Walking with the many pilgrims (Tibet Winter 2024)

After four years finally again travelling to Tibet. And what a great time I had there! I was in Tibet for 25 days. And it was amazing. There were so many pilgrims in Lhasa and in the monasteries. And I was the only western tourist, at least till the end of my trip. I walked many koras with the pilgrims at the Barkhor / around the holy Jokhang Temple. And I must say, this time many Tibetans looked at me, especially also little children. I imagine that because of the Covid years there haven’t been a lot of westerners in Tibet and for many Tibetans and especially children, I was the first western face they saw (again).

Back to China in May/June 2023

I was in Tibet in January 2020 when Covid broke out in China and the country went in lock down. It was almost at the end of my holiday but I had to leave Tibet three days early than planned. And I had the last KLM flight from Chengdu to my home country Holland. I was really lucky at that time. But of course I did miss travelling in Tibet / the Tibetan areas in Chinese provinces a lot the next years. In March 2023 China suddenly opened up to foreign tourists and of course I applied for a Chinese visa almost immediately. And in May/June 2023 I had a great trip with my guide and driver in the provinces Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu. I saw some great Chinese sites, like the Dazu Rock Carvings, but also very beautiful and special Tibetan monasteries. Here you find the blog I wrote on that travel. But I hadn’t been back yet to Tibet (TAR – Tibetan Autonomous Region) itself. And I really missed Tibet and it’s capital Lhasa.

Back to Tibet in January 2024

And finally in January 2024 I went back to Tibet. On Sunday 8th of January I boarded in Amsterdam a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt, where I had a transfer on an Air China flight to the new Tianfu International Airport of Chengdu. The flights went smoothly until we were almost at Tianfu Airport. At the map on my screen at the chair in front of me, I saw the plain approaching Tianfu Airport but suddenly flying in a totally different direction. And than it was announced that we could not land at Tianfu airport due to very bad weather conditions. Which later turned out to be a huge fog with basically no visibility. And so we went to the airport of Chongqing city, a few hundred km away to the east. It was also quite foggy there, but that was no problem for landing. We stood there for almost 1.5 hours (waiting in the plane). I started to worry a bit because I had to go to the city of Chengdu, to my hostel, to pick up my Tibet permit and to fly early next morning form the old Shuangliu Airport of Chengdu to Lhasa, Tibet. But then the message came that conditions at Tianfu airport had improved slightly. So we took off again and flew back to Tianfu Airport, where it was still really foggy. But our plane was able to land. We landed there with a delay of three hours.

Chengdu

Well, I had landed at Chengdu Tianfu Airport. It’s about 60 km from the city centre of Chengdu. How to get to Chengdu? Last year when I landed for the first time at Tianfu Airport, my guide and driver were there to pick me up. That was very handy. But now I was on my own. At home I had studied on the internet the metro system of Chengdu. And I knew there was a metro connection between Tianfu Airport and Chengdu with metro line 18. So I took this line. The metro line went to the South Railway Station, the end of this line. I had to transfer twice to line 1 and line 3 and after a few stops at these lines, I had to walk a bit and arrived at Holly’s Hostel in the Wuhou district of Chengdu. They expected me and handed me my Tibet permit immediately.

That afternoon I went to the service centre of China Mobile, to see if I could get my Chinese SIM card working again. I had bought this SIM card in May last year. And I knew the problem had to do with monthly payment arrears. But in China you can’t do without your mobile phone with internet connection any more. The Chinese make almost all payments now with their phone, with AliPay and WeChatPay. AliPay already worked for me during my previous trip. But since July last year WeChatPay also works for foreigners. I paid my hostel with WeChatPay today (through WiFi). So I need a Chinese SIM card. At the service centre they were very friendly and helpful. A lot of ladies came to the desk to help me. I had all these ladies around me, none of whom spoke English. And I don’t speak Chinese. So a translation app was used, but it didn’t help a lot. It was funny. I almost couldn’t help but laugh. The last lady spoke some English and understood my story. I paid my debt and than I had a working Chinese SIM card again.

That evening I had my first Chinese dinner meal. In a small, local restaurant around the corner of my hostel. Yummy. And I paid it with AliPay. I could see de QR codes of WeChatPay (green) and AliPay (blue) on the The QR codes for paying with WeChatPay and AliPay on the air freshener in the restaurant. You just scan one of the QR-codes, fill in the amount you have to pay and affirm the amount. The owner of the restaurant gets immediately a message of the payment. I think the owner was a bit surprised that I as a foreigner just so quickly paid with AliPay. He laughed.

