Ganden Kora

Trip Start Feb 24, 2006
Trip End Dec 31, 2007

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Saturday, July 7, 2007

In order to get to Ganden Monastery, you must wake up early and cram onto a minibus headed toward the sacred site.  This bus will be filled with Tibetan pilgrims and you will be lucky to get a regular seat!  My seat resided straight next to the front windshield, a make-shft bench settled perpendicular to the window, surrounded by 3 Korean university students, 3 other westerners and 40 pilgrims.  Luckily it's only a 1.5 hour bus ride and since the sun was rising there at least was some nice scenery.  After an hour on the bus I notice, to the south, a zigzaggin switchback road settles on a hillside with an angle of about 60 degrees.  It cut through the green hills and finished at the rocky I figured we had to climb over this mountain to get to the monastery.  The ride was intersting as we swayed back and forth on the bench and as the driver dogded yaks and the yaks dodges the bus and the yak herders tried to make sure their flock was out of the way!  Rounded a high elevation corner, it turns out that Ganden is not over the mountain, but built into the side of the mountain, hidden from the main road around the bends of the peaks.  Ganden seems more mountain city than mountain monastery as it is a pretty bug place.  My immediate reaction was to think that it must be like what a place like Maccu Piccu looked like while still inhabited.

Anyway, Ganden sits at about 15,000 feet, which means that for evey 10 minutes you walk you need to take a 5 minute break due to the effects of altitude.  I began with the kora, the path/circuit the Tibetan pilgrims make around the monastery before entering...however, the Ganden kora is not just around the monastery, it's around the whole mountain peak that the monastery sits on!   Well worth it though as it affords 360 degree access to Ganden and is both figuratively and literally breathtaking.  The photos and videos will tell you a better story of Ganden than I can, but it was amazing scenery, so peaceful and the pilgrims were super friendly.  After the kora I explored the monastery grounds and buildings - its many halls, shrines and views from the golden rooftops.  I spoke with a few monks, Gorbor mostly, and we enjoyued taking a few photos together and discussing traveling and a monks daily life.  It was here that I learned a Tibetan monk is quite different from our western perception of a monk, as they can date, have sex, marry (and the fact that they ALL carry cell phones)!  Needless to say, Ganden and Gorbormade for a great day of travel! 
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