A light day today. I’ve visited 大昭寺 (Jokhang Temple) and 小昭寺 (Ramoche Temple). 大昭寺 can be said to be the most important temple of all Tibet and its support beams is filled with embedded teeth from pilgrims from 青海 (Qinghai) who can’t make it to Lhasa and therefore would have fellow pilgrims bring one of his tooth to the temple as to fulfill his wishes. Again, the Buddha statue brought over by 文成 princess is the holiest possession of the temple. I was told coming out of the temple that the land in front of the temple, now dedicated to hawkers trying to sell souvenirs, was still a body of water a few years back and the lake that previously stood where the temple is is completely gone now. Unfortunately, there were no monks in any of the temples I’ve visited in the recent days. Later, I found out from a tour organizer that they’ve all been invited to be “reeducated” somewhere… Also very unfortunately, I couldn’t photograph these locations.
The day after, I moved to 日喀则 (Shigatse). This place gives a very different vibe than Lhasa that is hard to explain. First, it’s dusty as fuck here! Enough that my nose hurts. I think in all of China that I’ve seen so far, I’d be the only male to wear a face mask… very confidence inspiring. Besides that, this place feels more authentic than Lhasa in some way. The Han seem to be opening bigger stores and look richer, the Tibetans seem more traditional and the monasteries actually have monks in them and the Muslims are a lot more prominent as well. In all, this place feels a lot more “China” and is hardly distinguishable from other cities if it weren’t even higher in altitude than Lhasa.
p.s. they have a very strict traffic regulation in that part of China and vehicles have to go through checkpoints and receive tickets for the earliest time they can arrive at the next checkpoint. This makes speeding essentially pointless since if they speed and arrive early at the checkpoint, they will have to way before proceeding through.
The next day, I visited another very well known monastery, 扎什伦布寺 (Tashilhunpo Monastery). 日喀则 is supposedly under the watch of the Panchen Lama who is also referred to as a living god. Apparently here, during March, no incident happened because their living god resides here in the city. The same afternoon, I took the bus out back to Lhasa, abandoning my initial plans to visit the Everest because the presence of the Olympic flame is making the procedures to get in extremely hard. I have to apply for special permits to approach the national border and having a foreign passport is making that a lot harder. I’d also have to wait for next week because it was the weekend.