Jinli Street in Chengdu is very (Chinese) touristic. But it’s also colourful and “gezellig” as we say in Holland. And it’s (also) around the corner of my hostel. So I can’t help it. Every time I’m in Chengdu, I have to go to Jinli Street. And I enjoy it every time again.

On to Lhasa

I flew to Lhasa from Shuangliu Airport, the old airport of Chengdu. It went very smoothly. From with a car from my hostel to the airport at 05:00 AM (the roads were still empty) to getting my ticket from the self service machine, checking in my luggage and through the security, it took me about 45 minutes total. But it was early this day again. I needed to get a proper sleep that night at Lhasa. I had a nice seat at the windows. That gave me great views on the mountains during the flight.

At Lhasa Airport my guide and driver were waiting for me to pick me up. Before driving to Lhasa we first went to a local teahouse in the village near the airport and had breakfast. My first noodle soup! Next we drove to Lhasa. I always stay at the Yak Hotel in Lhasa. This hotel has good and comfortable rooms and – very important for me – is situated not far from the old centre of Lhasa with the Barkhor and the Jokhang Temple.

After checking in in the hotel I had a delicious lunch with my guide and driver in a nice restaurant. And then I had free time. The first thing I did was going to Barkhor Square with the Jokhang Temple. The last years there were already police checks before you could enter Barkhor Square.

But they automated the checks. Chinese/Tibetans must have their ID card and face scanned. And then they can get through. But I, as a foreigner, have a passport. That cannot be scanned. So you are taken aside and they take a photo of your passport. And then you can get through. I must say, in the time I was in Lhasa, a lot of photos of my passport were made. These automated checks also produces long lines at the check because there were a lot of pilgrims in Lhasa and many of them wanted to walk koras around the Jokhang Temple. I also walked some koras at Barkhor Street, around the Jokhang Temple. And my first impressions from the Barkhor Square in front of the Jokhang Temple and of Barkhor Street were: “So many people here. So many pilgrims. It’s so exciting to be here again!”

Drepung and Sera Monastery

My first full day in Lhasa started with a visit to Drepung Monastery. There were also a lot of pilgrims at Drepung. So nice. I think I was the only tourist. I had to do a lot of climbing stairs while my body still had to get used to the high altitude here (Lhasa is at an altitude of about 3.360 meters). But I could do it. My guide showed me all the colleges, all the halls etc. He knows I want to see everything. So we stayed a long time at Drepung. I got my first blessing at Drepung. After that lunch with noodle soup and sweet tea at the teahouse of Drepung, sitting between other Tibetan pilgrims. It was a great visit. And remember what I said before in this blog about most Chinese (and also Tibetans) making almost all payments now with their phone, with AliPay and WeChatPay? Well, in Drepung Monastery I saw the QR-codes of AliPay and WeChatPay on many places in the temples so that the pilgrims can do their offering now with their phone. Modern times also in old monasteries!

In the afternoon we visited Sera Monastery. Here also so many pilgrims. At 3 o’clock the monks started there daily debating. Always so nice to watch. I got a blessing at Sera too. The Hayagriva Hall enshrines the famous Hayagriva statue in Sera Monastery. Hayagriva is a guardian deity of the Tantric Buddhism of Tibetan Buddhism. He is very powerful and can exorcise evil spirits. Many pilgrims want to have the blessing of Hayagriva. So my guide and I joined the pilgrims in a long queue. In the building the walking path was very narrow and you were more pushed than you could walk. But we reached the statue and got the blessing. So special.

At the end of the afternoon I visited Tsewang. Tsewang used to work at Dunya Restaurant, next to the Yak Hotel. But now she has her own shop not far behind the Yak Hotel and is selling incense. It was so nice to see her again after four years. And I went to Lhasa Kitchen for dinner that evening. The lady at Lhasa Kitchen recognized me immediately and welcomed me warmly.

