot of the men here are broad and quite tall. The women are broader as well, which is quite different than the Chinese who are much more petite. The air is clean up high and their skin is very clear, but rosy red against the dark tan. I think it is because the sun here is very harsh. I have to wear 50+ sunblock on my face or I can get burned just walking on the street.

This is Chang beer. It’s Tibetan beer. I love the way its presented. The cool thing about this beer is that its WARM. You pour hot / lukewarm water into the it, and it brews something on the inside, and it becomes Tibetan beer. It cost us 5 yuan, and was worth the experimental taste. I thought it was quite good actually, and Kat finished it off!

Momo is the traditional Tibetan food. It’s steamed dumpling filled with the most delicious ingredients. You can get chicken, beef, yak, cheese, potato, anything you like. We ate at a restaurant called Tashi on Beijing Road, about 2 minutes from our hotel. It’s a family run, hole in the wall, barely any seating available kind of place, and we absolutely loved it. It was recommended by some backpackers we met in Chengdu, and didn’t plan on looking for it really. I saw the sign they had posted outside for breakfast, and Kat realized it was called Tashi. It must have been a sign, so we went right in for dinner and it was one of the best Tibetan meals we had during our stay.

Bobi reminds me of fajitas…except is more fresh, more flavorful, and Tibetan. Same same, but different. This dish was the perfect pair to the momos we had for dinner at Tashi.

We also went to the NubalingKa, the Dalai Lama’s summer palace. I think that was once of my favorite places. It is very beautiful and serene. There are meditation houses all over, and four individual palaces inside the big summer palace. My favorite of course, is the current (14th) Dalai Lama’s residence, which is now a pilgrimage location and semi-museum. They let you walk through everything, his bedroom, his bathroom, where he met visitors, where he was able to see his mom, who also lived in the residence but not in the same wing.

At NubalingKa, we got to see the 14th Dalai Lama’s summer house. There are 4 palaces inside NubalinKa, and each one belongs to an important Dalai Lama. This one was, by far, the most interesting…mostly because the Dalai Lama i actually alive and unable to enjoy his summer palace!!! We walked through all the rooms, his office, his meditation room, his meeting room, his bedroom, and even his bathroom! People would put yuan all over the place, and i even found some in the sink and on the toilet! They treat the room like it belongs to one of the former Dalai Lamas, not letting anyone touch anything because it’s kind of a museum now. How funny to think that one day, the Dalai Lama may still be alive to come back to his home here, and actually live in it….and I will have walked through it during his lifetime!

meditation houses at NubalingKa

We are booking flights very close to when we leave. Since we do not have a time schedule, we get to enjoy certain places more than others. We just booked Kathmandu, Nepal for 5 nights. From there, we will fly to Moscow. Before, when we checked flights, and we anticipated a 30 hour flight for $1000 from Tibet to Moscow (it backtracks to Beijing, then to Moscow). If we add Nepal, it is another country to our passport AND the flight is about 15 hours less!!! We will get to hike and see the Himalayas, Mount Everest from the air..and the flight i only 1 hour and half away. Adding Nepal will be another $400, but it is worth it since we don’t know when we will ever be back here again!!

Tomorrow morning, we catch an early flight to Kathmandu, Nepal…whoooooot!