Monastaries, Monks and Local Character

Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
Trip End Jan 31, 2012

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Flag of China  , Tibet,
Monday, June 6, 2011

Day 3 - Jokhang Temple, Potala Palace, Nunnery, Muslim Area, Tromsikhang Markets, Ramoche Temple
Had a 9am start today with the first stop being the Jokhang Temple. Started out by hearing about how buddism came to Tibet when a Tibetian king married a Nepalise woman and a Chinses one around 700AD. Seems that Jokhang temple was built for his Nepelese wife and another temple built for his chinese one. At some point in the past though the main buddist image in both temples were swapped and the chinese one now resides in the Nepelese temple.

Another interesting point was the origins of the tibetians walking around the temple clockwise. Seems that the native tibetian religion Bon has people walking around a holy place anti-clockwise. The buddhists decided to keep the tradition but change the direction. Always interesting to see how a new religion takes the traditions of a preexisting one and makes it its own in order to make it easier to convert people.

Before going in spent some time once again walking round the temple past the incence burners and prostrating themselves out the front of the temple entrance. Made our way in and found that no photos could be taken. Found that there were a lot of pilgrims walking clockwise around the inside of the temple visiting all of the chapels located around the outside walls of the temple.

Given the number of people we didnt go into any of the alcoves with people. Between the locals and the large chinese tour groups going through the place, it was pacted. Found the inside to be heavily decorated but still somehow simple. Had a number of buddist images inside as well as large cylinders of cloth hanging from the ceiling found out later that these were victory banners.

Found also that there were places for monks to sit in front of the main statues. On these seats were located the clocks that they sit under when they come here. At on point found that a monk was unexpectedly hiding under one of these cloaks. Didnt notice him at first. Wasnt until he took the cloak off the top of his head that he became noticable.

Found that as people were making their way around the temple they were basically putting their heads or hands on most things considered holy and leaving gifts. This may have been in the form of money, milk, beer or butter for the large butter candles.

After wandering around a bit we headed out and up to the roof where photos could be taken. Once again took some photos of the people out in front of the temple and also those going round it. Managed to also get a photo fo the soldiers in the square out the front of the temple. Note that if you get coaught taking these photos the soldiers will come up to you, ask to see your photos and get you to delete any photos with the soldiers.

From the roof we then headed out and walked towards the Potala Palace. Here we had to wait awhile since at this time of year you need to get a ticket in advance, only enter at a certain time and be out withing an hour. In the end spent the time round the side of the palace watching people go by and going into the building with the giant prayer wheel that people grabbed onto and walked around.

Around here found that there were a lot of shops with a number of them selling yak butter. When we asked if this was what was used in the candles we were told it wasnt. Seems that Yak butter is expensive and that a cheaper nepelese butter is used to feed that candles.

Once entering the palace grounds we made our way up the stairs to the palace with some nice views of the city and surrounding mountains along the way. Personnally didnt have to much trouble walking up the stairs but the other two guys were breathing hard since they have had less time to acclimatise. Once again lots of chinese tour groups in the place.

In the palace we were once again not able ot take photos. Found that the rooms we walked through looked quite livable and interesting. Would have been nice to of had a couple of photos or at least post cards of the inside. 

After the palace headed out and made out way out the back and down the mountain towards the park out the back from where we headed back towards the hostel to have lunch. Tried the yak butter tea but to me it just tasted like salty, slightly milky water with a bit of butter. definately couldnt taste any tea. Didnt really like it but thinking back probably should have tried to get it one more time at some other restuarant.

Before heading to the next place went back to hotel and payed for two more nights. Got a receipt and signed it without really checking. Am positive at this point I paid for two night since I knew I wouldnt be leaving Lhasa for three days. Found out later that not checking my receipt was going to cause me grief later.

From here headed to the nunnery that Fernando and Leticia wanted to go to. Seems that since this is the only plart of their trip they've put a bit more effort into researching places of interest. 

