Day 2 in Lhasa – The Great Monk Debate

Another wonderful day in Lhasa that started our with our standard omelet with yak butter on toast and tea.  Ty finally got a run in, although it was a short one given the altitude.  Dikey picked us up at the hotel at 9:30 for our first attraction of the day: Dreprug Monastery/Gaden Palace.  I thought the previous day’s palaces would be hard to beat but now I’m not so sure.  Gaden Palace is tucked way up on a hillside overlooking Lhasa and it is a magical place.  Not only beautiful, but a crazy winding maze of corridors and stairs, each with their own take on this amazing view.  I’m not connected right now or I would add a link to some photos of it (we never saw it from a distance, only from close up and within) so do a quick search to see how amazing it is.

One of the most spectacular sights was actually on the hill across from the monastery.  Thousands of Tibetan prayer flags strung across the hill from side to side.  Dickey said it was most likely a place where one of the Lamas would go to pray so every year they will put these up there.  The photo isn’t great, but hope it conveys the scale of it.

Next up was back to the hotel and then out for lunch (a local place recommended by Dickey).  This one was extra local, including no English-speaking staff and no English menu.  There were some pictures but they were very small, which let to conversation with Ty the likes of “Are those beans of celery? I can’t tell” and “I think those are French fries – let’s get them just in case.”  It turned out great (they were beans, by the way) and we once again felt like rock stars as adults stared and kids waved and even came up to our table to try a quick “hello.”

In the afternoon, we went to the Sera Palace where we witnessed my first Monk Debate.  This is a process where the monks gather in the debating courtyard, pair up, and one of them drills the other with questions.  It is a pleasantly noisy affair as the signal that the interviewer wants to ask a question or when the interviewee gets one wrong is a loud clap of the hands by the former.  with 20-30 pairs of monks going at it in a small courtyard, you can imagine how lively it became, 

Last up was the summer palace, which was finished just a few years before the Chinese took over Tibet so it is relatively new (1950s).  It was beautiful as well and full of history.  The most interesting part for me was the photo of the 14th Dali Lama (the current one in exile in India) because it is technically illegal for anyone in Tibet to possess a photo of him or mention him.  Somehow this one photo tucked in the corner of one of the rooms is ok.  Our guide didn’t know why, or couldn’t talk about it anyway.  By then I was having some serious allergy problems and Ty and I agreed that we were “templed out” so back to the hotel we went.

I feel a bit miserable (hopefully allergies and not the onset of something else) and given that we start out journey overland to Nepal tomorrow crossing passes over 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) by car, this is not time to feel less than 100%.  Off to sleep for me…

Not sure if we will have Internet access over the coming days so posts may be sporadic at best.

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