Jon is very sick. Dinner last night is not sitting well, and he has made use of the trash can in our room quite a few times. (Bummer to be ill when the bathroom is down the hall and down a flight of stairs)
I met the group and we walked to the Potala – one of Lhasa’s most important Landmarks. This was the home of the Dalai Lama until he had to flee in 1959. We climbed the many steps up to the top of the structure, along with many pilgrims for whom this trip is a once-in-a-lifetime event. There were many smiling faces and prostrating pilgrims and it was worth the climb.
The Stairs Leading up to the Potala
Once we got to the main gate, we again saw my little friend Tse Yang (see Aug 15) who is obviously making a pilgrimage with her Grandmother. Kath had a Polaroid Camera which produces little picture-stickers and gave a picture to Tse Yang after talking to her. Kath told us that many Tibetans are making a serious effort to learn English because the Chinese don’t know English. This way, the Tibetans will have a marketable skill as well as being able to have conversations without the Chinese understanding everything they say.
Anyway, we walked through all the various rooms of the Potala, which are all very dark and musty and smell of Yak Butter. There are 3 Stupas (tombs) of previous Dalai Lamas here: the 7th, the 9th, and the 13th. We could barely get in to see them because of the huge amounts of pilgrims in line, but the stupas are huge and covered in gold and various precious and semi-precious stones. Unfortunately – and like everything here – they are poorly lit so we could barely see their details. One of them was supposed to have 3000 pearls on it, but it was too dark to see them.
After climbing many, many narrow and dark stairways, we made it to the roof of the Potala which has the rooms for the current Dalai Lama which we of course couldn’t go in. It seems that – for every Dalai Lama – additional rooms are built on the top of the Potala so it has continued rising. The roof was packed with Chinese tourists who often pushed us out of the way and stepped through our pictures of pilgrims. We were getting slightly annoyed, so – in passive retaliation – we posed for a long and involved group picture in front of the scenic part of the roof. And just to be annoying, we made sure that we took a picture with each camera in the group!
Lunch at Barkhor Cafe
After the Potala, we walked back to the hotel where I checked on my hubby. He is still not well and cannot keep liquids down. So I went to meet the group for lunch on the terrace of Barkhor Cafe. We had a lovely view of the Barkhor Square and the Jokhang.
After lunch, John (the Aussie Doctor), Mark, Laura, and I caught two cycle-rickshaws to the Norbilingka – the Summer Palace of the Dalai Lama. The rickshaw ride took us through much of Lhasa, and John and I agreed that we were quite surprised at the advanced infrastructure of the roads here. The city is very clean and the roads and sidewalks look brand new!
At the Norbulingka, we walked through the gardens to get to the Summer Palace. This is the place from which the current Dalai Lama made his escape in 1959 disguised as a Chinese soldier. We strolled around the rooms of the palace, made Brad Pitt jokes, had a generally good time. Some people had told us that we would find Norbulingka disappointing after the Potala, because it is very damaged and overgrown with weeds. I’ll admit that the Palace was certainly not as stunning as it once was, but it was definitely interesting to visit. The murals were beautiful and the building itself was much more cheery than the darkness of the Potala.
Laura, John, and Mark in the gardens of Norbulingka
Mark and Laura needed to go to the Bank of China to exchange travelers cheques for Yuan, but we couldn’t seem to communicate that to our rickshaw drivers on the way to the Norbulingka. Luckily – at the door of the Palace – the guard was studying English. So Laura had to ask a guard to write “Please take me to the Bank of China” on a piece of paper in Tibetan so we could give it to a taxi driver. But it turns out the drivers are Chinese and can’t read Tibetan anyway, so we resorted to pictures out of the guide book to get us there.
On our way to the taxi stand, there were some little boys begging for Yuan and following us with a lute to get tips. We tried very hard to avoid them but we just couldn’t make them go away. One wrapped himself (arms and legs) completely around Laura’s leg and wouldn’t let go. He was leeched on so tightly that she couldn’t shake him off. So Mark, John and I had to each grab an appendage and carried him to the sidewalk where we dropped him. We tried to be stern and mean about it, but we were all laughing too hard. They still wouldn’t leave us alone, so John pretended he was going to chase one of the little boys to punish him. For his efforts, he got whacked in the bum with a lute.
I stopped by the Internet Cafe to send some emails and check the upload situation. None of the machines have disk drives (courtesy of the Chinese government, I’m sure) so I definitely can’t upload journal entries. The funniest part of this experience was that all the computers have at least Windows ’98 on them. Of course, it’s all in Chinese so I have no idea what any of the error messages or informational messages were telling me.
Attempt to Go to Dinner
The group met to go to Mad Yak’s where we went to lunch the other day. But it must be a popular place to be on Friday nights because it was booked. So we went a few stores down and tried a place called Crazy Yak’s, but it was the same story. Since we were in the right part of town, we headed back to Dunya, where we were the first night. Of course they’re going to let us in. They’d better. We smuggled in alcohol for them!
Jon is still not well, although he says he is feeling better. He requested that I bring him chocolate cake from dinner, but I told him that I would bring him toast instead. He then said he would only eat the toast if I cut the crusts off for him. When I brought it to him, he didn’t even want to smell it he felt so yucky.