Drak Yerpa

They always say, take it easy the first days in Lhasa. We’ll, that didn’t work for me today. On my third day in Tibet we visited Drak Yerpa, that is located a short drive (about 30 km) north-east of Lhasa. Drak Yerpa consists of ancient meditation caves. The earliest dating back to the 8th century. A lot of well known historic Tibetan persons meditated there, like king Songtsan Gampo, Padmasambhava (one of the founding fathers of Tibetan Buddhism) and the Buddhist master from Bengal Atisha. Their meditation caves are now a kind of shrine. In the caves above Drak Yerpa monks and nuns are still meditating until today. Drak Yerpa is located much higher than Lhasa at about 4.490 meters. I had to climb a lot of stairs while my body is still adjusting to the Tibetan high altitude. But it went okay. Just slowly, slowly… And in one of the caves I met a monk, who I also met in 2013 and with who I went on a photo that time. Today he recognized me immediately. And of course we again went on the photo together again. I sat next to him and he held my hand. So special, so nice!

Visit to the Potala Palace and the Jokhang Temple

I visited the Potala Palace in Lhasa the morning on of my fourth day in Tibet. The Potala was the winter palace of the successive Dalai Lamas. It’s such an impressive building. It’s situated high on a hill. So many stairs to walk up. I read often that many foreign visitors say, that the Potala Palace is nowadays “only a museum”. But every time when I visit the Potala in the month of January, that’s not the impression I get. Inside the Potala Palace, it was full of Tibetan pilgrims. And I was the only foreign visitor. And for the Tibetan pilgrims, the Potala Palace is (still) very important. Unfortunately it’s not allowed to make pics inside the Potala.

In the afternoon I visited the Jokhang Temple in the old centre of Lhasa. The Jokhang is the most holy temple of Tibet. And also this temple was inside full of Tibetan pilgrims. And here inside it’s also not allowed to make pics.

The Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Street are also worth a visit in the evening, when it’s dark. And in the evening, there are still so many pilgrims there, walking their koras. I also walked some koras this evening, enjoying the special atmosphere in the evening.

My round trip starts with the city of Tsedang

After four days acclimatizing to the high altitude in Lhasa my round trip started. With my guide and driver, I went first to the town of Tsedang. Tsedang is located in the Yarlung Tsangpo Valley, where the Tibetan culture started long ago. On the way to Tsedang I visited Dorje Drak Monastery, which is a monastery of the Nyingma sect of Tibetan Buddhism. In 1632 Dorje Drak was moved to its present day location. The setting is very beautiful on the bank of the Yarlung Tsangpo river (which in India becomes the Brahmaputra River), at the base of the mountain with a rock shaped like a dorje (Tibetan: thunderbolt). That’s why the name of the monastery is Dorje Drak. Fortunately it was allowed to make pics inside the monastery.

When arriving at the town of Tsedang, we first went to the Public Security Bureau to get another necessary permit. It took some time and I also had to come inside but the ladies working on the permit were very friendly. After that check in at the hotel. It was another hotel than I expected. Normally I stay in Tsedang at the Tsedang Hotel. But that hotel was renovating. So I stayed at the Yarlung River Hotel. I had a big and very comfortable room. And the floor heating worked fine. I had a very warm stay there (maybe a bit too warm). In the evening I had my welcome dinner to Tibet: hotpot in a nice restaurant. Yummy! And people were square dancing this evening in Tsedang. I also joined them for a short dance.

The next day we first visited the Yumbulakhang. It situated not far from Tsedang. Known as Tibet’s first Palace, Yumbulakhang was built for Tibet’s first king, Nyatri Tsanpo, in the 2nd Century BC and became the Tibetan kings’ palace since then. Until king Songtsen Gampo moved to Lhasa in the 7th Century and build his palace on the place of now the Potala Palace. The Yumbulakhang became a monastery of the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism (the sect of which de Dalai Lama is the leader) during the reign of the fifth Dalai Lama. Well, this day was again climbing up a lot of stairs.

On it went to Trandruk Monastery. This is one of the earliest Buddhist monasteries in Tibet, having been founded at the same time as the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. The monastery is dating back to the 7th century reign of king Songtsen Gampo.

To Samye Monastery and Chimpuk Hermitage

The next day it went on to Samye Monastery, where we would stay two nights. Nowadays there are highways through the Yarlung Tsangpo Valley. But we were driving over the old road that goes over a high pass. And so enjoying the view from the pass.

At Samye I stayed at the Monastery Hotel. The first time I stayed in this hotel (in 2012), I had one of the best rooms, but it was very basic and cold, although I had my own very basic sanitary at my room. Last year they renovated the rooms in one of the wings in VIP-rooms. And look what a comfortable room I had now! And nice warm!

