maandag 10 oktober 2011

Tibet Trip part 2

We were walking out the station and searching for one particular thing: a guy holding up a sign with Annie’s name on it. It did not take long to find him and it also did not take long before we got our first ‘souvenir’ from Tibet: a white scarf. It apparently is the warmest way of welcoming someone new into Tibet. With scarves around our neck, we walked to our van that will bring us to all our destinations for the next 4 days. We went to our hotel, not to rest, but just to put down our luggage and immediately go to our first place of interest, because resting is for the weak! We went to the Jokhang Temple, which is the most important temple for Tibetans, but unfortunately, due to the fact that it was National Holiday, the temple was closed. In the end we stayed around in the surrounding area of the temple and had our first look of Lhasa.

We got up early to leave to the Jokhang Temple once again; little did we know that getting up early will be a daily activity from now on. The feeling in Lhasa compared to Beijing is very different and much better, especially due to the weather. While in Beijing you see grey skies and smog everywhere, in Lhasa the air is clean and the sky is perfect blue with some white clouds. But the perfectness of the weather was broken by something else: Chinese military present everywhere on the streets. Very often you see soldiers with weapons patrolling around, standing together scanning everything or even on the roofs of buildings looking down if there is any suspicious behavior. Nervous and tense is what I would describe the feeling I had whenever I was taking a picture of filming as I would grab their attention if I would accidentally capture them on a picture. The scent of thousands of incents being burned entered our noses when we entered the temple, but not before passing masses of people praying in front of the temple. Tibetans have a different way of praying than most Chinese people; they will stretch out their whole body over the ground when praying.

Photography and temples have always been a bad combination, thus no photos were taken with my camera, but the experience and ambiance in the temple could not have been captured on a picture. The constant humming of apprentice monks with the smell of incents gave the temple a mysterious feeling. That with the many statues of holy people and religious figures made the experience somewhat unreal. What made me snap back into reality were the many tourists in the temples with their guides yelling on the top of their longs explaining what the meaning behind all the statues are. After exploring the inside of the temple, we explored the outside and the roof without leaving the temple complex. Walking around in the sun, spinning close to fifty ‘prayer-cylinders’, going up and down to the roof, that’s about all we did in the next hour or so, but that does not mean it was not enjoyable. Too bad the sun was so bright that it made my Asian eyes even smaller than they already are…

We left the Jokhang Temple for the one place that everyone will associate with Tibet: Potala Palace, or what I thought the name was when I first heard it, the potato Palace, but not before we had a Tibetan lunch with yak meat and (salty!) butter tea. If I could choose one word to describe the Palace it would be ‘Massive’. This effect is amplified by the fact that it is build on the side of a mountain, making it stick out above everything else. The white and red of the building clearly stand out from the pure blue sky (though the walls were dirtier than I thought…) The security is similar to the security at airports, as we were not even allowed to bring liquids with us inside, or it’s just a way to force people to buy expensive water after they’ve climbed the stairs, and what a climb it was! The combination of stairs and low air pressure made it seem as if we just climbed the Great Wall. We entered the Palace with more than a thousand rooms and you guessed it, no pictures inside. To summarize the temple: many rooms with even more statues in every room, but there were a couple of rooms that did amaze me and they were the tombs. The bodies of the previous Dalai Lama’s are buried in massive golden tombs covered with many gems and pearls. Keep in mind that there have been 13 Dalai Lama’s before the current one, that means a heck lot of tombs!

 To be continued...

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