Lhasa, Tibet: Pilgrims, Sacred Temples & Palaces...

Lhasa kept giving me everything but the dizzying altitude had sent me sick, waking up with what felt like a hangover and a nosebleed, I hadn't paid all that money to rest! Dosed up with a handful of un-named tablets and a bottle of oxygen, I was set for the final day of discovery. I held it together as Jokhang Temple, Barkhor Street and the Potala Palace awaited. Oh, I loved Lhasa!

I had almost stumbled upon Barkhor Street during my first day in Lhasa, Tibet whilst on my incense shopping mission. Saving the rest of it for another morning, I had found a sight that I would never be able to forget! Fashioned in a true Tibetan style, those Barkhor Street shopfronts set the scene effortlessly, acting as a cure for my altitude sickness I was living for the atmosphere and energy felt during that Lhasa morning. I adored the feeling of old time crazy that could be felt in the air, the elder Tibetan pilgrims may have hobbled along with all their might but they were on a spiritual mission! Of course, I was impressed by the fluttering Tibetan prayer flags that fluttered above the buildings along Barkhor Street. This Lhasa hotspot was supposed to be on the itinerary but I found with the extensive free time between seeing Jokhang Temple and the Potala Palace it wasn't difficult to get what I wanted from that buzzing street! Asking myself, was this really happening? Absolutely, everything happened for real! Sure, I felt lucky in Lhasa! Yes!

I noticed that during the morning a circular clockwise motion had been adopted by all. A certain direction had to be adopted the pilgrims, so apologies Lhasa because I walked in the opposite direction at times. I'm sorry! After leaving the hotel after breakfast we took a side street, that alley led us away from Lhasa's main Beijing East Road to Barkhor's inner heart. It was like a holy tributary of alleys had led us to a huge square, within that square the sky couldn't get any bluer with the odd cloud floating by I had the perfect photo opportunity. What was that spinning all around, people had their prayer wheels close to hand, acting as another magical sight that Barkhor Street served to me. I was more than living for Barkhor Street,it was impossible to soak enough of the experience in during one visit, so I headed back down through one of the alley ways in the afternoon to recapture the chilled pandemonium that was occurring in the heart of Lhasa's old city. Don't pay attention as to what people might say, those checkpoints aren't strict!

Stepping into a darkened courtyard gave me my first taste of Jokhang Temple, one of Lhasa's main highlights on our tours itinerary. We made our way into the temples inner shrines, that was another attack on the senses for all the right reasons! The infusion of colours and sheer detail of the figures took my breath away for sure! I adored the golden figures of the Tibetan Buddhas, their feminine like faces shone with a golden glow, with eye brows on-point and hair so blue it must have been more like Indigo! That was not a question! Showcasing more than two hands those golden figures gave judging stares to maybe ward away evil spirits but I definitely share a facial expression as cutting as theirs was! I had heard whispers before visiting Tibet about Princess Wencheng, displayed in modest fashion in the temple I'm sure she was the temptress of her time. I got completely lost in the beauty of Jokhang's inner corners. I have been to many temples right up to that point but Jokhang had me feeling centred. Yes, Jokhang knew!

Leaving those fierce looking Buddhas behind us, we stepped back into the light, giving us the chance to see the rich tones of Jokhang's upper levels. From the upper roof level, we were able to see the views over Barkhor Street, they gave a Birdseye view of the legendary Potala Palace. Looking for something nice for my best one, I was shocked by the prices they wanted for a small bracelet, that was a no! I appreciated the golden rooftops of the that glittery Lhasa temple, mixed with a maroon brown and terracotta red style, I was in the right place at the right time! My Tibet trip had showed me so much up till that point but Jokhang Temple gave me a picture postcard view of Lhasa within a pocket of tranquility. Snapping away like nobody's business, I gazed over the bustling Barkhor Street. The hurrying of the pilgrims looked amazing from that minor height. If truth be told I wasn't expecting to see the Potala Palace from such an angle until that very same afternoon, I was living a dream! Tibet Autonomous Region sure looked terrific!

Passports at the ready, it was time for the final part of my Tibet trip to commence. The best part had been saved until the very end, known as the home of the long line of the Dalai Lama's the Potala Palace stood before me. I had bossed my second piece of Chinese RMB money, by that meaning I stood with my 50 RMB note with the same image standing behind me in real time. I had secret a similar money landmark during my recent visit to Hangzhou, that was for the 1 RMB note. Ascending upwards some 700 ft to the top entrance at the right side of the palace the altitude change had me feeling strange, taking some deep breaths of the already thin air I made it to that point of safety. That moment felt very real, the nature of the Potala Palace meant things were pretty rustic with no lifts or even banisters it was a right old experience from the bottom to the top! The clouds knew to make a swift exit, my view was unlike any other I had ever seen, even the thinning air and height didn't phase me because it was the experience. This is living, L! 

Adhering to our time slot we made our way from the rooftop courtyard into the red part of the palace to see the heart of the Potala residence. The status of the Potala Palace sounded like a mystery, shrouded in secrets galore but we were allowed to see inside one of the non-restricted parts without any problems. The rest areas of the former Dalai Lama's were exquisite, adorned with soft furnishing and a chilled overall feel it felt like a special place. Bestowed with UNESCO World Heritage status, I could have easily lived within those pockets of calm within the Lama's former quarters, they were so very opulent. From the striking, yet magical appearance to the soft within that spiritual inner core, when could I move in? I couldn't get over what the Potala Palace showed me during that unforgettable weekend. Returning to Barkhor Street for one more time, I ditched the hype to enjoy one last milk tea in a simple Lhasa tea-house. It may have broke me financially but my trip to Lhasa, Tibet was sure worth every last Yuan! It was out of this world!

Living For Lhasa! 

Joseph Harrison 


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