Samye monastery is the oldest monastery in Tibet. It was founded in the 8th century by Tibetan king Trisong Detsen. But there was a problem. Every night the gods of the old Bön religion destroyed what was built that day. So the king asked the great Indian master Padmasambhava to come to Tibet and he subdued the Bön gods. And Samye Monastery was built.

Samye Monastery is a big monastery with a main temple but also many small temples. The complex is in a shape of Mandala that represents the Buddhist Universe. The main temple of the monastery represents Mount Meru. The surrounding twelve chapels represent continents (the larger four chapels) and subcontinents (the smaller eight chapels). There are also Sun and Moon temples to the south and north of the main chapel respectively. There are four large coloured stupas at the four directions from the main temple: the White Stupa with snow lions, Red Stupa or “Dharma Wheel” with lotus decorations, Black Stupa or “Nirvana” and Green Stupa “Tashigomang” with sixteen doors. The wall with 1008 stupas surrounds the entire monastery complex. Also in Samye, there were lots of pilgrims. I loved waking the kora with them around the monastery. And I was lucky because in one of the temples the monks were chanting.

The following day we visited the nunnery at Chimpuk Hermitage. It’s located near Samye Monastery. Also here nuns were chanting.

From Samye to Gyantse

A long drive today. From Samye to Gyantse. Visiting two monasteries: Mindrolling Monastery in the morning and Ralung Monastery in the late afternoon.

Mindrolling Monastery is located at a small village in a beautiful side valley of the Yarlung Tsangpo Valley. Mindrolling is one of the “Six Mother Monasteries” of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. The monastery was founded in 1676. The central hall is an elegant brown stone structure on the west side of the courtyard. Unfortunately, no pictures inside allowed.

It had snowed that night and the landscape was beautifully white although the roads were fine. I really enjoyed the drive this day. We drove to Yamdrok Tso lake not by the normal “touristic” road over the Kamba La pass but went along a small road over another pass and drove over an unpaved road along Yamdrok Tso till we came on the main road again. Such a beautiful views. And of course the Karo La pass with view on the glacier was again great.

At the end of the afternoon we visited Ralung Monastery, that is located in a side valley of the road to Gyantse. We were just in time before the monastery closed for visitors. Ralung Monastery is the traditional seat of the Drukpa Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. The Drukpa or Drukpa Kagyu lineage is a branch of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. In Bhutan the Drukpa lineage is the dominant school and state religion. So there are ties between Ralung Monastery and Bhutan. I could make some pics inside the monastery.

In Gyantse I stayed at another hotel than I used to because my regular hotel was (again) renovated. But the hotel was quite good.

The next day, before we left Gyantse, we visited the important Pelkor Chöde Monastery. The monastery is unique in Tibet in that it houses three separate schools of Tibetan Buddhism under its roofs – Gelug, Sakya, and Kadam. Situated around 100 kilometres to the south-east of Shigatse city, the monastery has aspects of Chinese Han, Tibetan, and Nepali architecture. Many statues at this monastery are made of wood, more Nepali (Newari) style. After paying I was allowed to make pics inside. The monastery is also famous for the Gyantse Kumbum Stupa. With 32 meters the Gyantse Kumbum is the tallest stupa in Tibet, and the only stupa of its kind in the Tibetan areas.

To Shigatse with a visit to Shalu monastery on the way

Shortly before reaching Shigatse, we visited Shalu Monastery. Shalu Monastery is situated 20 km south-east of Shigatse and is a combination of Han and Tibet architectural styles. It was built in 1087. Shalu belongs to the Sakya sect of Tibetan Buddhism. There were again lots of pilgrims. And they were renewing the flagpole in front of the main hall because of the Shigatse New Year. And I was lucky because the monks were chanting. And I was allowed to make pics.

After visiting Shalu it went on to Shigatse where I stayed as always at the Gesar Hotel. But this time I had a sort of VIP room with separate a sitting room and a bedroom. It’s always good to stay at the Gesar Hotel. And when you are in a big city as Shigatse, then you go out. Spent the evening in a bar drinking wine. It was fun.

If you’re in Shigatse, of course you have to visit the big Tashilhunpo Monastery, the monastery of the Panchen Lama’s. Unfortunately it’s not allowed to make pics inside the halls. For the rest a quiet day which wasn’t bad after last evening having fun in a bar.

