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NW6 4SH
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+44 7855 742 633

London based professional interior and architectural photographer.

Travel Blog: Tibet

Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple

james tarry

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First day in Lhasa, an easy day as we need to get our bodies used to the altitude. Well, easy in terms that the first place we visit consists of climbing what feels like a thousands steps and at altitude on a first day it feels like three thousand steps! 

The Potala Palace fun facts: originally built in the 7th century, the palace consists of two main parts, the red and white, political and religious. It is 115.7m high with thirteen stories and 3.5m thick walls. It contains , 1000 rooms, 10,000 shrines and about 200,000 statues.

Every single time we pass this building in our time in Lhasa we all share the same reaction, it is breathtaking. Pilgrimages happen around the base of the building, all clock wise (everything is always clockwise) and often consists of people with pads on their hands and knees sliding around the perimeter.

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The climb up to the top is not easy going, the internal steps to each room is steep and we are all left gasping for air. It was once the tallest building in the world and at the top is the "Eastern Sunshine Apartment", the Dalai Lama's bedroom which overlooks Lhasa. 

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The Jokhang Temple is in the centre of old Lhasa in Barkhor. Old Lhasa is traditional architecture and The Barkor is a popular devotional circumambulation for pilgrims and locals. The walk around is about one kilometre long and encircled the entire Jokhang Temple.

Fun Facts: The Jokhang Temple's construction started in 647AD. The Temple faces West and is about 25100 metres squared. It is listed as one of the important cultural relics and is the symbolic symbolic centre of Tibetan protest since 1987. 

I must say at this point, the Tibetans are truly beautiful people, they have a kindness that shines through, they have wonderful characterful faces, they are intrigued by us Westerners but I feel they do not stare rudely (like I felt in Chengdu) and will almost always offer you a big toothy grin or "hello/your welcome" if they can in shops or even as you walk by. There is a lot of poverty and begging which is always saddening in any country, if I could help all I would, It's a gorgeous place and the people really make it so. On a sad note this is where we start to really notice the Chinese control as mentioned in the introduction to this blog, security guards patrol this area and Chinese officials sit on rooftops, I have also read that many walk amongst those making the pilgrimage to keep tabs on what is being said.

Jokhang certainly felt like a privilege, we watched hundreds of Tibetans praying to various "masters" in a room decorated with carved statutes, gold stupas and individual shines and then entered past hundreds of queuing worshippers Into the centre, there sat a shrine which had a single shard of light beaming from an open window….. It was the most beautiful room I think I have ever been in. This temple also contains the karma stone where you listened to see if you could hear what you were previously in another life, one of my friends thinks he heard an eagle, I heard only an echo sound/wind, so maybe I'm new!!? Outside Tibetans queue for entrance while spinning huge prayer wheels and kneeling and sliding on stone slabs attached to knees and hands often for hours on end until they can pray no more. A walk through Barkhor market (Lhasa's oldest market) and lunch in a traditional Tibetan diner, where we drank hot sweet yaks milk tea and ate traditional Momo dumplings with spicy dip with the locals rounded the day nicely, and it was back to hotel to rest for tomorrow. 

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