Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Tibet 2006 - Part 2 - Lhasa: Barkhor Square

Tuesday May 2, 2006 - Lhasa, Tibet

Up at 8:30. Had breakfast at a Chinese dumpling stand across the street: rice soup, pickled vegetables, and salted eggs for 4Y total (50 cents US). Then to the Summit Coffee House, which is right next to our hotel, for 1 Tall Latte, 1 Tall Mocha, and 2 buns, all for 55 Y. The Summit is run by a western couple (Americans, judging by their accent) and is like any other trendy, independent coffee shop in the world.

Then after some teeth brushing and we headed down to Barkhor Square and to Jokhang Temple . But first we walked the Barkhor Circuit clockwise around the temple complex.

The clockwise circuit: Tibetan Buddhism is oriented “clockwise”. The large walking circuits -- around the Potala, around the Barkhor, around any religious building– are completed in the clockwise direction. Once inside a monastery or temple grounds, the various buildings are visited in clockwise order. Once inside a temple, the various chapels are visited in clockwise order. Once inside a chapel, the clockwise route is taken around the room. And, finally, prayer wheels are rotated in the clockwise direction.

Three quarters of the way around the circuit, we spotted a sign for the Daxia Hotel. The Pentoc was OK but having to walk up and down stairs to use the bath and showers no fun at 12,000 feet. So we decided to move to the Daxia, owned and run by Tibetans, and booked room #303 for the next 5 nights at 120 Y per night with toilet and shower en suite and 24-hour hot water.

We completed the Barkhor circuit and paid 70Y each to enter the Jokhang Temple (it used to be free says our guide book). You get a mini CD with the entrance ticket but it would not play on my laptop when I got back to Shanghai. Spent about 2 hours wandering clockwise around the Jokhang with the Tibetan pilgrims, discreet western tourists, and the typically loud Chinese tour groups.

The inside of the temple was dimly lit with yak butter candles packed with pilgrims patiently waiting their turn to pray at each chapel as they made the mini clockwise circuit around the temple interior. The chapels and candles reminded us of Catholics churches in Europe or Mexico. All that Yak butter can make the floors and stairs quite slippery. Monks are stationed in the most sacred chapels to keep the pilgrims upright, traffic moving, and change money (change pilgrim’s money into small denominations so they can leave money at each of the hundreds of shrines).

Up on the roof of the Jokhang, we met a Chinese couple from Wuhan who are practicing Buddhists and come to Lhasa every year on the May holiday. The recommended going to an “oxygen bar” for altitude sickness and gave the location of a restaurant that servers vegetarian jiaoze (dumplings).

Completed the hotel switch at 4PM. Walked to the nearby Makye Ame Restaurant, a good place to watch folks on the Barkhor circuit from the 2nd floor, and had Momos with vegetables (also a local specialty), all for 33Y. Very tasty.

The late afternoon weather was quite pleasant, some clouds with bright blue skies between, a strong sun, and temps about 21C or72F. For dinner, a small snack: French fries, pakoras, and a cold “Lhasa” beer for 30Y on the rooftop of the Mandela Restaurant which overlooks Barkhor Square. After the snack, we did the Barkhor Circuit walk again with some shopping. Lots of other strollers: monks, pilgrims, tourists, and locals. Back to the Daxia and crashed.

Here are the photos for the day:

Approaching Jokhang Temple.
Barkhor Square - Lhasa Tibet - May 2006

Walking the clockwise circuit around the outside of JokhangTemple. Barkhor Circuit - Lhasa, Tibet  - May 2006

Walking the circuit inside the temple. Notice the large stationary prayer wheels on the right.
Jokhang Temple - Lhasa ,Tibet  - May 2006

More walking the circuit inside the temple. More prayer wheels. The pilgrims sometimes give them a spin as they walk by. I did.
Jokhang Temple -  Lhasa, Tibet - May 2006

The view of Barkhor square from atop Jokhang temple. You can see the Potala Palace in the back right. Barkhor  Square - Lhasa, Tibet May - 2006

Pilgrims prostate themselves on the ground in front of the Jokhang.
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John and Sun-Ling atop the Jokhang Temple.
Jokhang Temple - Lhasa Tibet - May 2006

Another view of the Barkhor circuit from the Makye Ame Restaurant. A fellow traveler is typing her journal. Lhasa, Tibet  - May 2006, Barkhor Circuit

These Tibetan ladies have colorful aprons. Does her hat still have the tag?
Barkhor Circuit -  Lhasa, Tibet  - May 2006

These guys are spinning prayer wheels with their right hands and carrying prayer breads in their left hands. Lhasa, Tibet - Barkhor Circuit - May 2006

The local women wear aprons.
Lhasa, Tibet - Barkhor Circuit - May 2006

Check out the monk's headgear and see the women in foreground talking on her mobile.
Barkhor Circuit -  Lhasa, Tibet   - May 2006

A final sunset view of Barkhor Square, Jokhang Temple, the market, and the mountains. Lhasa, Tibet - Barkhor Square - May 2006

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