Sakya

After one day in Shigatse it went to Sakya. But not via the main road but on an of the beaten track road and going over a pass of an altitude of approximately 4.800 meters. Great views! And I was very lucky. I saw a wolf this morning!!!! My guide and driver saw him first, stopped the car and told me “a wolf”. The wolf crossed the road behind our car and then just stood there posing for a while. I got out of the car and was able to take some pictures of him from behind the car. I had to zoom in but I’m quit content with the photos.

In the afternoon we visited Sakya Monastery. Sakya Monastery is a fortress-like complex with walls in the colour grey with white and red stripes (the colours of monasteries of the Sakya sect of Tibetan Buddhism), that stands out for its distinctive architectural style. The main hall, known as the Lhakang Chenmo or the Great Hall, is the centrepiece of the complex. It is renowned for its massive size and the extensive collection of scriptures housed within. We couldn’t get in to the Great Hall immediately because the monks had lunchtime. We went to the top floor first and beneath me I could see some monks sitting on the ground of the inner square enjoying their lunch. When we were downstairs again and I wanted to go through the inner entrance, I was lucky again. My guide called me to come back very quickly and we went inside through a door at the right side of in the inner entrance, went up a stair and came in a chapel, which is only a very few times a year open to visitors. The chapel contained five funeral stupas and a statue of Padmasambhava. Once at home I looked it up in and the chapel is called the Tsechu Lakhang and houses a speaking statue of Padmasambhava and the funeral stupas from great lamas of the Drölma Phodrang family who in the past, along with the Phüntshog Phodrang family, functioned as the heads of the Sakya sect. We visited the Great Hall next but no pics allowed this time. But during my visit in January 2020 I made a lot of pics in this Great Hall after paying for it. In another hall I could make a video.

That evening we ate hot pot in a nice restaurant in Sakya and a group of young nuns were sitting at a table next to us also enjoying hot pot.

Visiting two monasteries on our way back to Shigatse and Lhasa

On the way back to Shigatse we took a detour to visit Phuntsoling Monastery. We drove through a long and beautiful valley. The site of the monastery is so beautiful with a sand dune behind the monastery. Phuntsoling Monastery was built in 1614. Phuntsoling Monastery belongs to the Kagyu Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. There are many murals on the roof telling stories of the life of the Buddha Sakyamuni. And there is a ruined fortification above the monastery.

Shortly before we reached Shigatse, we again went off the highway and drove into a valley to visit Ngor Monastery. I had been to Ngor Monastery once in 2013 but I must say, I didn’t remember it very well. So I really wanted to see this monastery again. Ngor is a sub-sect of the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. The main monastery of the Ngor sect is the Ngor monastery about 20 kilometres south-west of Shigatse. Ngor Monastery was founded in the year 1430. It’s a pretty big monastery and I loved the visit. And yes, pics were allowed.

We spent the night in Shigatse, where I had the same VIP room at the Gesar hotel as before. The next day it went on to Lhasa. And in the afternoon I walked my koras at the Barkhor again. When I thought Lhasa was full of pilgrims when I arrived there almost two weeks ago, we’ll there were now lots of pilgrims more. It was so good to walk the Barkhor around the holy Jokhang Temple with them again.

Tsurphu Monastery

The next day on the itinerary was a day trip from Lhasa to Tsurphu Monastery. It’s a drive of about 70 km. Tsurphu is the head monastery of the Karma Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism. I was very lucky this day because I could watch monks practising their dancing for the coming Tibetan New Year in February. And I also watched monks chanting. Tsurphu is a big monastery with many halls. So I had my climbing the stairs for today again.

Tsurphu was founded by the 1st Karmapa Lama in the year 1159, after he visited the site and laid the foundation for an establishment of a seat there by making offerings to the local protectors. In 1189 he revisited the site and founded his main seat there. The complex was totally destroyed in 1966 during the Cultural Revolution. The 16th Karmapa began to rebuild it in 1980, but he died in 1981. Following the recognition of Ogyen Trinley Dorje (born 1985) as the 17th Karmapa, he was enthroned at Tsurphu and resided there until he went from Tibet to India in 2000. I went on audience with 17th Karmapa at Tsurphu Monastery during my first Tibet trip in 1997. The 17th Karmapa was a 12 year old boy at that time. It’s the reason that Tsurphu is a special place for me.

