What I learned in Tibet

This has also become a regular feature on my blog. Here are my observations from Tibet.

1. There is a police station/desk every corner. So carrying your passport and visa is a mandatory.

2. Sweet tea with yak milk is heavenly. Just don’t look too closely on what it’s served in.

3. People in Lhasa wear more face masks than in Beijing (said Sylvia and I now have to agree).

4. I should have bought a yak shawl while in Kathmandu. Never mind, too late now.

5. The Tibetans eat solely with a spoon.

6. The smell of the butter in the temples is almost intoxicating.

7. Also the butter is spilled everywhere in the temples, so get used to sticky feet.

8. There are only so many monasteries you can watch.

9. If you are wondering what kind of philosophical questions a monk might have for you, the monk we saw wanted to know if I color my hair.

10. The Chinese in Tibet were the unfriendliest of all of China. Maybe because they know they don’t belong there?

More of Lhasa

The next day started a bit slower and we only met at 9:30. I enjoyed my Chinese breakfast with stuffed baozi and some spicy vegetables.IMG_1593Today we had more monasteries on our program and thus fortified we were on the way. The first one was the  Drepung Monastery.

After a short drive we saw first of all some dogs.IMG_1596 IMG_1602 IMG_1603 IMG_1700 IMG_1609 IMG_1612
Here the Buddhists paint the stones surrounding the monastery every September when there is a big religious festival.IMG_1614
There we also found the most astonishing toilets (and relatively clean compared to some others that we saw on this trip). IMG_1631

The monastery of course was beautiful too, more from the outside than the inside. Inside in the little side temples and nooks it felt more like a creepy place than a religious temple. The protectors next to the Buddha statues looked like demons (which they actually were before the got vanquished).IMG_1615 IMG_1617 IMG_1619 IMG_1623 IMG_1626 IMG_1627
As usual there were no pictures allowed inside but I sneaked one in of the stairs. They were always super steep and dangerous.
In front of the prayer halls there were always huge pillars with prayer flags. Visiting all these places I felt really calm and at peace while Sylvia disliked the disturbing images inside.IMG_1635 IMG_1637 IMG_1638 IMG_1639 IMG_1641IMG_1653IMG_1656

For lunch we went to a little tea house and had some simple Tibetan fare. Rice with vegetables and some yak meat for me and the same for Sylvia without the yak.

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After lunch the next monastery, now the Sera Monastery. After the third one it felt like more of the same. Still, we had to show a certain interest because our guide was so clearly into it. Sylvia bought herself a little prayer, you never know it might help.IMG_1664 IMG_1667 IMG_1668 IMG_1670


From there we were driven downtown again to go shopping but eventually just stopped by at our guide’s tea house, enjoyed some teaIMG_1673
and then ended up in a shopping mall in search of a washroom. My little dictionary from Vienna for Chinese came in very handy again.

At the mall we bought some ‘juice’ by tapping our finger at the right drink. Clearly there are not a lot of English speaking people in this country.IMG_1675

I also bought myself a pair of shoes and a long-sleeved shirt. The mall was definitely a success. To top it all we managed to get on the right bus and were back in our area no time.IMG_1683IMG_1684 IMG_1685
But on the short walk back to the hotel we were drawn into a Chinese restaurant with the words ‘Come in, come in’. But that was the extent of the English words of the owner. From then on it was looking at the pics in the menus and using the dictionary again.

We managed to order though we apparently made a mess of things because what we got was enough dinner for 10 people. Please note that the dishes were individually plastic wrapped for each customer.IMG_1689IMG_1695
Also they didn’t seem to understand that when Sylvia means no meat then there should be no meat. Meaning even though there was no meat in the soup, it counts as meat when it is a chicken soup base and a little worm on top of some green leave. So that was it for Sylvia with the Chinese food, we didn’t go again together.
Yours, Pollybert

Lhasa city

After a really bad night for both of us, I took a pill for my headache and we went in search of breakfast. This turned out to be in another building of the hotel and offered interesting choices. I tried these steamed breads filled with meat or cabbage (very good) while Sylvia nursed her stomach with tea and toast. IMG_1510IMG_1511Right on time our guide Dhundup picked us up and we drove to the highlight of the day, the Potala Palace. There were lots of pilgrims that day since it was a two-day religious festival (don’t know what for). These out of townies circled the Potala palace all the while saying a mantra and using their prayers mills.IMG_1514 IMG_1517 IMG_1518
Dhundup had our visa with him and we had to show the passports to enter. It really was a very different world.
We made the long trek up to the palace with a couple of breaks. The air here was thin and it took a while to get used to it.IMG_1523 IMG_1524 IMG_1528
The red part of the palace was the older part from the 7th century and the religious part while the white buildings were from the 17th century and were political buildings. Nowadays the palace is of course some kind of museum and most of the 2000 rooms are closed to the public.

I have no pictures from the inside since in most palaces and monasteries it was forbidden and if allowed you had to pay for it. But since the money goes right away to the Chinese government and not the monastery I was never willing to pay.IMG_1679 IMG_1531 IMG_1534 IMG_1536 IMG_1545

Lunch stop was at the Lhasa Kitchen where we had soup and Momos (Sylvia) and soup and a flat bread stuffed with yak meat. IMG_1550 IMG_1552 IMG_1551 IMG_1553

From there we went to the Jokhang Temple right in the city center (and only across the street from the restaurant).IMG_1556 IMG_1557 IMG_1558 It was interesting to see how far this religious fervor went. People were buying thermos cans of liquid butter to fill up the lamps inside.IMG_1562 IMG_1563 IMG_1572IMG_1568IMG_1569IMG_1588

After the monastery with walked through the Barkhor Street and looked at some original Tibetan buildings. All of them had been converted to shops but at least we could see the typical style.IMG_1577


From there we made our way to a Tibetan tea house and the local sweet tea. Some kind of sugared black tea with yak milk. Super delicious, the tea house meanwhile was so dirty that in Europe I wouldn’t put one foot in it, while here we came to like it. Also you might note the ashtray on the table, smoking was allowed everywhere.IMG_1581 IMG_1589We got dropped off at the hotel and that was it for us. We never made it outside again that first day, being exhausted from the altitude and all the new impressions.
Yours, Pollybert