Tuesday, April 7, 2009

On Top of the World

Wasn’t the first tour group into Tibet – but one of the early groups to enter after boarder was opened. It was snowing when we arrived – but then the bright sun came back out, From the bus, we saw Pilgrims walking along the road and got an introduction to sky burials & water burials.

The first day in Lhasa, we slowly ascended to the Potala Palace. The Palace was built in 1645 (White Palace) and 1693 (Red Palace). It was once the residency of the Dalai Lama, but he has not resided here since he fled to India in 1959. Tibet’s still hold onto to hope that he will be allowed to return some day – but this is not certain.
Much of the Palace was stark whitewashed concrete like. I liked the protectors guarding the doors and the Buddha’s. Many rooms open for viewing contained collections of Buddha statues from around the world. The chapels were decorated with gold and jewels and contained several stupas (burial chambers) of previous Dalai Lamas. It was also interesting to see the walls covered with compartments containing the ancient scriptures. Several were being studied by Monks in an assembly room.

As we explored, we were side by side with worshipers who had journeyed to this holy site. Got to witness them make their offerings of Yak Butter to the burning candles in the chapels, as well as observing several prostrating pilgrims as they bowed and prayed to pay their respects to the Buddha and ask for blessings.
The mountains around Lhasa are very impressive. Within old part of the city we wandered through narrow streets and markets. Yak meat/ yak butter were very evident, as were herb markets and market stalls with all kinds of products. I purchased a necklace at one vendor – after bargaining a bit, I paid for my purchase only to learn that we were her first purchase of the day. She waved our money across her goods asking for good luck and blessings of the Buddha. (It was almost 1pm).

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