I woke up the next morning after tossing and turning all night. I had slept but it had definitely not come easily. This was another side effect of the altitude change. The good news was that I felt a little better than I did the day before. I still got winded walking up a flight of stairs to have breakfast though. The breakfast place was a little house on the roof. I had worn socks expecting it to be the 5th floor and not the roof. This wouldn’t have been a big deal except that it was sprinkling a little that morning. Either way I persevered and even stopped to take pictures of the view before I made it inside the little building for the breakfast. They made a couple of eggs for me and I loaded up on potatoes and a few other things they had in the steamer trays. The breakfast was pretty good and I walked away feeling pretty satisfied.
We loaded in our van to head to the Potala Palace. Kelsang had something he had to do that day so we had a replacement who went by the same name. Kelsang 2 explained the difference but I was still not operating at 100% mental capacity. Potala Palace was one of the buildings I had seen from the roof that morning. In fact, it is pretty easy to spot in Lhasa because it is built on top of a mountain. It was originally built in the 7th Century and added on to during the 17th Century by the 5th Dalai Lama. It became the Dalai Lama’s palace during the 17th Century as well. The first thing I noticed about the place when we got there were the number of stairs that led up to the palace above us I was still feeling the altitude affects and I was a wee bit nervous about climbing up all those stairs but Kelsang 2 took it slow and allowed us to meander up the side of the hill.
Most of the buildings are white with red trim and a couple are red. According to the information I remember it is 115.7 meters high and boasts 13 stories. All the Dalai Lamas until the current one called this place home so it is a pretty sacred site. As we toured the beautiful Palaces Kelsang 2 told us a lot of information about Tibetan Buddhism and included the occasional story about the Dalai Lamas as we went along. I preferred the stories about the Dalai Lama’s themselves because they did not confuse my poor under-oxygenated brain as much. The story I remember vividly was about the 6th Dalai Lama. From what I can tell the 6th Dalai Lama was interesting and if you look him up he is known as the “rebel” Dalai Lama. The 5th Dalai Lama passed away during a time of great upheaval and it took them a while to feel safe announcing his passing and it also took a while to locate the 6th Dalai Lama. He was 14 when he was officially recognized and the 5th Dalai Lama had been dead for 15 years. It seems that this particular Dalai Lama was less interested in studies and more interested in alcohol and ladies. So the story we were told was he was constantly battling doubts of his title of Dalai Lama, not from Tibetans, but from outside sources. So he went to the roof and peed off the top of the tower. It went down in one straight stream and that was how he proved he was the Dalai Lama. Look I don’t get it either but it sounds fantastic. And as Kelsang 2 told us part of religion is believing the stories you are told even though you never see them yourself. I did not take pictures inside because you can’t but it was pretty amazing Highly decorative and everything has meaning. I was ready to go when we descended. Kelsang 2 had filled us so full of Tibetan Facts that I was fearful there would be a test before we were allowed to leave Tibet.
When we left the inside area we were greeted by a solar halo and it seemed pretty special. So I took a bunch of photos of it. In the surrounding ground they had some cool sunflower statue that I had to take a photo of . Then I took a picture of the waiting rickshaw drivers as we passed by.
Our next stop was a restaurant that I might have passed by and never realized what it was. We were not sure what to order so we just ordered a bunch of dishes to share. The food was pretty good but Tashi 1 had captured our food dreams and our allegiance stayed true.
After lunch we headed to Sera Monastery. The Sera Monastery is dedicated to the Gelugpa or Yellow Hat Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It is also a Buddhist college where monks can come and study. It was built in the 1400’s and is a pretty important monastery. Unfortunately I do not remember much about it because everything was foggy the first few days in Tibet.
Sera Monastery basically means “Wild Roses Monastery” Because when they were building it the mountain behind it was covered in roses.
The thing I remember the most was that they had a square where the monks get together to debate Buddhist scripture and ideas. According to our guide a favorite topic is whether a tree is alive or not. We were able to witness the debates and they were pretty entertaining. One monk would be arguing the case and was standing. The other monks were seated and listening to him As the monks made a point they would stomp their foot and clap their hands. It sounded amazing as several debates were happening in the courtyard as we watched. The guys I was closest to seemed to be bent on amusing each other and I saw the seated people reluctantly crack a smile during their fellow monks argument.
We did a little shopping for a while after we visited the Sera Monastery and had dinner at Tashi 1 where I had a yak and egg burger that was awesome. We called it a day rather early because we were hitting the road the next day.