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Published: September 24th 2005
Friday, September 9, 2005 Weather: Marvelous Temperature: Cool at daybreak rising to 80's.
Today is what it is all about! Everyone who comes to Lhasa looks forward to seeing the Potala Palace, home of the Dalai Lamas for centuries and the "Vatican" of Tibetan Buddhism. Sadly, the current Dalai Lama is in exile from his country following the takeover of Tibet by China making it one of their "autonomous regions."
The Palace, built in the 7th century and in the 17th century extended to its present size, sits high upon a hill in the center of the city. Our bus delivered us to the entrance gate where we found ourselves among many other groups of tourists and thousands of the faithful, some of whom were making a "once in a lifetime" visit. Our path up to the Palace was via a wide paved ramp on the west side of the complex that was probably about a half mile long and was shared with official cars and small vans. First, we had to run the gauntlet of vendors selling postcards, silk, watches and the like but after we passed through the ticket gate they remained behind awaiting our certain return.
Upon reaching the top of the ramp our climb had just begun. Now there were steps — many steps! The ramp that we used took us to the rear of the Palace at the sixth floor level and we were then to climb to the thirteenth floor! The route up was through the residence portion of the Palace known as the "White Palace", where we saw four rooms, some of which were meeting rooms where the Dalai Lama received important guests. Photography inside of the Palace rooms is not permitted, even without flash. Finally we reached the roof of the Palace after seeing those rooms open for public viewing. The view from the roof was interesting but not as spectacular, in my opinion, as the view of the Palace from the street below. Since the city is surrounded by mountains there is a nice view of the general setting. Mt. Everest, quite some distance to the west, is not visible from Lhasa.
We returned from the roof by another route that took us through the "Red Palace". This was a relatively slow process as we stopped to view various rooms along the way where almost all of the
prior Dalai Lamas were entombed in their funeral stupas. We left the Red Palace at the top of the ramp upon which we had arrived and gradually descended to our waiting bus after having yet another opportunity to buy all kinds of souvenirs from the hoards of vendors waiting outside of the gate. The entire visit lasted about 2 ½ to 3 hours. This is not a tour for those with impaired mobility.
The bus then proceeded to take us to the Bazaar where we were scheduled to have yet another Chinese lunch at a restaurant called "Snowland." The Bazaar is pedestrian friendly as no cars, buses or trucks are allowed on the streets. Our bus parked several blocks away and we then walked to the restaurant located not far from the Johkang Temple. Following lunch we returned to the bus that took us back to our hotel for a rest period. We arrived there about 2:30 p.m. and were advised that the next tour to the Lhasa Museum would depart at about 4 p.m. following which the bus would take us directly to dinner. Several of the group decided to skip the museum visit and rest as the
altitude was quite tiring. Our guide graciously offered to have the bus return to the hotel after the museum visit just to pick us up for dinner. I suspect that she feared we might get lost or simply sleep through dinner!
Dinner tonight was at the Crazy Yak Restaurant and included a show. All four of our restaurant visits outside of the hotel were to places in and around the Bazaar and required some walking after leaving the bus. Dinner at the Crazy Yak was buffet style and included just one glass of beverage in keeping with what now appears to be a national policy! The buffet was typical so there is little to say about it. The restaurant was crowded with tourists including several groups from Viking, some Germans and a group of Asians who left before the show began. After dinner was finished the buffet tables were cleared and the show began. It was a local folk show with musicians and dancers performing routines related to the local culture of various parts of Tibet. At the end of the show the last act included dancers dressed as a Yak that danced among the other dancers and eventually
out into the audience. It was amusing and entertaining but without interpretation one could only guess at a story line.
The program ended at about 9 p.m. and we returned to our hotel for a good night of sleep.
Next: Johkang Temple
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