Lhasa has been on our mind since long: we thought about it when we applied for our visa to China. We longed to be here while we had to convince the staff in a Chinese travel agency to sell us plane tickets to Tibet. We dreamed about Lhasa when we drank our first yak butter tea, hiked at the border of Sichuan and Gansu and when we rode horses for the first time in our lives – all of this at high altitude to prepare for the Tibet adventure. You see, the expectations were high. How does it feel to finally be here?
Well, first of all, we feel dizzy. At almost 3,500 meters above sea level, Lhasa is a real challenge. We feel as if we had aged a good thirty or forty years the moment we left the plane and we barely make it to our room on the top floor of our hotel. Potala Palace, majestic and once the residence of the Dalai Lama, has almost as many stairs as the Annapurna Base Camp trek. Yet, each and every altitude-plagued visitor group is allocated only a very short time window. If you are planning a trip to Lhasa, make sure your visit to the palace is not on the first day!
We are also stunned by the beauty of Lhasa’s old town, the monasteries and palaces and by the devotion of the Tibetan people to Buddhism. The golden-roofed Jokhang temple forms the heart of the city. The pedestrian path around it is always busy with pilgrims and locals walking the kora, a religious walk around sacred places, swinging their prayer wheels. We are drawn into this walk again and again, listening to the constant humming and the swooshing sound of pilgrims throwing themselves on the ground to pray in the most sportive fashion.
Our schedule is packed with the many things to see in Lhasa. Our (mandatory) guide also takes us to the Summer Palace (Norbulingka Palace), Ramoche Temple and to the Sera and Deprung monasteries just outside the city. At Sera monastery, we get to watch apprentice monks practising debate, a question-and-answer ritual and very popular tourist attraction.
What else do we feel? Well, sorry China, but we are also angry. Lhasa is the only place where we are allowed to walk around without our guide. Yet, no one needs to worry that we might do anything unwanted or ask unwelcome questions; there is police everywhere. Our bags are checked every time we enter the main square. Surveillance cameras are more abundant than in London’s subway stations, or at least it feels like that. Yet, I hope that many more of you are going to visit this amazing city to learn about Tibet and its people.
Time of visit: September 2013
Liked this post? Then why don’t you try ..
This article was published on perelincolors.com