Travel Journal

Lhasa (Tibet)

(Saturday 9 February 2008) by Lynda
Yes, I've made it, it was quite a trip getting here but what a great experience.
Tibetan girl
Tibetan girl
The trip from Beijing to Lhasa is about 4.500 km, takes about 48 hours and it is the highest railway in the world. The highest pass on the way is the Tangu-la pass (5180m). The train is equipped with special oxygen tanks and outlets to help the travelers on board of the train. And yes indeed, you certainly feel that you are high up, quite lightheaded and a bit dizzy. The views are spectacular, mountains everywhere, covered in snow and even wildlife on the frozen plains along the train track, Tibetan gazelles, yaks, pheasants and many birds of prey.

Lhasa (3.600m) is great but altitude sickness really got me so the first 2 days I just stayed indoors feeling sick. And even now after 10 days I still have to take it easy, it seems there is never enough oxygen....especially not when you're climbing a small mountain.....but that will be in my next log (no sorry, not Mt Everest.....). The weather is great, cold but sunny all day with great blue skies.

In Lhasa I explored the monasteries and the kora's around them. Pilgrims from all over the country and even beyond come to Lhasa to visit the monasteries and see the Potala Palace. It's great to walk the kora's and see the pilgrims prostrating
Prayer wheels along the Potala circuit
Prayer wheels along the Potala circuit
(falling flat on their face with every step), swinging their prayer wheels, thumbing prayer beads and murmuring prayers all the way. Every time when I come close to the kora I am again suck into it for yet another round. Great to visit the little chapels and courtyards on the way, get blessings from monks, swing the prayer wheels and be part of it. I especially liked the Barkhor circuit, the kora around the Jokhang Monastery. I lost count of the times I walked the circuit, amazing place.

Although tourism is pretty developed here in Lhasa, pilgrims from the countryside don't see to many tourist so everybody is staring at me and me......I'm staring back at them. All dressed in beautiful colorful traditional clothes, great hair jewelry and great hats. Still tempted to buy a traditional coat lined with sheepskin (must be so nice and warm) and a fur hat but on the other hand, think it will look silly when I wear it in Holland so maybe better not.

I also went to see the Potala Palace, the former residence of the 14th Dalai Lama but currently only in use as museum. A great sight, build on top of a hill. I didn't go inside, Lhasa is absolutely packed at the moment with people visiting from all over the country for the Losar festival (Tibetan New Year) and part of the festival is to visit the temples and the palace. I spend 5 hours queuing for the Jokhang on new years eve (the 7th of feb) to get in and was almost flattened in this human whirlpool and that was it for me....no more queuing, especially no more chinese queuing.....they soo love to jump the queue!!!!

Yes Lhasa is great, especiall during the Losar festival and I feel very lucky that I made it!!!

 


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