Guest travelers

Paulette and Jon have just got back from another of their amazing trips. This one was a short trip by their standards. Just a quick 10-day tour of Tibet.

 

We went through their photos and selected 30 of the ones that aroused our curiosity. So come with us now on a photo tour of Tibet with Paulette and Jon.  It could very well motivate you to plan a tour of Tibet too! 

30 PHOtos to inspire you to travel to amazing tibet!

GETTING THERE.  It was a grueling trip getting there!

First, a flight from the Gold Coast to Sydney, then a 7-hour wait until the flight to Chengdu.  Arrived at Chengdu 5.30 am local time. The bus trip from the plane to the terminal took a long 20 mins.  Then a long slow queue through customs with fingerprinting. Another long wait for luggage then taken to the transit hotel by bus. 

 

It was chaos checking in at the transit hotel but finally, we got taken upstairs for a basic breakfast of boiled eggs, rice, and other unidentifiable food. After that, we went off to our own rooms for a shower and to rest for a couple of hours. We left at 10 am for the two-hour drive back to the airport. Customs took almost 1.5 hours with long slow queues. We finally got to the gate and boarded our flight to Lhasa. On arrival, we discovered that Lhasa is still 65 km from the airport and we're getting up high. 3600 meters. 30 hours of traveling time!

JOKHANG TEMPLE: the spiritual heart of Tibet

The first stop of the day was the Jokhang temple-supreme temple of Tibetan Buddhism- 1300 yrs old and the spiritual heart of Tibet. Many pilgrims come here to endlessly walk around it and to prostrate themselves outside. Inside is a golden Buddha which the pilgrims line up to worship at. It was so crowded inside I felt quite claustrophobic.

We wandered along nearby Bakhor street with its bustling market and devout clockwise walking pilgrims on the pilgrimage circuit.

COPING WITH THE ALTITUDE

'At Lhasa, we were 3600 meters high so got breathless easily. On our first day, we had to take it easy, no shower until tomorrow, no alcohol or heavy meal, lots of water and sleep.

 

Altitude takes a while to get used to! Shortness of breath is common and a simple walk is difficult. Climbing the steps at Potala Palace was totally exhausting. I had a thumping headache, felt sick & had a touch of runny-tummy. The pressure at higher altitudes makes everything swell including your snack packs. I had a bag of peanuts explode in my bag so you can imagine what altitude does to your head.

POTALA PALACE:    Magnificent Home of the Dalai Lama at one time.    UNESCO  World Heritage Site.

This is the Potala Palace, which was the winter palace of the Dalai Lamas from 1649 to 1959. The Dalai Lama used to live here and there are eight  Dalai Lamas interred here. It's a magnificent building, perched 130m high from the street, is 13 stories high and has over 1000 rooms. The Potala Palace is 1500 meters high at its highest point. We climbed 300 steps to get there and at an altitude of 3650m, it's no mean feat! It was first built in the 7th century then abandoned and left to ruin. In 1645 the fifth  Dali Lama restored it and it became the centre for political and religious business in Tibet.

UNUSUAL ANIMALS -Tibetan Mastiff Dogs & decorated yaks!

By the lakes, we saw plenty of dressed up yaks and for a small fee you could take a photo but what really took our attention were the most enormous dogs we have ever seen. They looked like lions. They were called  Tibetan Mastiff dogs- a large Tibetan dog breed that belongs to the mastiff family and came from the nomadic cultures of Tibet, China, Mongolia, India, and Nepal. They are also known as 'shepherd dogs' as they help protect sheep from wolves, leopards, bears,  and tigers. Hard to believe because they look so cute! 

THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE TRIP ...    We make it to EVEREST BASE CAMP!

We set out very early in the morning to Everest Base Camp keeping our fingers crossed that we would get to see the North Face of Mount Everest and it wouldn't be covered by clouds and fog.

How lucky were we and what a magnificent sight. The day dawned clear and the clouds moved from the peak to display her in all her glory!

LAKE NAMTSO-  highest salt water lake in the world

We drove 500 km round trip to see Lake Namtso, a holy lake and the highest saltwater lake in the world, at an altitude of 4718 meters. To get there we drove over the Lagenla Mountain Pass, the highest we've ever been without a plane at 5190 meters.

