monasteries and mountains, part 1


i am so very glad we put in the effort to get to tibet.it took quite a bit of work to get visas and permits and a good tour group/guide, not to mention the looooong train ride! but not only is this compelling place full of beautiful and fascinating things to see, but the humility, devotion, light and history of the tibetian people is incredibly beautiful and moving to experience, even in a little sliver. our time in tibet caused us to reflect a lot on culture, devoutness, freedom, and social identity. it was just an amazing week.

we spent a couple of captivating days touring around the monasteries and mountains close by the city of lhasa. our wonderful tour guide, tenzing, is photobombing us above! our tour group was made up of dutch, australian, lithuanian, spanish, welsh and moroccan fellow travelers. we loved talking with them and learning from them.

some photos from day two in tibet:

^^ monestary view. ^^
^^ prayer wheels everywhere! ^^
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^^ rock paintings and blossoms. ^^
^^ tibetian monasteries are like little cities – many are very large and accommodate many, many monks. we saw many spiritual gathering rooms and courtyards and throne rooms and tombs for various dalai and panchen lamas, and also got to see one monastery kitchen, where toooons of food is prepared for the many monks every day. ^^
^^ in rooms like this there were many pilgrims coming to leave sacrifices – usually small bills of money and/or yak butter. there’s a lot of symbolism in the statues – i’m sure we only scratched the surface in our tour. ^^
^^ this was the main monk gathering/prayer room in one monastery. isn’t it beautiful?! ^^
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^^ there are many, many flames burning in yak butter in all the monasteries we visited. ^^
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^^ small bill offerings were left everywhere they could be squeezed in, like around large door handles! ^^
^^ we saw some monks “debating” in front of the first monastery we visited. this is one way the monks teach and learn, in groups where they are in essence quizzed on scripture. ^^
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^^ i love all the alleys winding through the monastery cities. ^^
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okay, the four pictures below are of sand sculptures we saw at one monastery. sand! i looked and marveled at these for quite a long time. the precision and patience required to make these blows my mind:
^^ they were about five feet square. amazing. ^^
^^ a larger and more lively group of debating monks. they were very loud and boisterous. it was pretty spellbinding to watch. ^^
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^^ inside one prayer hall, a monk painted my nose with some kind of chalk. i’m really not sure what was happening…and quite forgot about it until i saw this picture – ha! ^^
^^ so so so many stray, scraggly dogs in tibet. we had to capture a few. ^^
we went back to the city of lhasa that night and decided to walk by the potala palace to behold its majesty again. we also walked on the barkhor kora again, bought a tapestry souvenir ian had been considering since the day before (our first and almost last souvenir purchase of the entire trip!), and ate dinner at a rooftop restaurant overlooking the main square.
^^ pretty neat dinner view. ^^

the world is so varied and so full of good, bright people. i really like the tibetian corner of the earth.


the magical city of lhasa


during our first day in tibet, both the boy and i got completely swept up in the sensational, fascinating tide of devotion and color and energy in the city of lhasa. looking back at these pictures now i am reminded of how remarkable and uniquely exciting this place is. we absolutely loved our time there and were totally enchanted.

our week in tibet was spent with a tour group (you actually cannot enter tibet without a guide and a group) and we loved getting to know our fellow travelers. day one in lhasa included a tour of the potala palace (the home of the dalai lama before he went into exile) and the jokhara temple (the center of tibetian buddhism) and then some free time on our own exploring the old town. we learned a lot about the history of this tremendously interesting spot on earth and took in so many different, delightful sensations. what a truly special place.

^^ the potala palace is so imposing and magnificent, looming over the city. we had watched the movie seven years in tibet (we highly recommend it!) before our trip and were so excited to see this amazing structure in real life. ^^
^^ tibetian architecture, we came to realize, is so distinct. i think my favourite thing was watching the omnipresent short curtains above the windows billow in the breeze. ^^
^^ it was very crowded, but very very exciting to be there. ^^
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^^ to get to the front door of the potala palace, you must climb a lot of steps. it makes for a grand entrance! ^^
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^^ so. many. colors!!! ^^
^^ we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the palace, but there was a lot of this type of wall paintings, along with thoooooousands of statues of buddah, dalai lamas and other religious leaders. the inside was like a big maze of rooms with thrones and shrines and it was packed with pilgrims, many leaving offerings of money or yak butter, and monks, mostly studying in quiet, well-lit corners. it’s so hard to describe but it was so, so, so cool. ^^
^^ color!!! my kind of place. ^^
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^^ the view from the back side of the palace as we came back downstairs was awesome. ^^
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^^ we had lunch on this busy street. that meal was our first experience with yak meat, which we really loved and ate a ton of in tibet and nepal! ^^
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^^ we were so very impressed with the devotion of the tibetian people. everywhere they were praying and showing such devout faithfulness to their beliefs. the prayer wheels like this beautiful woman has in her hand were being spun all over. ^^
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^^ we walked through the bustling and full-to-the-brim-with-life-and-color streets of lhasa to the jokhara temple. ^^
^^ again, no pictures inside, but this gives you a good idea of how colorful and ornate everything was! ^^
^^ the views from jokhara temple were our favourite part of the day. isn’t that palace just so majestic? ^^
^^ again, incredible devotion. people were prostrating themselves on the ground in front of the temple over and over and over again - dozens, maybe even hundreds of times (you can see some above in mid motion). ^^
^^ during our free time, we decided to walk the barkhor kora (pilgrim circuit) around the jokhara temple. as is customary, hundreds of tibetian buddhists were moving clockwise on a road that encircles the temple and it was so so so neat to get swept up in their wave and walk with them. (there were also many others on the street going about their normal daily business. one thing that amazed us about tibet is how integrated spiritual and temporal life seemed to be.)^^
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^^ and again, amazing displays of devotion. this woman wasn’t letting anything stop her from walking around the temple to show her faithfulness. ^^
^^ we peeled off onto a side street and happened across this amazing food market, which actually turned out to be a huge supermarket with loads of different aisles. i love this kind of stuff – just seeing how people live their day-to-day life (like grocery shopping). it was so fun to explore in there. ^^
^^ so much yak butter! i believe this is used both for flavoring food and as an offering in temples. ^^
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^^ so many shops bursting with color back on the streets. ^^
^^ we saw probably two dozen shops just like this one! lots of buddah statues! ^^
^^ this is the courtyard at our hotel. i just love those prayer flags and that distinctive tibetian architecture! ^^

seriously, i can’t emphasize enough how magical lhasa is. we so enjoyed and appreciated a peek into this special place, teeming with color and devotion and life.

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