Thursday, September 15, 2005

Lhasa

Well, we finally all got the energy to take a look at town. Still huffing and puffing our way along though (maybe this is usual now that I am old?). Interesting to say the least. We are staying in the Tibetan part of town. It's obviously the most interesting part though a little depressing when you think that most of the city is Chinese now and within a very short period of time the train will arrive (they are currently building a route up from Golmud that is rumored to be nearly complete) and all Chinese hell will break loose up here and it probably won't be worth visiting anymore. As it is, there is tons of Chinese propaganda everywhere with the entire Tibetan quarter covered with Chinese flags on all the buildings. Hmmm...... at least they still have monks and Tibetans with funky ornamentation making their pilgrammages running around so it is interesting at street level still. My advice to you guys is to get up here soon or face the reality that it won't be worth it soon.
There are a lot of tourists here too, maybe the most westerners since Ulaan Baatar, so that of course means more expensive, more touts and more beggars, probably the worst of the trip so far. Fortunately we need the practice for India so it's all good. We've mostly just wandered around a little, though we did make a short trip out to Drepung monastery yesterday. It was the largest of the monasteries around Lhasa and some say in the world! Housing up to 10000 monks in its prime, it's like a small town to wander around in. It's up on the hillside so Mom, Bre and I (Savannah stayed home in a bad mood) had a time of it for a few hours checking it out. What makes it interesting is the lack of planning. The buildings and different levels are all totally out of whack but then this seems to be a common theme with the Buddhists because everything we've seen so far has been totally warped or crooked. Maybe that's what you get when you build everything in these climates without nails.... The Potala palace was much the same though actually a bit disappointing. The biggest drawback is it's such a hassle. It's pretty hard to get tickets because they sell out their limited number pretty quick so you have to wait in line the day before. Then when you get in you are not allowed to take pictures, the lighting is pretty bad and you get lost pretty quick as it is a maze with little direction a lot of the time. It was interesting to see the tombs and thrones of previous Dalai Lamas though most of the place is like the inside of yet another monastery.
At this point we are ready to leave and start the next phase of the trip so tomorrow we are heading west toward Nepal. It'll take us up to a week to get there as we will stop in Shigatse and Gyantse on the way and, continuing along in our normal fashion, we are going to wing the transport issue as tours are prohibitively expensive.
Back to up and up and over the mountain passes again.......
For those wondering about it, yes we all had some form of altitude sickness. Here's the proof:
1. Ammon - Struggling to keep up with the walking speed of the girls. They were thrilled.
2. Bre - Seen posing for pictures while hugging little Tibetan kids. They were thrilled, we were shocked.
3. Savannah - Failed to out-eat all the rest of us. Her voracious appetite has mysteriously disappeared......
4. Mom - Well, in light of my new found adherence to the Buddhist principle of respecting my elders I'll keep this one a secret 'til I die......
Ammon

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