Friday, 28 May 2010


Wednesday 26 May: The mystical utopia city of Lhasa. This is a place of legend and the most sacred centre of the Tibetan world. It was nearly destroyed in 1950 when the Chinese army marched in and again during the 1966 Cultural Revolution when the Red Guards wrought havoc, but the real damage was done when the city was modernised, Han Chinese style, before being 'reopened' to western eyes in the 1980s. Lhasa survives, perhaps despite this or perhaps because of the resilience of the Tibetan people. And it does not disappoint.
Once the home of Trijang Rimpoche a high-ranking Yellow Hat Buddhist monk and tutor of the 14th Dalai Lama, we are staying at the 300 year old Trichang Hotel,, a delightfully traditional courtyard hotel in the quiet semi-pedestrianised back lanes of the old city. It also has an internet cafe but social networking web sites are blocked in China - what are the authorities so afraid of? I start taking notes in the old-fashioned hand-written way with a view to update my blog when I get to Vietnam unless, in the meantime, I can find a work around (I do - via a PPTP tunnel to Hong Kong, whatever that means!).
Day 6: We visit the majestic Potala Palace, the traditional winter home of the Dalai Lama. The imposing thirteen-storey structure, which alone survived the Chinese onslaught undamaged, dominates new and old Lhasa alike and is the home to the tombs of eight Dalai Lamas as well as many stunning statues (no photos). Dalai means wisdom of the ocean and Lama means teacher.
In the afternoon we stroll to Jokhang Temple, the spiritual heart of Lhasa. This is where until recently pigs where were kept by the Chinese military who used the complex as an army barracks. Soon we pass waves of awestruck pilgrims hunkering down and prostrating themselves on their clockwise chora circuit around the temple. Today is the most important of the Buddhist calender, the anniversary of Buddha‘s enlightenment, and devotees are out in force offering good thoughts, words and actions to attain worldly merit - there is a friendly joyous atmosphere. The Temple buildings are jam-packed with pilgrims and the glittering golden scenes from the spacious roof-top at sunset are awesome.
Pictures of Lhasa.

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