Day 1 and Day 2 in Lhasa

Trip Start Dec 25, 2008
Trip End Dec 25, 2009

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Where I stayed
Lhasa Gang-Gyan Hotel

Flag of China  , Tibet,
Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I did check out the Lhasa Dong Coo International Youth Hostel and it seemed clean and the price seemed fair 100 for a private double and 80 for a single.  adress is No. 10, Beijing East R. d Lhasa, Tibet - phone 008608916273388.

Arriving in Lhasa was definitely a dream come true that I did not think I would realise in this lifetime. But here I am in the middle of Tibetan Culture. My flight from Chengdu to Lhasa was good. My guide and driver were awaiting my arrival at the airport and was greeted and welcomed by my guide with the white silk scarf which was very moving in itself. We quickly  were off to the hotel. I believe it is a 45 minute drive from the airport to Lhasa (I could be off on that) but during the drive the guide introduced herself and pointed out some sights as well as an introduction to Lhasa.

My only disappointment was that after paying so much for my trip to Tibet I end up with a Chinese guide.  It seems that I was the only foreigner with  a Chinese guide.  I thought that since I had organized my trip through Sim's Cozy Guesthouse and he himself is a well-travelled man that if I have a Chinese guide it is because she is very well versed in Tibetan Cluture!! Throughout the few days in Lhasa I will find out that it is not so but more on this later.  Apart from the guide that you will definitely get the whole story at the end of my blog for Lhasa, this trip was simply amazing and I am basically at a lost for words to describe this part of my trip.

To start off, I am one of those unfortunate people who get altitude sickness which usually starts around 2,800 m and at about 3,200m and up I have to start taking Diamox. I was affected by it in Machu Pichu, Peru; in Quito, Ecuador and again in Shangri-La and now in Lhasa. So contrary to what documents say that sometimes you are affected and sometimes not for me it is everytime. However, I was prepared and did have Diamox with me and did follow all the recommendations so that I could try and keep the effects as minimal as possible.  So like suggested I had started taking diamox 1 day before departure and drinking lots of water. Once in the room I just took it easy and then went out a couple of times for a short orientation walk and replenish on water and buy some fruits.  So had very little to eat and lots of water to drink. The following morning was my visit to Jokhang Temple (and found that I could handle this altitude reasonably well).  I had organized only Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Square for the 1st day as I didn't want to be rushed during my visit.  So the guide met me at the hotel and we walked to Jokhang Temple.  She explained that it was a religious holiday so I was very lucky and saw all the locals coming to the Temple for prayers and offerings. Their offerings are yak butter that they add to the already burning lamps and any extra or some containers are also left at the temples for use later.  The guide explained to me that this butter is the lower grade of butter and the better grades are kept for cooking and home use or selling. They also offer yuans at most if not every "alter".  It was quite amazing to be there among all the locals.  I was one of very few foreigners. In fact I didn't see any other foreigners as most agencies book a visit to the Potala Palace in the morning and Jokhang Temple in the afternoon.  I wanted to visit the temple in the morning as that is when we can enter from the front door just like the locals.  The front door is closed in the afternoons and the visitors have to use the side door which is not at all the same sensation when you come in.  So I was lucky on two counts.  As well, I found out that the monks had debate sessions in the afternoon and then they would chant in the temple.  So I asked if I could come back and see.  The Head Monk  wrote a note on my ticket that I could return in the afternoon without having to pay another entrance fee. Again, it was amazing and again I was the only visitor there. I should say I was the only one beside the monks in the temple as it closes at 4:30.  I was chased out by a guard but thank god another monk could speak english and I explained to him that I had been authorized to stay and back in I went.  It was great to see the debate as well the chanting was amazing with at least 50 monks chanting endlessly.  Being there at that time, I also saw some locals come in and offer money to each and every monk. As well, what I gather to be the head monk also distributed money that had been given for them during the day.  I finally left around 7:30  as I was getting worried of being locked in!!! My first day in Lhasa was truely amazing and was definitely looking forward to visiting the Potala Palace on my 2nd day.  Again I had just booked the Potala Palace for my 2nd day as I wanted to be able to take my time and take everything in.

Day 2

My guide had picked up the Potala ticket the day before as everything is very organized and controlled by Chinese authority. There are only 2,500 visitors admitted everyday and the entries are schedued every 15 or 30 minutes throughout the day (the fee is 100 yuan, I believe)  and all bags are checked and no water . . . are allowed in. But they do sell water once you are inside and of course (like most airports) you pay way more!!!! Did have a great tour and my guide was great in explaining the different alters, "buddist sects" etc. , sculptures, paintings and everything else worth noting. Also her english was very good. Unfortunately, either we can't take photos inside or if  they are allowed it can be between 15 and 50 yuan so no inside photos from me.
After the visit the guide went on her way and I was back in Barkhor square and walked around and discovered small streets around the area.  Also went to a workshop center which does fair trade so that money paid for purchases are returned to Tibetan communities. Went back to the room later and by that time I was too late to follow-up on Tracia's (whom I had met at Sim's Cozy Guesthouse)  e-mails and missed meeting her and Chris for that night.
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