It’s the end of our second day in Lhasa, and tomorrow we head off along the Friendship Highway to Cho Oyu Base Camp. It’s my second time here, but I still feel I know the city a little better after a spot of sightseeing.
The Potala Palace is one of the most incredible buildings I’ve ever visited, but you get herded round so quickly that you never really get an opportunity to stop and appreciate the vast number of statues, thrones, golden stupas and assorted ancient Buddhist artefacts that greet you in every room that you pass through, before exiting through a doorway into the bright Tibetan sun. Joining the pilgrims on a kora (circuit) of the palace beforehand was an interesting experience. Literally thousands of people, young and old, joined us as we ambled slowly round, spinning prayer wheels for good luck on our climb.
After lunch I went for a tour of the Jokhang, the ancient monastery on Barkhor Square in the heart of Lhasa old town. To begin with I found myself up on the roof among a throng of Chinese tourists having their photographs taken. The views out across Barkhor Square towards the Potala were great, but everywhere I stood I found myself blocking someone’s photo. Eventually I found my way down to the main assembly hall and was able to appreciate the calmness of the place in a way I couldn’t inside the Potala earlier in the morning. A number of recesses (chapels) containing statues of various Boddhisattva incarnations line the perimeter of the chamber, each one slightly different.
This morning we headed up a hillside to the north of the city for a bit of exercise and acclimatisation. It was very hot and dusty, and a few of the team led by Denis decided to scramble up some cliffs high above a hermitage on the hillside, but most of us took it easy and stopped at a viewpoint out over the city among a tangle of prayer flags.
I’m finding the internet a bit frustrating here. The first time I used it I found myself logged into someone else’s Hotmail account, and couldn’t work out which Chinese character logged me out again. When I finally got in, half of what I typed ended up getting converted into Chinese characters, so my first couple of replies were half in English, half Chinese. Twitter and Facebook seem impossible to access by any means, so I’m having to send a lot of stuff out by email, with no means of accessing any replies. Still, it’s all good fun, and I like this place.