 

 The lake itself is 2,000 kms in circumference, China's second-largest saltwater lake. It was stunning with the vivid turquoise water and surrounded by snow capped mountains. We passed lots of yaks and nomads on the way. There were a few tents we saw, made out of yak hair. Apparently, to make one tent takes about 80 yaks but the tents will last for over 100 years.

A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE ON THE WAY TO SHIGATSE City.

On the way to Shigatse City, we stopped at a village and were invited into the home of one of the villagers. It was surrounded by high white walls. As you walked through the large solid doors you came into a courtyard where there were several cows, ducks, and a dog. This was where they kept all their animals.

 

Up a set of stairs to the left was a walled area. It had no roof and there were four holes in the floor.  This was the loo.

 

Further on was the entrance to the actual house. We all filed into a long room. Under the windows, following the length of the wall, was a bench seat. Opposite this was cabinetry decorated and painted by one of the family members. Around the top of the walls was a hand-painted frieze with dragons & scrolls.

 

Four generations lived here. 15 people in total, soon to be 16. We drank yak butter tea and barley wine.  

SILVER & INTERESTING MARRIAGE TRADITIONS

 

After that, they bought out the silver.  It was all handmade by the family. There were jewelry, combs, teapots, water flasks & bowls and was sold by weight. I bought a bracelet, silver content 990 and had to write my name and three wishes on my receipt. This was going to be sent to the Lama for blessings.

 

It was fascinating to hear about their marriage traditions.  Marriages were mostly arranged and if there were three brothers, they would marry the one woman. The eldest brother would stay with the bride on the first night.  Then the other two would share on the second night. She would have a room to herself, but if there was a pair of shoes outside, then the other two would know not to come in. When she got pregnant it was deemed the youngest brother was the father and the older two were uncles. When it came time, she would give birth in the pig sty.

SAKYA MONASTERY  Another highlight of Tibet for us!

The Sakya monastery was founded in 1073. The oldest building is the Lhakang Chempo, originally a cave. It was built in 1268 and restored in the 16th century. It is an amazing monastery and the highlight of the trip after base camp.

 

We went into a huge room where the monks were chanting, the sound was just incredible.

 

In the Lhakang Chempo there were eight pillars which were made of Cyprus tree trunks. Around the back, in a long narrow corridor, were thousands of ancient Sanskrit scriptures that were around 1000 years old, written on a special leaf and still legible. They lined the walls, top to bottom, and were bound in cloth. 

KAMABA LA PASS  - winding continuously ...on and on and on it went!

We drove over this very high mountain pass from Shigatse to Lhasa. The roads were very windy with switchback on the ascent and descent and hairpin bends, which made it hair raising, and it just seemed to go on and on forever. We stopped at the holy lake Yamdrok which is at an altitude of 4,400m & is one of the clearest lakes in Tibet. The colour was amazing but unfortunately, the weather wasn't clear and it  even hailed while we were there. 

 

There were the usual dressed up yaks by the lakeside and for a small fee you could take a picture but there were also the most enormous dogs I have ever seen. They looked like lions! They were called shepherd dogs as they looked after the sheep and apparently can be furious but they looked so cute.

 

We also stopped at the Karo-la glacier. Not the best glacier I have ever seen but certainly the highest at an altitude  of 5045m.

TASHILHUNPO MONASTERY

 

This sprawling monastery in Shigatse city was home to up to 5,000 monks. Nowadays there are only around 1,000 monks.

 

It is the official seat of the Panchen Lama. He is like the Dalai Lama but focuses on the religious side of things,  whereas the Dalai Lama is a  more political figure. The Panchen Lama is allowed to live in Tibet  because he co-operated with the Chinese & focused on religion.

 

The Tashilhunpo monastery was founded in 1447 and houses the largest indoor Buddha in the world. He sits 26.2m high & 11.5m wide at the shoulders. His face is 3.5m long and is decorated with precious pearls, turquoise, corals & amber. On his forehead are black diamonds from South Africa.

It certainly was an interesting trip! Watch this space for tips and hacks on what NOT to do on your trip to Tibet!

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