Tashi Delek, Lhasa



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Tibet.

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. 

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Our room is on the 3rd floor, which is a bit of a climb for us foreigners to the rooftop of the world. However, it's worth it. We're right next to the restaurant and a lovely garden area, which we have secretly claimed as our own.

 

DSCN2548The artwork on the wall depicts buddhas, which is similar to the ancient carvings and steeles from ancient times. 

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The chilled-out rooftop area. I plan to come up here at dawn and dusk. Note emphasis will be on the word "plan".
You're not the boss of me, rooftop, no matter how photogenic you are. 

 

DSCN2545Views of the surrounding mountains abound. 

 

DSCN2542Another view from the rooftop, which has pleasant potted plants like roses, petunias, dahlias, peonies scattered among tables, chairs and seating areas under a pergoda. 

 

DSCN2541View to the garden area next to our room, looking down from the rooftop.

 

DSCN2537The 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?

 

DSCN2536The garden area. We refrained from marking our territory by placing umbrellas and jackets on seats….we know we have to share, but it's a really nice space to have next door to our room. 

 

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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. 

 

 

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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. 

 

DSCN2527Mum chillaxing on the raised bed.

DSCN2529Next 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.

 

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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.

 

DSCN2523And through this door….is my cosy little bedroom! 🙂

 

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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.

 

 

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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."

I hope to meditate on these thoughts while in my little sanctuary. 
 
 

DSCN2521Today, 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! 

 

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Traditional Tibetan coats. The guy's coat shows how one arm can be left "out", with the sleeve draped behind.

 

DSCN2440More Tibetan traditional tailors. The Tibetans prefer their clothes tailored rather than store-bought so everything fits a lot better. (Of course). They will go to the tailor for special occassions. 

 

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The local bakery, which I want to try one morning. 
 
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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. 

 

DSCN2450The clockwise walk takes tourists and worshippers alike along a route around the temple, and it's surrounded by shops on either side. 

 

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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. 

 
DSCN2449Behind the large incense burner are Buddhist scriptures and pictures of the 3 buddhas.
The words in white are from the Buddha – "Om". 
The 3 Buddhas are usually shown left to right and have different colours: Buddha of Wisdom (orange – Mangshuri), Buddha of Compassion (white – Avolokitashivana) and Buddha of Protection (blue or red – Vajarapani).
 
In general, when walking around the kora, or just in the streets, you will see/ hear people mumbling to themselves. What they may be chanting is
"Om Ma Ni Pad Mai Hung". This is a Buddha of Compassion prayer for ALL beings, not just for oneself. The belief is that the prayer should be something for all sentient creatures, and that it should not be asking only for oneself. The prayer is meant to be a simple chant so that anyone can repeat it, and no one needs to be educated to read scriptures in order to pray.
"Om" – God realm
"Ma" – Demi-god realm
"Ni" – Human beings
"Pad" – Animals
"Mai" – Hungry ghosts. (Mum was fascinated by this as Chinese also have a "hungry ghost" belief).
"Hung" – Hell. (I was fascinated by this part as I didn't realise Buddhism believed in a hell and yet showed compassion towards sinners in an everyday prayer). 
 
 

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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?

 

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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…..

 

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The front of Jhokang Temple. 

 

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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.

 

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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. 

 

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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. 

 

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The tree at the front of the temple represents the Buddha's hair.
 

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Worshippers at the front of the temple.
 
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Putting my zoom lense to use, view inside, past the first gates. 
 

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These metal cauldrons at the front of the temple are actually cooking vessels. In the past, the monks in the monastery would use these to cook. These are no longer in use as there are less monks.

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Flowers on the unused cooking vessels.

 

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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. 

 

DSCN2506A child was humming a song in Tibetan to herself as I was taking these photos. She was lying in her mother's lap in the shade, singing along to the tempo of the wind. 

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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View on to Barkhor square and into the Jhokang Temple grounds. 
 
 
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After lunch, we wandered back on our own, going back into the secured section again. I have to say that getting lost can be quite fun. Along the way, we saw this section of a smaller temple. It may be part of the larger Jhokang complex, I'm not sure, but it looked older. Prayer wheels on the outside.
 
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Worshipper turning the prayer wheels (clockwise) on his way into the temple.

 

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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. 

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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.

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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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