Walked through the markets to get here and went inside.

Upon entering the main temple were offered holy water which we were suppose to drink and rub on our heads. Opted to just put the stuff on my head since it was yellow and oily and I had no idea what it contained. Inside found that we could take photos here and got some nice photos of the nuns chanting and playing instruments during their evening prayers.

Should be note that the whole time we were walking around the main temple we were getting lots of stares. Guess visitors are something that gets them distracted though I would have thought they should be concentrating on what they were doing rather than following the people around them.

While wandering around found a room where nuns were copying scriptures and packaging them up. Of course one of these had a mobile phone in her hand. In another room found a couple of them sitting and reading through them.

From the nunnery we headed out to the Tromsikhang Markets via the muslim quarter. Here we saw a small mosque with its small minerate and lots of muslems with their skull caps and scarfs. Basically only did a quick walk through the streets here making out way out to the main raod and then onto the Ramoche Temple. Along the way am pretty sure I got busted (well at least almost) when a soldier turned around while I was taking a photo. Thankfully I quickly looked away and took a photo of a nearby stall and he decided not to come up to me.

As mentioned earlier the Ramoche Temple is the Chinese wife's temple but contains the nepelese icon. Once again could take photos here and this time found that the place had monks chanting out their evening prayers.

Called it a day with the tour guide and headed back to the hotel for a bit of a break before heading out with the guys for dinner. From here we waited until it got dark and then headed to the Potala square in order to get some photos of the palace when it was lite up at night. Also found that the music was blaring away in the square and that there was a dancing water show at the nearby fountain with jets of water being shot into the air and moved around with the music. Even found a number of people standing in the middle of a ring of jets that were shoting water.

Day 4 - Depung, Nechung & Sera Monastaries
Had what I consider a late 9:30am start. Caught a taxi out to the monastery which wsnt to far out. Once again lots of locals around the place with people selling various things on the wa up. Also a fair number of tourist groups both chinese and western.

This monastary is located on the side of the mountain so as we made out way up we had some nice views of the mountains as well as the city of Lhasa. On the mountain we could also see a few buddhist paintings as well as some mantra written out on the rocks. Apears that at certain time of the year a huge thangka is displayed on the mountain at sunrise and that lots of people start coming up in the dark to see it.

While walking around the outside of the buildings could see quite a few monks about. Also learnt about the Tibetian equivalent of a wedding ring. Seems that only the married women wear the stripped apron like bits of cloth at their waists whereas the single ones dont. Not sure about whether or not anything changes for a man once married.

Unlike the places we visted the previous day you could pay to take photos in the different chappels. this ranged from about Y10 - Y20 depending on the chapel. While walking around I kept a rough Idea of the fees and I recon if you paid everywhere you went it would be between Y250 and Y300. Hell of a lot if you ask me. Decided that if iy was Ok to take a photo if you paid for it then it would be Ok to sneak a few photos. Doesnt give you much chance to frame a shot but at least you get a shot in.

Found the place once again had lots of buddhist images as well as walls and walls full of scriptures. Also lots of monks around the place but got the impression they were there more for guard duty than anything else.

In one hall that we passed through, believe that it was the assembly hall. We could see lots of benches for monks but no monks. Guess unlike yesterday it was the wrong time of day for them to be out

From the main temple we wandered into the kitchen where we could see monks making lunch and playing on their mobiles. Also this seems to be the spot where they make some of the butter candles that go into the temple and chapels.

Within the next chapel we entered found more buddhist statues and images of past lamas. Believe that this also the resting place of a number of lama who could be found in the tombs with the stupa on top of them.

From here wandered down the mountain to Nechung Monastary. Along the way passed a number of piles of stone that had mantra carved on them as well as the carvers who were making them.
Also wandered past a stupa and a large number of prayer flags that were strung up.

Should note here that the nearby mountain was also covered in prayer flags. Seems that these prayer flags are changed once a year after the new year starts. That is unless the high lama dies in which case the flags stay up for another year. Must be a bloddy big job having to change all those flags.

