Hot water and what seemed like clean beds - all in one hotel, wow!!! Sadly the morning revelaed what we had not noticed the night before - filthy bedding, but too late, I’d already slept in it and it never killed me. Cheu had a nice clean duvet, actually white, whereas mine was brown and grey - cant imagine last time that was washed. Anyway, bed was comfortable, water was hot, and breakfast was nice eggs and hot spicy potatoes, which seems to be the standard tourist breakfast in Tibet for foreigners. Not bad really.
The town of Xigatse claims to be the second largest in Tibet but actually there has never been a census in the country so nobody is really sure. Actually it’s a rather dull little town with nothing to say about itself, though it does have the spectacular Ta Si Lhun Po Monastery, which is the “official” residence of the Panchem Lama
. Its seems he would prefer to live at this Monastery, as all previous Panchem Lama have done, but the authorities prefer that he lives in Beijing, and occasionally he is allowed to visit Xigatze. Both the Panchem and the current DL are yellow hat sect of Tibet an Buddhism, though clearly they have never been able to meet as the Panchem came to position in 1990s long after his holiness the DL had fled to India. The palace contains the largest statue of the future Buddha, a concept which I think only exists in Tibetan Buddhism - the future Buddha will come to earth around 4564 AD, so hopefully our journey in this mini van/bus will be completed by then. Tibetan Buddhism is really very complex and we cant uncensored books here, so perhaps it’s a purchase I need to make when we return to Nepal as its quite confusing here when you try to follow the approved scripts the Tibet guides must follow, which they interspaced with knowing smiles when anything post 1959 or the future of the DL is mentioned. See lots of photos of the Monastery which is spectacular and the camera cannot do it justice.
Next day was a rather dull drive to Gyatse, perhaps the most unremarkable stop of the trip - really the logistics of getting into Lhasa the next day was what drove this overnight stop, in an ok hotel, but clean and more hot water. There are two things to see here, a temple on a hill that’s impossible to climb, and a stupa which is only one km walk from the hotel, but at this altitude it took nearly an hour to walk there and back
. The most interesting thing was the chance to see local houses, which are “owned” by a mix of traditional Tibet families and recently arrived Chinese immigrants - whilst in theory the houses are all built to the same plan, you can clearly see the impact of wealth creating Chinese families contrasted against the older Tibet families. I have not enough info to comment on the rights or wrongs of what happened in Tibet, but what is clear is that the recently arrived Chinese families generate industry, work and wealth which leads to better looking schools, roads, hospitals and housing. I cant imagine being able to make this road journey across Tibet without the economic might which China has brought to the region. Best thing about the town was that we found a truly outstanding Chinese restaurant - it has no name but is a few doors away from the Yak Western Tourist restaurant, where all guides try to force you to eat, no doubt with some background commission passing around. Cheu and I said no and guide wasn’t happy but thought titty, we needed to be able to do our own thing after days of being told exactly what to do when. Food was glorious, hot spicy, fresh and not cheap, but a real treat. The man even invited us into kitchen and we watched him cook - I had some spicy chicken and fresh vegetables (yes FRESH VEG for first time in days) and Cheu had a really spicy hot Mau Po Tofu.
Next morning we set off to Lhasa, incredible scenery along the way, no monasteries etc but towering snow capped peaks, massive turquoise lakes and several climbs to over 5000 metres again - but by this time we had mostly adjusted ok to the altitude, so nobody was ill.
Arrival in Lhasa was a really mix of feelings - glad the bus journey was over, shock at how fast the rural landscape had turned from pretty grinding poverty into scenes of a much more prosperous well oiled farming and industrial machine, slight disappointment that the city was now a modern Asian city, but then huge excitement to realise we were staying in a 400 year old traditional Tibetan home which is just so fab to be staying in.