Here now and now here or nowhere

The title of this blog comes from a play on words that "now here" is also the same letters as "nowhere" just with a space added in the middle. I am always trying to get better at being in the here and now, and I've always been a bit of a joker so that is why I chose this name.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Potala Palace

One of the top reasons to go to Tibet is to see Potala Palace. The Potala Palace was the chief residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to Dharamsala, India, after an invasion and failed uprising in 1959. Today the Potala Palace has been converted into a museum by the Chinese government.

As you'll see from the pictures there are two different sections of the temple, a white and red one. The White Palace or Potrang Karpo is the part of the Potala Palace that makes up the living quarters of the Dalai Lama. The first White Palace was built during the lifetime of the Fifth Dalai Lama and he and his government moved into it in 1649. It then was extended to its size today by the thirteenth Dalai Lama in the early twentieth century. The Red Palace or Potrang Marpo is part of the Potala palace that is completely devoted to religious study andBuddhist prayer. It consists of a complicated layout of many different halls, chapels and libraries on many different levels with a complex array of smaller galleries and winding passages:

All the picture from the inside were taken "illegally" as cameras were not really prohibited.

My amazing Tibet tour group.

Inside part of the white temple. This was the former quarters for the Dalai Lama.

Deities and other gifts from kings, presidents and other rulers for the Dalai Lama.

The red walls exterior was made up of these little twigs and branches, almost bristle-like.

Inside the red section of Potala. One of many buddhas.

A giant and beautiful Mandala in front and another in back.

Inside the red section of Potala, another room for praying.

Inside the red section of Potala, another room for praying.

Tomb of the 5th Dalai Lama

Tomb of the 5th Dalai Lama

Tomb of the 5th Dalai Lama

Potala Palace (notice the chinese flag on the top of it. hah!)

Potala Palace

Potala Palace

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Around Lhasa

In and around Lhasa.

This was a "secret" photo. You aren't allowed to photograph the army or police in Tibet so I took a secret iphone shot from behind Adam's back. You can see a bunch of them on the corner. Lhasa is covered in red army officers. Some were very tolerant of my playfulness, others... not so much. I chose this photo first to make a point about the ridiculousness and intolerance of China to Tibet.

Outside the Jokhang Monastery which is in the middle of Lhasa's main square. All day and night hundreds and thousands of Tibetan Buddhists are outside making prayers. Some in front of the temple, such as here, others circling the whole grounds around the temple (it's no small feat!)

A lot of the food in Lhasa is a mix of chinese, Tibetan and Nepalese. This was a Nepalese yak curry with some very tasty naan. The glass to the back right is chaang, a Tibetan barley alcoholic drink. It's very tasty when fresh.

Cute sheep walking around the streets with horn warmers.. huh???

Drinking Tibetan sweet milk tea with a cute dog. Think chai but minus the spices. I could drink this all day, especially since it's so cold outside. On many of the drives through the countryside we'd see Tibetans just sitting outside talking and drinking this. I plan to learn how to properly make this and add it to my repertoire.

Flying to chengdu (then Kunming). Not a bad view. I really am trying to not fly at all on this trip for ecological reasons but the only way to get to Kunming from Lhasa in a relatively quick time period is flight (few hours). Train takes over 3 days and bus.. maybe weeks. With visa issues and time running out I had to sacrifice and fly. :(

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Train to Lhasa

After Xining I was off to Tibet. Being that I am trying not to fly in order to leave less of a carbon footprint as well as the rumors of the train ride to Lhasa from Xining was a supposed nice ride I boarded train T23 and prepared to meet up with the other members of my Tibet tour already on the train where they started in Chengdu. The ride is a nice and relatively comfortable ride passing through vast open steppe land, Qinghai Lake, many mountains and wild animals grazing on the land. The line includes the Tanggula Pass, which, at 5,072 m (16,640 feet) above sea level, is the world's highest rail track. The carriages are specially built and have an oxygen supply for each passenger as the sudden change in altitude can seriously effect some people.

beginning the journey

sun going down

passing yaks as the sun goes down

sunset over the water

night falls

good morning Qinghai or Tibet!


This guy would come in every hour or so and try to sell some random crap. creams or fake cigarettes. He was loud and annoying and I greatly enjoyed harassing him.

Demonstrating one of his annoying products.

View from my train window, not too shabby huh?

Tongren / Repkong

About four hours from Xining by minivan/bus is a Tongren. Tongren (known as Repkong in Tibetan) is a small and friendly town home to a monastery and a number of Tibetan monks and Hui shop owners - both of whom reside here because of the number of monasteries found in the valley. The villages directly outside of the city are famous (and have been for centuries) for producing some of Tibet's best thangkas and painted statues. The villages have two main monasteries named Wutun Si. Here visitors are allowed to meet the local artists and purchase a religious painting or two. There are two Wutun Si's, an upper and a lower one. The lower temple is much more attractive aesthetically, but the upper one has a better art school. It is said that the thangkas here are the best in the world and are sent to be used in important temples and places such as Potala. Not much for buying souvenirs on this trip (as I feel souvenirs are just more material possessions that generally speaking we don't really need) I decided to buy a thangka here as a memento. Tongren's main monastery in the city is the Longwu monastery, and active yellow hat (Gelukpa) branch of buddhism that was established in 1301 and greatly expanded during the Ming Dynasty.

The two huge pagodas at lower Wutun Si

Some of the children monks. They mugged me. no joke. They asked for pens or pencils and when i reached into my bag the next thing i knew i was swamped by tons of little hands reaching for anything i had. one kid got the pen one got the cap. I later gave a few kids some gum i had and again was swamped by all these little monk children.

lower wutun si pagoda

lower wutun si

pagodas outside wutun si

the smaller pagodas leading up to the bigger more beautiful ones.

the buddhas outside upper wutun si

pagodas outside upper wutun si

upper wutun si's big pagoda

inside the upper wutun si grounds

inside the upper wutun si grounds

this cow stared at me for a while and then started following me. i was wearing a red coat and was afraid it may start to charge at me. Also, while it was staring at me it was usually in the middle of the road causing many near car accidents.

MIAN PIAN!!! hui food as mentioned in my previous post I really dug this dish, so good!

One of the temples on the Longwu monastery grounds

these were two footprints worn into the floor. I was guessing it had to do with someone always praying there.

looking over part of the Longwu monastery grounds.

buddha statue in front of Longwu monastery

Longwu monastery

I went back in the morning to upper Wutun Si to find some thangka artists and watch them do their work. When I got to the temple the whole town was sitting around the temple grounds drinking milk tea and eating bread. I was invited to join them and so I drank fresh milk tea with them. these giant vats were where they made the milk tea.

One of the thangka artists showing me some of his work, up close it's very detailed and impressive. A little later I met a boy maybe around 5 or 6 years old doing incredibly intricate drawings.