|Tibet--land of fresh air, beauty, color, tradition, mysticism, strange sights, strange sounds. It inscribes itself
indelibly on the heart and mind.
Arriving in Lhasa in early afternoon, we were met by Tsring, our Tibetan guide and Mr. Tashi, our very capable
driver for the next five days. As soon as we settled into the well-used Land Rover for the 100 km drive to Lhasa,
Tsring began sharing his love for the country, his life, the countryside and Tibetan history. As he shared from his
heart, we learned and grew in far deeper ways than we did from the tourist-school trained guides elsewhere in China.
One soon learns in Tibet that, although it is now part of the Republic of China, it retains its independent heart and
identity. In Tibet, Buddhism is firmly entrenched and practiced in spite of China having closed and/or destroyed
many of the temples and monasteries and its continuing effort to secularize the country. One just needs to walk the
streets or enter a temple to realize this.
|The ride to Lhasa began the fascinating journey we were to make into the soul of this country. Along the way, we
passed, lovely lakes, small Tibetan villages--really enclaves, stopping at one to walk around and observe a different
way of life. It was very primitive with its mud and thatch buildings. We watched farmers plowing fields with teams
of yaks and had our first experience with Tibetan toilet facilities--just sloping cement holes in the ground. Promising
us a special sight, Tsring had Mr. Tashi stop at a desolate spot along the road. There on the mountain slope was a
magificent 600 hundred year old painted Buddha carving. It was surrounded by the ever present colorful Tibetan
prayer flags offered by pilgrims and people of the villages.
|Ride into Lhasa
|Lhasa is a place of great contrast and uniqueness. While the modern world intrudes with all of its glitz and glamour,
the center of Lhasa is its vibrant and alive ancient core. Our hotel, the Dhood Gu, located in this heart of Lhasa, was
absolutely charming in its Tibetan architecture and style. From the moment we drove through the gate, we knew we
were someplace special. We were greeted with tea, smiles and graciousness by hotel staff in traditional colorful
|Dhood Gu Hotel
|Mouse Over Picture
|Mouse Over Picture
|Our first full day in Lhasa was "a day of visiting places strange and undecipherable." With our Western mindsets and
Christian beliefs, the Buddhist religion was strange and bizarre--full of myths, mystical events and ancient traditions
that people believe and yet to us seem irrational and of a fairy tale quality. A Monkey King, Dali Lama protectors
who were once of the demon world, the Buddha of a thousand eyes and hands, reincarnation and so much more. I
watched hundreds and hundreds of pilgrims prostrate themselves, leave dabs of yak butter in burning bowls in front
of Buddhas, spin prayer wheels and burn incense and yet I still do not understand for what they hope and to whom
the offerings are given.
|We began our adventure with the Potala Palace. It is immense and
visually awesome as it perches on its hilltop surveying the city below
it. We entered through a small, long corridor which had wall to wall
shelves of boxed scripture from three feet above the floor to the
ceiling. The pilgrims and other visiting Buddhists traversed the
corridor by crawling under the scriptures, believing that in this way
they would obtain and absorb the wisdom contained in the scrolls.
To us, this was a bewildering sight.
|Throughout the palace is room after room of statutes and tombs of
past Dali Lamas. Statues are huge and covered with gold and
colorful cloth. They are surrounded by their disciples and protectors--
fierce, bizarre looking man-creatures who came from the demon
world but are no longer demons. They are always grotesque and
misshapen. Strong, overpowering incense burns throughout At
certain places Tsring would bow or show other signs of veneration,
There are a few monks in the palace but since the political and
religious exile of the 14th Dali Lama, the Chinese government has
virtually turned the complex into a relic from the past.
|The roof of the palace is worth a visit on its own. Golden spires, painted walls, brightly brocade cloth blowing in the
breeze with the magnificent backdrop of snow-covered Himalaya mountains. From this vantage point, one looks
down on all of Lhasa--old and new.
|TRAVEL MEMORIES HOME