Blessed to be here. Very grateful to be in such a beautiful place, and to have time with someone I love.
Staying in a fantastic hotel, with a knowledgable guide; it can't get much better than this to get to know Tibetan culture. Well…other than living here as a local, of course.
A few snapshots of our first proper day wandering around Jokhang Temple – the first temple built in Tibet. Our hotel is close to the temple and I'll admit it, we got lost on our way back, but the lovely local police were happy to guide us sillys home.
And speaking of home….we love our digs in Lhasa. The House of Shambhala is close to Jhokang temple and with Tibetan architecture, artifacts and furniture, it's been the most relaxing place to unwind. Kudos to the fantastic team at Road to Tibet Tours for arranging everything on this trip for us so seamlessly. It's a perfect base for our wanderings around Lhasa, holding on the Tibetan style without compromising on quality.
Free wi-fi in rooms? Tick. Shower, toilets with great plumbing (toilet paper still has to be placed in bins)? Tick. Great rooftop area for chilling out? Tick. Library with English books? Tick (I borrowed "The Outsiders", which I haven't read since highschool and love the fact that it's a book from "Grant Junior Highschool" in Colorado,and it's made it's way to Tibet!). Restaurant and bar? Tick. Fantastic view of mountains? Tick. Well, that's a moot point really, as nearly every place in Lhasa has a fantastic view of the mountains.
The restaurant on the same level as our room, on the opposite end of the garden, which is very pleasantly laid out with Tibetan comfortable cushioned seating as well as Western seating. It also has a little library nook with a round table for gatherings.
I'm using the word "pleasant" a lot, aren't I?
View down into the reception area from our floor. The staff at the restaurant often call down to the other staff from the 3rd floor rather than walking down. It's a lovely atrium/ light-well affect and their voices carry very easily, so there's no shouting required.
Our bedroom – the main door is on the left. The writing desk and cupboard with traditional Tibetan art depicts the 8 Buddhist symbols. The top right door of the cupboard shows a mongol and a tiger on a leash – this image is commonly used as a guardian against bad spirits.
The wet teatowel hanging over the chair was due to a Massala chai tea incident perpetrated by "M"…. which we will no longer mentioned for the rest of the blog.
Next to the bed is a raised sitting area for tea, with the traditional Tibetan padded cushions underneath, so it's very warm and comfy. A low wooden table is used for tea-cups and bottles of water. The light through the windows is beautiful.
Next to the seated area is a gorgeously painted and carved wooden door. On the top of the door is painted the deer and Dharma wheel which is specific to the Jhokang Temple, which is down the road from this hotel.
Just to give some perspective, here's mum. No she is not a giant. She's average height. The door is totally "me" sized (small). I love how bright and airy the room is.
The windows open up into a small but cosy room which has Tibetan cushions laid on the entire area of the floor, which would probably be used as a little meditation area if a single person or couple was staying here. It's a wonderful space and feels very welcoming. There are 2 Buddhist teachings on the wall:
"Reality does not exist"
"Take emptiness along when you leave."
Today, we wanted to just wander through the streets of old Lhasa, and into Jhokang Temple. Our day's walk took us a while as we were constantly asking the guide (Tsewang) questions, stopping to take pictures and just taking in the daily life. Which is why we got lost trying to find our way back on our own, later….we were not paying attention to alleyways and turns!
Traditional Tibetan coats. The guy's coat shows how one arm can be left "out", with the sleeve draped behind.
Once we entered the temple grounds (after passing security checks), we followed the clockwise walk "kora". The kora takes them around the Jhokang Temple grounds and then into the temple. Tibetans will do the kora once, or 3 times is best. They will not do an even numbered walk, it must be an odd number.
At certain points around the kora (clockwise route) there are large incense burners. Offerings are thrown in – incense, herbs, barley flour and water. Water is seen as a good thing to add as the smoke sends the prayers up to heaven.
Note: You are meant to do your offerings on a "good" day. There's a special calendar based on your date of birth/ age to tell you if you're having a good or bad day. I want one of these and I want my husband, my work, facebook, friends and dog to memorise it.
This is our guide, Tsewang, brushing barley flour off mum's shoulder and face after mum got too close to the incense burner getting a photo. I have dubbed Mum's photography style as "Crouching mother, hidden zoom lense". I am still thinking of something that rhymes with "dragon". Any suggestions?
Along the route and at the front of the temple, there are large prayer flag poles. They are wrapped in prayer flags. The flags are in the 5 colours of the elements:
Blue – Sky
White – Clouds
Yellow – Earth
Red – Fire
Green – Grass
Tibetans believe the wind takes the prayers to heaven. They also have "prayer papers" which they toss into the wind when travelling. We'll apparently see lots of this on the tour outside of Lhasa.
My environmentalist radar isn't offended by this, for some reason…..
Entry to Jhokang temple.
We were lucky this afternoon to have blue skies and a shining sun to glint off the top of the Jhokang Temple. Sweeeeeet! The dharma wheel between two deer represent unity of all things and Sakyamuni (Buddha) himself. The tour agency will be taking us inside on a separate tour as part of our scheduled itinerary. The history of Jhokang can be found here.
Top of Jhokang Temple. I am sure it has some religious relevance but I am waiting for the full guided tour before googling and pretending to know about this. But it sure is beautiful.
Front of Jhokang Temple – a stone with names of all the people who donated for the building of the temple in the 7th century. It's a pretty long list, in teeny tiny font.
Flowers on the unused cooking vessels.
Windows along the wall of the Jhokang Temple. There was something about the breeze and the movement of those cloth curtains that hypnotised me, today. The tempo was so calming, so breathy and the sky so blue. I have a bad hand-held video of this, but I don't think it'd do it justice in capturing the mood. So these pics will have to suffice.
Lunch at the New Mandala Restaurant. The rooftop had a fantastic view! If you just go there for a drink, it's an excellent place to people-watch, absorb the goings-on at Barkhor Square.
It's just across from the Jhokang Temple entry and outside the security area.
I had the vegetarian Nepalese set meal which was delicious. Mum had the chicken curry with Naan bread. As the chef is Nepalese, it was a sure bet that the food would be excellent, but they do offer Tibetan, Indian and Western meals.
View from the rooftop. I was torn between taking a pic of the mountains or the people in the square. So now we get the top of a streetlamp as the main feature of this photo. Sorry.
Front of the old temple, with incense burner and monk at the front. Where the guy in the yellow fluro jacket is standing would be where you'd start the turning of the wheels, heading left, around the temple in a clock-wise direction.
My zoom lense is such a treasure. I love this shot. I don't care that it's blurry. It just captured the moment and the incense in the air.
Note on photos: I am trying not to take intentional pics of people with their faces using my zoom lense as I don't think it's right. Imagine a tourist from China heading to a Sydney beach and taking pics of you and your kid in the surf…..To be honest, there are some I have taken to try to capture a moment, not the person specifically, but an interaction…I will aim not to use on this blog. I have to say it's really hard not to do when there are so many beautiful scenes around me. I hope that the intention is to capture a moment and unless I ask the person's permission, a full view of their face should not be used on the blog.
So after a long day walking….what's one pic to capture the day?
Seems silly but I really love the blue sky and the colours of the buildings. It's hard to capture an essence of a place in one pic….So here's a pic of something that surprised me as I would never think to link this physical item with religion.
Who would have thought dead branches could be used in such a spiritual and colourful way? They are on the rooftops of Lhasa, carrying the prayers to the winds.
Well, that's our day in Lhasa. So Hello, or Tashi Delek, Lhasa, and Thanks for gorgeous weather and a wonderful day. Can't wait to see and learn more tomorrow.
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