Inside Tibet: Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple.
Daily Vlog: 37
Today was filled with mixed emotions, we start the day off with a visit to the Potala Palace the home of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India in the 1959 Tibetan uprising. This place has held my imagination for years. Construction of the palace was started by the 5th Dalai Lama in 1645 after Konchog Chophel one of his spiritual advisers pointed out that the site was ideal location for government as it was situated between Drepung and Sera monasteries and the old walled city of Lhasa. They believe that it may lay on the site of an earlier fortress, called either the White or Red Palace built in 637 by Songtsan Gampo.
As we approached this massive palace, I was in awe of its grand stature, it looked over Lhasa proudly, almost standing guard over the old city. I felt blessed that i would soon be able to see inside this very important building in Tibetan history. However I was soon brought crashing back down to earth as we were directed through bag check and after bag check, we had to walk along fenced pathways watched over by the Chinese military. As we approached the gate and yet another bag check, one of our tour members was not allowed in because she was wearing a dress. According to our guide, as long as you cove your knees you are normally allowed in. So our new friend had to purchase a pair of pants from a street seller, which the guards directed her towards. My guess is the street seller was a friend of the guards and we were just a way to get some cash off the tourists?
Once we were all through the gates we now only had 20 minutes to make it up to the gate or we would not be allowed inside. Even then we only had 1 hour inside the Potala Palace, it is a very large building so you could not see much, you where constantly rushed through each room. You could not take photo’s inside the building either and everywhere you looked you were getting watched by cameras. I felt rush of sadness flow over me, there were only a handful of monks left, we had heard that even some of them where fake monks from the Chinese Military sent there to keep an eye over the Tibetan monks. The Chinese invasion of Tibet was very obvious here, they controlled every aspect of this once grand stature of Tibetan culture. It must be so hard for the Tibetan people.
After leaving the Potala Palace I was not in a happy, joyful mood and I could see the same faces through out my tour group. So we decided to jump on some Rickshaws for a little fun and find some lunch. We wandered into the fast food outlet and where met by these beautiful smiling faces. They were all a little shocked to see us in there and we all had a bit of fun. But I don’t thing our bellies are quite used to the local food yet and we were all a little worried how we would handle it.
That after noon we wandered back down to the Jokhang Temple to watch the famous Debating Monks. This was a site to see, but it now looks like it is a bit of a tourist attraction, the temple was packed with Chinese tourist all very intrigued with us more than the Debating Monks. One even snuck up behind me and touched my dreads, she was very shocked when I turned around, her face was priceless.
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