Travelling in a white world

When I looked out of my hotel room early this morning, I saw it was a white world. It had been snowing this night. And we were going for a trip outside Lhasa. I must say, it was a beautiful white world outside Lhasa. But we had to drive slowly because of the road conditions. But everywhere you saw people cleaning up the snow on the roads and the pavements. We had lunch in a nice restaurant somewhere in a village and I was handed a traditional Tibetan ladies hat. I put it on and my guide and driver immediately made some pics of me. When I saw the pics, I asked them: “Who is that lady?”. And they answered: “That’s Tibetan Ellen”. Great! After that we drove further on to Reting Monastery.

Reting Monastery was founded by Atisa’s chief disciple Dromtön in 1057 in a valley north east of Lhasa. It’s (now) an important monastery of the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It was heavily damaged during the cultural revolution but since than it’s been rebuild. Every time I visit Reting Monastery is see new renovations. I was allowed to make pics and monks were chanting. Lovely!

We stayed that night at a guesthouse with basic rooms near Reting Monastery. No heating in the room and no own sanitary. But luckily an electric blanket. It was a very cold night but I slept perfectly warm. It was a very nice stay at the guesthouse, very Tibetan. And the ladies of the guesthouse wanted to get a picture taken with me.

The next day we drove back to Lhasa. It had snowed again in the night en was again a white world till we came in the vicinity of Lhasa. In Lhasa there was no snow. That afternoon and evening I walked again koras with the pilgrims around the Jokhang Temple. And it was full moon above the Jokhang Temple this evening.

My last week in Lhasa

Time went so fast and my last week in Lhasa began. I explicitly wanted to spent some time in Lhasa at the end of my stay in Tibet. I visited some lesser known monasteries and temples in and near Lhasa.

I visited Ani Tsankhung Nunnery in the old centre of Lhasa, where about 110 nuns live. In the 7th century Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo used to meditate at a natural cave in this location.

And I visited The Temple of South Three Protectors (The Southern Rigsum Lhakhang).

First built in the Jokhang Temple period, the Temple of South Three Protectors now is a branch temple of Ganden Monastery in the old centre of Lhasa. And it was a good visit for me because with other Tibetan pilgrims I got a water blessing.

I went on a day trip to Ganden Monastery. Ganden Monastery is located about 40 km from Lhasa. Ganden Monastery is at the top of Wangbur Mountain, at an altitude of 4,300m. Ganden Monastery was founded by Tsongkhapa in 1409. It was the first monastery of the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Unfortunately again, it’s not allowed to make pics inside the halls but I managed to make some. There were many pilgrims that day. You could tell on the many parked cars and buses at the car parks of the monastery.

Built by king Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century, Pabonka Monastery is one of the most ancient Buddhist sites in the Lhasa region. It’s located on the mountain ridge just behind Lhasa. Unfortunately again no pictures taken was allowed inside. Not far from Pabonka Monastery, Chupsang Nunnery is located. Though the site was established as a hermitage around 1665, it was converted into an exclusive nunnery in 1984 and has since grown into one of the largest nunneries in the Lhasa Valley. In the afternoon I walked a kora around the Potala Palace.

The next day it looked like summer, sitting on a rooftop with view on the Barkhor and the roof of the Jokhang Temple, having a drink and lunch with my guide. Before we visited the small Tenyge Ling Monastery in the old centre of Lhasa.

And one day I visited Norbulingka. Norbulingka is a palace and surrounding park in Lhasa. It was built from 1755. It served as the traditional summer residence of the successive Dalai Lamas. It was so peaceful and quiet there that day. And I realised, now my last days at Lhasa and Tibet had really begun. My flight ticket from Lhasa to Chengdu was booked that day. But I intended to enjoy these last days here very much.

The day before the last, we drove up in the mountain just behind Lhasa and looked out over Lhasa, that has become bigger and bigger in the past years. And I walked part of the Lingkor. The Lingkor is the ancient circumambulation route leading around all the pilgrimage points within Lhasa city, probably used since the 15th century. If you walk the Lingkor, you pass Chakpori Hill (near the Potala Palace). Chakpori Hill is a sacred hill. Behind the Chakpori Hill is the famous Buddha Wall. The Buddha Wall is an important walk path for Buddhist believers. There is a unique thousand Buddha cliff there. On the huge cliff, there are thousands of figures of Buddhas. The cliff inscriptions have existed for a very long time and can be dating back to the period of king Songtsen Gampo.

