Lhasa, Tibet

Lhasa couldn’t be more different than Kathmandu.  The major roadways are new and clean of litter.  The vehicles follow the speed limit with a frightening obedience.  Actually, the best I can figure, everyone constantly follows all the rules with strict compliance.  And unlike India (or Belgium) where there are lots of rules but no enforcement or adherence, in China there are even more rules, and everyone follows them, always.  It’s like being in a giant ant colony.

We went to the Potala Palace today.  It’s an amazing place in size and grandeur.  You can only visit it with a guide, and then only after making a pre-arranged appointment.  You get a 60-minute time slot, and if you are a few minutes late, you forfeit your time.  We had to hand over our passport to our guide for the duration of the trip, and were only given it back at the end of the tour.

The view from my hotel room.

Once inside there are no photographs, one can not wear sun glasses (even though who would want to given how dark it is), no hats (I asked why no sunglasses and hats, and the guide said it was because Buddhism didn’t allow it… now I’m no student of Buddhism, but really?), no water (but you could buy some after you when through an airport-like screening).  We were told by our guide to not ask too many questions because he would not want to be slowed down because the security police would constantly be telling us to move along (which they were).  He told us to not talk about politics, or heaven forbid we mention The D.L. #14 by name, you know, the one that if I put his name in this post my Internet access will most likely be shut down.

All that aside, it was worth the visit.  The palace is more than just a museum.  There are a lot of tourists, but there are just as many people there to pray, add Yak butter to the massive candles that are everywhere; there is chanting, and incense burning.  It’s a very special place, but unfortunately, the Chinese make sure you enjoy it as little as possible.

Pilgrims prostrating as they approach the palace.  This is a very painful looking experience.

~ by Robert on May 18, 2011.

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