Note that prayer flags are places on mountains and on bridges that are crossing over water.

Another interesting fact was that Tibetians dont get buried in the ground. They either have a sky burial where there body is fed to the vultures at the top of some mountain or to the fish when their bodies are thrown into the river. Found that this is the reason the older generation never eat fish. Guess you dont want to indirectly eat someone you know.

Found the Nechung Monastary to be interesting since there were a lot of people about visiting it. Lots of police also to help control the crowds. Took a while to get in but then we wandered around the chapel and were allowed to puch in to get to the main chapel.

Here we found a monk taking offering from people in the form of mild and barley beer which was being poured into cups that were overflowing. On top of that people were pouring the butter into the butter candles. Some of which were spluttering before another monk took some of the older hard butter out.

After the monastary caught the bus back to town and along the way had someone coughing behind me. Once in town headed for lunch where we had some bobi. Basically some unleven bread is spread with raita like sauce and then used to wrap some veg and meat. The sauce definately makes it what it is since I wrapped on without it and it tasted nowhere near as good. In a way the bobi reminds me a bit of the times of have made cold rolls in vietnamese restuarants.

From here wandered to the bus stop for the bus to Sera Monastary. Main reason for coming here was the monk debate and there were definately a lot of monks around the grounds. Started out by visiting a temple which was quite empty compared to the places I had previously seen before heading to the courtyard with the monks.

In the courtyard lots of monks talking or preaching to others. In some cases it seemed like a discussion was going on while in others it seemed more like a show. During a discussion you either put the back of one hand on top of another to show agreement or slap you hand at the top of your arm then run it down your arm to show disagrement. Given the number of times certain monks were doing the disagreement sign it could only be for the sake of doing the motion rather than for the sake of the discussion.

While wandering around, you guessed it, one monk was so engrossed in the discussion that he had his Iphone out and was showing something on it to his college. Probably worth noting at this point that while some monks were more traditional or sensible looking shoes a lot of monks also go around in their robes while wearing niki or addidas.

From here we were suppose to head straight out but I ended up making a detour to another small temple with a huge buddha statue in it.  After walking out of the temple had to wander around it and ended up passing another kitchen which I looked into. This kitchen though reaked. Seems that the monks there were in the process of brewing a very large pot of black tea and the smell was overpowering.

From here the guys headed to the summer palce which I had aready seen so i caught a bus back to the area of the hotel where I found a supermarket to buy some stuff for our trip out of town. Would have called it a day then but found out at the hotel that i had managed to loose my spare camera battery meaning I am down to one battery. Not good when you want to use lots of zoom in a day or if you have to go multiple days without recharging

At thsi point found my room key didnt work and had to get it reprogrammed.

In the end decided to walk around town to find a new baterry but no luck. While I had seen a couple of camera stores a few days before I couldnt remember where. The closest I managed to get was a shopping complex that was suppose to have a whole floor of electronics. Seemed like a likely candidate but when I got there found out that it seems the floor with the electronics hasnt been opened yet. Guess I'll just have to control my photo intake and hope it doesnt run out of power at an inopportune moment.

After heading back to the hotle had thought to call it a night only to get called downstairs and told I hadnt paid for the night. Reason for key not working. At this point I said I new I had paid but unfortunatley when I pulled my receipt out it had only one night listed on it. Like I said earlier should have checked it better before signing. 

In the end decided to argue the point for a while though given the receipt I really didnt have much to argue with and though it wasnt a lot of money I had paid it. In the end the manager at reception called here her manager who heard my story and in the end asked me to pay half the room rate to which I decided to agree (not worth the hassle given the amount) and she made the manager behind the desk pay the other amount.

Given I know I paid all I can guess is that the manager saw the receipt, saw a descrepancy between the cash taken in and the cash in the books and pocketed the extra cash. Though its quite possible there was some honest mistake and I'm being to harsh.


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