Published: March 12th 2007March 11th 2007
Tibet is still regarded as one of the most untouched places you can travel to which is why we were surprised by how touristy it was! All menus were in English, there was a travel service on every street corner, and the market sellers certainly knew what we were about - money! However, despite the amount of tourists Lhasa was still full of pilgrims going about their business as if we weren't there which is understandable given it takes some of them 3 years to reach Lhasa!
As a condition of our permit we were required to be accompanied by a guide which at first we weren't too happy about but afterwards we really appreciated him! We learnt so much!
On the first day we went to the Jokhang Temple. According to Legend the Jokhang Temple was built on the former site of a lake. According to the legend, the lake site was chosen after many failed attempts to build a temple in the region. Prior to this, every time a temple was built, it would collapse. Confused by this phenomenon, Princess Bhrikuti turned to Wen Cheng for help. Being a learned woman, Wen Cheng told the Princess that
monks praying room inside a monastry
the geography of Tibet was very much like a hag, with the lake at the heart. In order to build the temple, Wen Cheng advised they must demolish the hag by filling and leveling the lake using 1,000 sheep to carry soil from a mountain far away. When the temple was done, it was called Ra-Sa-Vphrul-Snang ('ra' meaning sheep and 'sa' meaning earth in Tibetan) to commemorate those sheep! Not sure whether this is true or not, but the temple definately brought Buddhism to Lhasa and is consequently considered the holyest temple in Tibet. If the pilgrims do not live very far from lhasa (which means they don't need to pray on their way to the temple) they must instead pray infront of the temple by prostrating themselves 110,000 times! thats 1,000 times a day for about 3 months! sounds like fun eh!
In the afternoon we went to the Potala Palace which is where the Dalai Lama lived, and is probably the most famous builing in Tibet - painted white and sat on the top of a hill with a blue sky in the background it makes for a good image of Lhasa!The palace was very impressive but
offerings are made to the buddha
lacked the atmosphere of the Jokhang as there were no pilgrims. Still very interesting though!
Lhasa is such an amazing place and with the new railway it is now much more accessible than before. I think it is very difficult for foreigners to understand what is going on but it is still one of the best places we have been!
There are more photos below