We started by visiting Deprung Monastery (15th century monastery - 7 km west of Lhasa). This was once the largest monastery in the world and had 7000 monks. One of the highlights in visiting the Deprung Monastery was visiting a cave just left of the entrance to the monastery. This is where two nuns are living and one has been there for 10 years. I was not aware of this cave but was asked by the guide if I wanted to visit and of course I was very interested in seeing the living conditions and how someone could live in such a state for 10 years!!! (See the photos)
I visited the kitchen at Deprung Monastery and paid 20 or 30 yuan to take photos of the amazing size of cooking pots and number of plates, glasses
. . . to feed all the monks attending and visiting on religious days. We then continued to Nechung Monastery and then to Poboula which is quite a small monastery and it happened to be close to my drivers house and where he goes to pray and make offerings. This is the only place where he came with us and seemed to be very proud and happy to show us around. We talked to a monk living here in a cave which seems to be part of the monastary as well and has a "natural painting of the Green Tara" (the guide was calling "a natural painting" where the actual form of the tara, gods . . . are already outlined in the stone, cave wall . . . and painting the form just enhances the form in the rock. I could see that this monastary is definitely not on the tourist route as there were no entrance fee and I was the only one visiting!!! After this, we were off to the last monastery on my itinerary for the day and the one we had not visited the day before and that was Sera Monastery. Again, very interested. Every monastery has its own point of interests with each having special and unique relics. We also stayed and watched some monks debating and then it was back in Lhasa where I had planned to meet Tracia and Chris at Barkhor square.
While waiting at Barkhor square, I was approached by a couple of teenage girls who wanted to practice their english so we had a conversation while waiting for Tracia and Chris
. I had originally planned to go visit workshops where people made handicrafts but cancelled and Tracia, Chris and I decided to go have diner and see a cultural show instead. Diner and show was at Shangri-La restaurant. Food was decent but expensive (we chose a la carte but there was also a buffet available for 60 yuan. I ended up paying 110 yuan but had this special dish which when it arrived seemed to have some type of "cooked worm/insect. - that was part of reason for it being expensive!!!! I do think that they all stayed in the plate!!!) I totally enjoyed the evening and it was once again very nice to be sharing a meal with a couple of great people met along the way. We could share guide stories. They were off to higher altitudes the next day and I would be visiting Gandin Monastery at about 4,000 m.
Day 4 was totally filled with visits to 4 monasteries outside of Lhasa but doable without being rushed. (Most of these monasteries are recommended by Travel Agencies except for Poboula that most consider too small to be worth a visit but ended up being one of my favorites for several reasons.)