monasteries and mountains, part 1


i am so very glad we put in the effort to get to 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.


  1. So, you have mentioned prayer wheels a few times and I see them in many of your pictures. Can you tell us a little about what they are and how they are used?

  2. The stray dogs on the streets just breaks my heart. I would have a difficult time seeing that. I am an animal lover and I would want to rescue all of them.
    Amazing trip and I'm sure very eye opening. Lisa in Seattle

  3. Those sand sculptures! Wow!
    My parents were just in Tibet last week, so it has been interesting to read their e-mail and your blog entries at the same time. This is what my Dad had to say about the debating monks and the black mark on noses:

    "We went to the Sera Monastery and watched a large group of monks sitting in a large shaded area where they were debating some topic. It was very interesting to watch as the defender claps his hands together as he makes a self-assured point during his time to speak. I may try that to see if it helps when I make important statements. The Sera Monastery is also home to some Protector Deities. The monks at the monastery give the children and adolescents protection with a mark of black (soot??) on their noses."

    So it looks like you were given a mark of protection. Pretty cool!
    I'm enjoying reading about your adventures around the world - thanks for sharing!

    1. wow, thanks! yes, the debating was very loud with claps! and we noticed that it was mostly children that had the soot on their noses - other adults who saw us thought it was pretty funny that we had been marked up :)


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