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When I first realized I was going to Lhasa alone I was a bit apprehensive. Ironically, when I first dreamed of going to India the end result was going to be me traveling alone, but in Europe. Amazing how things change and it is still possible to accomplish personal goals. By the time I realized I would be doing the roof of the world solo I had a bit more experience under my belt than five months ago so felt it was a just challenge. It actually hardly seemed like a challenge at all and I was rarely alone.

First I met Tom, a traveling merchant of sorts, who had been to Lhasa enough to be able to give me tons of pointers, recommend a good cheap hotel and even introduce me to a few locals. It took a few days to adjust to the altitude though so I was only able to follow through on a few of his suggestions.

Lhasa appeared to me both a small town and a bit city at once. On the Chinese side the streets were wide and clean with few people. In the small Tibetan quarter one could easily get lost, wandering around for hours without covering more than a square mile of the city. The tiny windy streets full of people and vendors just lent themselves to exploration and contemplation. Near the beginning of the Tibetan quarter is the Jokhang, a large ancient temple estimated to have been built around mid-seventeenth century. During this time the king was marrying a Buddhist Nepalese princess who was bringing with her a large statue of Akshobhya, the Jokhang was built to house this buddha. Later, it also became the home of a statue brought by a Buddhist Chinese prince. Somehow the place eventually was named after this statute, of Jowo Sakyamuni. It is a large unimpressive structure, simply built with the white sloped walls and a few windows. However the view from the top of the three story structure is lovely. This is the only place where I took pictures of the Potala, to be found by clicking here: potala
or here - you can decide which one you like better

One of the main symbols of buddhism that can be found everywhere is an eight spoked wheel surrounded by two deer. This represents the eight-fold path that Buddha taught and his first teaching which was in deer park. There was one such lovely figure on top of the Jokhang Here is a picture of the square and pedestrian street in front of the Jokhang, taken from the top

Once I became sick of walking around the Bharkor (the Jokhang area) I finally decided to brave the massive Potala. I already tried (and failed) to describe the numerous rooms I went through so I won't try again. No pictures are allowed but I don't think I am a qualified enough photographer to do it justice anyhow. However, for a few extra bucks I was able to climb to top and snap a few photos there. Here are two shots of the roof: potala top one
three stupas to the north.
Here is another picture to the north of the city.

And this is to the south - you can see how large and modern this holy city has become.

The last pictures I took in the city were of the Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama's summer home. It was a beautiful park with normal sized houses, and an abundance of shrubs, trees, and grasses that looked like they weren't getting all the care some think they should. I always preferred things a little wild so loved this neglected solitary place. It was great wandering around the gardens reflecting on the history that went on here. I only took two picture, both of the cutest little pool/thing that didn't have any water.
number one
number two

After getting my fill of the city I hopped in a toyota landcruiser with three strangers and headed south. We left early in the morning and it seemed to take forever to climb that first pass (continual hairpin turns all the way up). Finally we made it and I was rewarded with snowcapped peaks again (I had wondered where they all were hiding). Warning these are all of mountains, so I can understand if you quickly get bored and don't want to view them all
Kambala Pass View
Second Kambala Pass View
Actually this one has a lake in it - according to the Lonely Planet Yamdrok-tso is a holy lake considered to hold down one of the arms of a demon which resides in Tibet. It is a dead lake, but that just means it has now known source feeding it. Despite this the Chinese are still draining it to create electricity for Lhasa, claiming that excess power will pump water back up into the lake to keep its levels steady. The waters are indeed receding.

After we decended into the valley, by the lakes edge we stopped for about twenty minutes because the construction completely blocked the road. That is when I snapped this, one of my favorite photos.

Next we wound our way up the next pass, known as Karol-la. This is where we saw some (small) glacier activity and a river the eerily resembled the lake we had just left behind.
small glacier
Karol-la Pass
Karol-la Pass River

Next stop was the gyantse kumbum, which I honestly don't understand the full point of. Whatever the significance of kumbums, which are multi-storied structures built in a certain shape for devotional regions, the Gyantse one is the largest in the world. Here is what it looks like from the outside

The inside has many levels, I believe six in all but we only were able to see five. Each level has lots and lots of rooms, all connecting to a walk way around the outside. Each room is for a diety of some sort and contains a statue as well as tons of wall paintings. Here are some of the photos I took from the inside:

Inside number one
Number Two
number three
number four
number five

The outside was beautiful as well - here are a few close ups
close up one
close up two

The view from the walkway was gorgeous. This is a picture of where the monks stay but it also shows what a typical house looks like - you get to see the simple white sloping walls

This is a picture of the Gyantse Dzong, also known as a fort. We didn't feel like hiking of the hill to check out the inside - maybe next time.

After we left Gyantse we went over another pass where we got quite cozy with glaciers and saw more mountains (I can't believe I am not sick of them yet). This picture is of prayer flags and katas (silky white scarves) that typically adorn the height of all passes. This is also the time when people pull over to stretch their legs and relieve their bladders
small glacier
Karol Pass River

That night we arrived tired in Shigatse, spent the night, had a leisurely morning before heading off to Shegar for the night. On the way to Shegar we stopped at the highest point I have ever stood (with both feet still on the ground)

After our night Shegar we finally arrived at Rhongphu, the tiny monastery eight kilometers away from Everest base camp. It was too cloudy to see any mountains but this photo of the hills on the way to base camp turned out alright

We got up early the next day, before light but we could still see the clouds had all blown away and Everest was magnificent. Unfortunately I am not a very good photographer in lowlight conditions, this is the best I could do before we hopped back in the car hoping to make it to Shigatse in one day:

On the way back as we climbed the last pass in the Chomolangma reserve I got some beautiful views of the famous mountain:

Here we are together
Okay, enough of Mt Everest, Cho Oyo, a massive neigbor is getting jealous.

On the way back we stopped at Tashi Lhunpo but it didn't seem photo worthy. Then once in Lhasa I rushed right back the way I came, to see all those sights again (they were just as beautiful the second time). The only difference was as I got closer to the border we dipped into a deep valley were there were lots of plants and then decended aways into lush warm Nepal - to get an idea of the contrast here is a snap of the Tibet/Nepal border area (no way was I going to get caught taking photos at the actual border):
Tibet/Nepal border
yeah, I know it is kind of blurry - I was in a moving car on a bumby road!

Before I forget, here are two photos of that alternate transportation I kept gawking at:
slow going
tractor thingy

And to take you way back in time - here are the baby Chengdu Pandas

There are a few photos of similar things that I didn't put in here, as well as previous pictures I took in India - if you haven't seen them yet and have patience to wait for all the thumbnails to load go to: www.nevadawine.com/~mimi

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