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Tibet – Lhasa – Chinese food in China is just called food…

CHINA | Friday, 6 May 2011 | Views [1283]

Potala Palace

Potala Palace

Destination – Tibet – Lhasa – Chinese food in China is just called food… The Flora Hotel in Lhasa is quite all right and the staff are very helpful (the owner/manager is awesome!!). Breakfast is also nice and the breakfast menu is in English, what a luxury! Eggs, toast, jam, butter and, wait for it… COFFEE (a whole pot each like 3 cups baby!!!) Anyway, looks like they are part of any package in Lhasa, budget or otherwise, and they do it pretty well.

After breakfast, Tashi and “Raul” pick us up for a visit to Bharkor Square Markets and the Jokhang Monastery, which was absolutely AWESOME! (Sorry no photos but there are exorbitant fees charged at each shrine in religious sites in Tibet which go to the government so we decided to just take it in but statues and everything was absolutely amazing inside temples, Potala Palace etc). We get a bit of rain in the morning but the weather clears very quickly and we make the most of it. Just trying to get in, you can feel the energy of this place. Unreal. So many pilgrims, so very pushy, shoving you out of the way (so many blurred photos), but it’s all part of being at the place. The pilgrims walk (and sometimes drag themselves around prostrating themselves outside religious sites) around the shrines, always clockwise, with a thermos bottle of melted yak butter and they use it to keep the candles lit, placing a few drops inside big urns full of candles and yak butter in front of the altars. It’s great to watch. It is a really fantastic temple, topping everything we’ve seen so far. Outside the monastery, Barkhor Square is turned into a fantastic souvenir market to be explored this afternoon. From everywhere you look, you can see that Lhasa is surrounded by beautiful snowy mountains. It’s also a very clean, organized city with really friendly people.

On the way back, we ask our guys to stop at a supermarket as we need to stock up on supplies for the 2 day train ride to Beijing. We have a great time at the supermarket, where 4 people are trying to help us, and no-one speaks English (not even “tea”). The six of us have a great time followed by endless “hellos” and “goodbyes”. Man, this place is really fun. Even the supermarket is fun. Now, for lunch. We walk around and decide that in order to not starve to death we need to go to a restaurant and order food. Yeah, it sounds easy… So, we walk into a busy place and I ask for the menu. The man behind the counter says “no!” and shows us what other people are having. Paul points at two different dishes and the food is ordered. We get tea and our food and when it’s time to pay the man makes a gesture and we guess 15 but it’s 17 yuan (about $2.50!!). We get there in the end and return to the hotel full of pride and noodles.

In the afternoon, the guys pick us up again and take us to the Sera Monastery, where we watch monks debating the scriptures. The photos look pretty good but it’s kind of ok. So, we go back to the hotel and decide to brave the souvenir market on our own. Man, the stall owners are tough!! If you ask the price of something and are not willing to bargain, they grab you by the arm and make it really hard to leave, especially if like me you end up laughing hysterically. We do a little bit of shopping and encouraged by the lunch experience, we try the same again with dinner. This time even more successfully, we manage to order “momo” (dumplings) and noodle soup. We are on fire.

So, this morning we are off to the highly anticipated “Potala Palace”. It’s an absolutely gorgeous day and we even dare to wash our hair. Potala Palace is a really amazing achievement; the architecture is impressive, the backdrop of snowy mountains only highlights the beauty of the construction. If we could take pictures inside we could show you amazing chapels and fantastic images of many Buddha and Dalai Lamas. Can’t miss this place. We ask the guys to drop us off at the new part of Lhasa where we have a taste of the local version of KFC. Not too shabby. Then we walk around looking at shopping centres and designer labels till it’s time for our pick-up again.

This time it’s off to Drepung Monastery. Another great place, most of it under massive renovation. The views from the monastery are also great. Anyway, its’ time to say goodbye to Lhasa and Tibet, a country that welcomed us with such gentleness and sweetness. Lovely people, so much fun, we even braved the place by going walking and shopping without a guide. We had an absolutely marvelous time here. Highly recommended if you are ever in this part of the world. Next stop - Beijing after our 2 day nice modern Chinese train...

 

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