In 2010 I travelled to China and Tibet. I had visited Nepal in the early 70s and had been able to travel widely as I was staying with a friend who lived there and he was able to get me a special permit to allow access to areas normally out of bounds to tourists. However, although we travelled to the border with Tibet we couldn't gain entry as it was occupied by the Chinese. It was a place I longed to see. The book 'Seven years in Tibet' by Heinrich Heller had captivated me when I was young so I was delighted when I went to China in 2010 and got a visa to see Tibet.
However, my disappointment knew no bounds! There were no snow covered mountains surrounding Llasa as I had imagined. The town looked very modern and Chinese with little Tibetan heritage to be seen. The streets were patrolled by groups of riot police complete with automatic rifles and helmets.The large parade ground in front of the Potala Palace and the high rise flats dispelled my wonderful images of the city of Lhasa.
But once inside the Palace, the home of the Dalai Lama, I was not disappointed. It is an impressive building - 13 floors high. Inside it has a myriad of rooms, many displaying Buddhas and icons. There was a strong smell of incense coming I think from the burning of Juniper branches. All around us were small candles being burnt in yak oil/butter. These were continually being tendered probably because of the risk of fire. Everywhere you looked, stuffed into every conceivable crevisse and surface there were yuan notes that had been put there as offerings. It was important for people to gain as many credits as possible in their pursuance of Nirvana. Apparently the money did not go to the Palace but to the State. We also discovered that although we were allowed into the Potala Palace it was against the law to own or display a photo of the Dalai Lama.
|Looking up at the Potala Palace|
|A view of Llasa from the Palace|
|Looking out from the Potala at the parade ground|