Snowy Mountains and Turquoise lakes… we must be in Tibet!

We’ve now arrived in Lhasa and it’s safe to say that getting here has been the most incredible journey ever! The road from Gyantse to Lhasa is truely amazing and we have seen more to make us say ‘wow’ over the last couple of days than we have throughout our lives so far!

The drive took about 8 hours and we stopped along the way at Yamdruk Tso, also known as the Turquoise Lake on the Kamba-la pass. Legend has it that if the lake ever runs dry then Tibet will cease to exist and the lake certainly has a mystical air about it. I’m not expecting to have to write much in this post as the pictures will say it all, but Tibet just gets better and better!…

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This wasn’t the only beautiful lake we came across on this particular road trip, there was another bright blue lake along the way. A couple of people on one of the buses decided to have an impromptu dip but it looked far too cold for us!

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As we continued to drive up and up the Friendship Highway the road twisted and turned again to over 5000 metres and we got some more fantastic photos of the bright blue lake and surrounding mountains…

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Not far past this we were treated to the sight of Mount Nojin Kangstang in the distance – a snow-topped beauty standing at 7191 metres high! Made up for not being able to see Mount Everest and hey, this one was only 1000 metres shorter!

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It got really cold at points along the highway and the thin air once again made it really hard to breath. So no matter how excited we were about the scenery and how much we wanted to run around and take photos from every angle, we physically couldn’t! At one point we ran down a steep hill to take photos of the mountain but had to stand at the top for about 10 minutes to get our breath back once we’d run back up it.

High altitude is a really weird feeling and no matter how fit you think you are you’ll be surprised at how few steps you can take before you need to stop for a break!

Once we’d gauped at the mountain we drove onto the Kharola Glacier – 5560 metres high and another highlight of the drive. There were loads of people there when we arrived, along with local Tibetan people holding goats and other baby animals for us to take photos of (and pay for the privilege of course!). We didn’t pay, didn’t really want a photo of a goat when there was a great big glacier for us to look at!

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We arrived in Lhasa itself at around half 5ish and as the bus pulled outside another side street we all groaned, thinking ‘great, where the heck have they booked us into now?’ – the hotel was tucked away from the main street and was basically centred around an ancient courtyard, making us think that the whole place would probably be ancient too! But, we didnt really have to worry that much – the room they showed us to was lovely, with traditional, intricate paintings on the walls and pillars. Clean bathroom too! hurrah! We were so relieved, especially as we’re here for three nights.

We had a good dinner in the hotel too – having had enough of rice and noodles for a while we opted for plain old tomato and cheese pizza – not having much hope that it would be pizza as we know it, but it was lovely! And the french fries were actually fried!! As we were in Lhasa and didn’t have to get on a bus the next morning we decided to order some Lhasa beer – ‘beer from the roof of the world’. Was quite nice, but a bit weak compared with the brews we’d had in Europe.

The next morning we all congregated downstairs to go to Potala Palace – the Palace was the chief residence of the Dalai Lama until the current  (14th) Dalai Lama fled to Dharamsala, India, after an invasion and failed uprising in 1959.  Now, Potala Palace has been converted into a museum by the Chinese government with over 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines and about 200,000 statues?

It wasn’t far from the hotel but we had to get there early to get up to the entrance as it had loads of stairs! We were also limited to 1 hour within the palace – this place is flooded with tourists everyday so the officials like to get everyone through as quick as they can!

From a distance the palace looked very impressive, but up close we could see how grubby it had become. There were some great views of the city from the steps, as well as the square opposite which housed what we presumed was some sort of ‘freedom tower’ (we only say that as it is shaped like the Azadi Tower in Tehran, but we don’t actually know what it is).

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Inside the Palace we weren’t allowed to take photos but to be honest, I don’t think that half of the rooms were open. There were lots of rooms with Buddha statues as well as the tombs of the past Dalai Lama’s. The most impressive tomb was the 5th Dalai Lama’s (he was the one who started the construction of the Potala Palace in 1645 on the advice of his spiritual advisor) – his tomb was made up of over 3000 kg of gold and 10,000 precious stones! Wow.

Richard and I ended up getting lost from the rest of the tour group – we went to have a peak in one of the chapels but then weren’t allowed to turn around and get back out again as you’re only allowed to go one way through the palace! So we got caught up in loads of Chinese tour groups before we eventually found ourselves outside – on the opposite side of the palace to the side we had gone in! All we could do was make our way down the many steps, taking some more photos of the view and walk round to the front of the palace to try and find the others.

We did bump into a rather cute deer on the steps – it was perched on one of the outside walls and then bounded up the steps towards us. Very tame so it must live around the palace.

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After about 45 mins we headed back to the coach and waited for the others to return. Turns out they didn’t even know we were missing!!

Just another full day left in Lhasa until our train to Beijing – tomorrow we’re going to visit another temple and some more monastries – hopefully these will shed a bit more light on the Buddhist religion, which we’re finding quite complex!!


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