I’m sitting here once again in the small computer room of the Hotel Kyichu in Lhasa, Tibet. Tonight is my group’s last night here for this stretch, but we do return here for one more night.
Tomorrow we hit the road once again for an eight hour drive west to Gyantse, a small city which is supposed to have a nice old Tibetan town and which also is home to one of the most beautiful buildings in Tibet. After a night in Gyantse it’s a short ride to Tibet’s second largest city, Shigatse, which has one of the largest monasteries in Tibet, Tashilumpo. Then it’s back here to Lhasa for one more night, followed the next day with a flight back to Beijing. The following day it’s the long flight back home to the U.S. My trip to Tibet is coming to a close.
Today was a day to take it easy and do some souvenir shopping. Yesterday was more strenuous, though, as we visited two monasteries on the outskirts of Lhasa. First was Nechung, a place associated with protector dieties. It has a lot of paintings of pretty scary looking characters and figures. Quite a few people were burning incense in the courtyard (the smoke of which is not the best thing to inhale when every breath is of great importance due to the altitude) and I saw man people offering donations and making prayers and prostrations in respect for the Dalai Lama.
The next stop was Drepung Monastery, the largest such place in Tibet. It was once home to over 10,000 monks, but only 500 or so are there now. Still, it is an impressive place, with a lot of beautiful buildings spread across the hillside it’s built upon. As it is built on a hillside, it required a lot of walking up steps and ramps – again, not the easiest thing to do at this altitude (and unlike my visit to the Potala Palace, I had my heavy camera bag to drag around with me this time). Again, many Tibetan people were there saying prayers and offering donations. I also got to practice speaking Japanese a little bit when we came upon some people from a Japanese tour group.
I spent a fair amount of time today in the Barkhor area (the old Tibetan section of Lhasa) and once again it was interesting to see the people making the kora (pilgrimage circuit) walking clockwise around the Jokhang Temple. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but a lot of Tibetan people – especially older people with long, braided here – look like native Americans. Even the Tibetan turqouise jewelry looks very southwestern, so I wonder if the Tibetans and American Indians share some kind of link in their past.
Well, it’s after 10 pm and I’ve got to re-pack my suitcase for the long journey west tomorrow, so I’ll sign off here. I’ll try to write at least once more while I’m here in Tibet.