On my last day in Lhasa we visited the Zhaji (Drashi) temple. The Zhaji Temple is located in the northern suburb of Lhasa. It is the only temple of wealth in Tibet. Although the temple is small, the incense is very prosperous. The main god of Zhaji Temple is addicted to alcohol, so people who come to the temple bring (also) white wine or highland barley wine. We had lunch in a local restaurant nearby and spent the afternoon at a rooftop restaurant of a hotel, with view on the backside of the Potala Palace.

During my last days in Lhasa, I suddenly and shortly saw one group of western travellers at Barkhor Square. I think it was a group of about 12 Americans. For the rest, I probably was the only western traveller during all these weeks I was in Tibet.

The next day it went early in the morning to Lhasa Gonggar Airport, where I said goodbye to my guide and driver. And I flew back to Tianfu International Airport near Chengdu. Fortunately I had booked a room at the hotel at the airport itself. The hotel is situated between the two terminals of the airport. So within a few minutes you went from the terminals to the hotel. The room was very comfortable. The next day it went back home to Holland with a transfer at the airport of Frankfurt in Germany.

I had a great travel again and I enjoyed being in Tibet again after 4 years! And the weather was great during my travel in Tibet. It was mostly very sunny and I did have lunch many times outside on a terrace of local restaurants. Of course the nights were cold but I had mostly warm hotel rooms. Three days I had been snowing at night but that made the landscape very beautiful and didn’t prevent us from driving to our next destination.

This was the itinerary of my trip

Day

Itinerary

1

Flying form Amsterdam with a transfer in Frankfurt to Chengdu (Tianfu Airport).

2

Arriving at Chengdu, taking the metro to my hostel in Chengdu and spent the rest of the day at Chengdu.

3

Flying from Chengdu (Shuangliu Airport) to Lhasa, enjoying the old centre of Lhasa and walk the Barkhor with the pilgrims at the afternoon.

4

Visiting Drepung and Sera Monastery.

5

Day trip to Drak Yerpa.

6

Visiting the Potala Palace and the Jokhang Temple.

7

Going to the town of Tsedang and visiting Dorje Drak Monastery on the way.

8

Staying at Tsedang and visiting the Yumbulakhang and the Trandruk Monastery.

9

Driving to the town of Samye and visiting Samye Monastery.

10

Staying at Samye and visiting the nunnery at Chimpuk Hermitage.

11

Driving from Samye to Gyantse along Yamdrok Tso Lake the Karo La pass. Visiting Mindrolling Monastery and Ralung Monastery on the way.

12

In the morning visiting the Pelkor Chöde Monastery at Gyantse and after that driving to the city of Shigatse, visiting Shalu Monastery on the way.

13

Staying at Shigatse and visiting Tashilhunpo Monastery.

14

Driving from Shigatse to the town of Sakya and visiting Sakya Monstery.

15

Driving back to Shigatse and visiting Phuntsoling Monastery and Ngor Monastery on the way.

16

Driving from Shigatse to Lhasa. Enjoying to old centre of Lhasa.

17

Day trip to Tsurphu Monastery.

18

Travelling to Reting to visit Reting Monastery and stay the night there at a guesthouse.

19

Travelling back from Reting to Lhasa.

20

Staying at Lhasa, visiting Ani Tsankhung Nunnery and The Temple of South Three Protectors (The Southern Rigsum Lhakhang).

21

Day trip to Ganden Monastery

22

Staying at Lhasa and visiting Pabonka Monastery and Chupsang Nunnery.

23

Staying at Lhasa. Visiting the small Tenyge Ling Monastery and enjoying the old centre of Lhasa.

24

Staying at Lhasa and visiting Norbulingka Palace.

25

Staying at Lhasa. Looking out over Lhasa from the mountain just behind Lhasa. Walking part of the Lingkor and seeing the Buddha wall behind Chakpori Hill.

26

Staying at Lhasa and visiting the Zhaji Temple.

27

Flying from Lhasa to Chengdu, Tianfu Airport. Staying at a hotel at the airport.

28

Day at the (hotel at the) airport. Checking in early for my flight home.

29

Flying shortly after midnight from Chengdu to Amsterdam with a transfer in Frankfurt. Arriving home at the same day.

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