August 1, 2007: Lhasa
Lhasa is located at an elevation of 3,595 m or 11,860 feet. Also, Lhasa is on the same time as
Beijing, but as it is located much further west, it was dark until about 7 am and no traffic noises until
about that time. We got up around 8 am, went downstairs to the breakfast room. We did not have
any scheduled sightseeing trip today, so after breakfast, we took a stroll to the Potala Palace.
The Potala Palace is a magnificent structure. Construction on the White Palace started in 1645. In
1649 the Fifth Dalai Lama moved in from Drepung Monastery and since then the Potala has been the
home of the Dalai Lamas. The White Palace houses the actual private quarters of the Dalai Lamas
and the Red Palace houses, amongst other things, the tombs of several of the Dalai Lamas. The Red
Palace was completed in 1694.
The Potala survived the Cultural Revolution relatively intact as Zhou Enlai, the then Chinese
Premier, was said to have protected it with his own troops.
After sitting at the plaza in from of the Potala for a while, we went back to our hotel, got our
cameras and then went over to the Barkhor and the Jokhang area where we strolled around for a
Soon it was lunch time and we headed to the Dunya restaurant. Marc had yak fried rice and I had
spaghetti with tomato sauce. This restaurant is recommended in every Lhasa guide I read and it was
full of Westerners. It is owned by a Dutch couple and, consequently, many Dutch ate here. This was
also the place for most of our meals while in Lhasa.
After lunch we headed back to the hotel and we rested for a couple of hours. Then, late afternoon,
back to the Barkhor and shopping. We also ventured out farther away from the Jokhang and
visitors became sparser and sparser. However, the sights became much more interesting. Among the
highlights was the yakmeat section of the markets where yak legs hung from the stalls, some
swarming with flies...yummy! Closer to the Jokhang, Marc bought one of those Tibetan door covers
as well as a prayer wheel. Then, after a couple of hours, we went back to the hotel.
We had dinner at the Dunya restaurant. We sat on the balcony of
the second floor with great views of the traffic below us. Marc
had a chicken cordon bleu (!) and I ate noodle chow mein. Both
were good. And a Lhasa beer to jug it all down.
We walked back through Lhasa towards the Potala again. Now the light was perfect for taking
pictures of the Potala.
The old and the
Back at the hotel, we were still waiting for Mingma, the owner of our travel agency whose shop is
located in the courtyard of the hotel. We knew he was busy that day as apparantly the road to Nepal
was closed due to landslides and he had a group of 38 Japanese tourists to divert. We went to the bar
and Mingma finally came around 9 pm. We discussed our days ahead in Lhasa. Went to bed around
10 pm and slept pretty good until about 6 am.