I woke up around noon today and went straight to the ‘Palace with Dave. Potala Palace is probably the most famous sight in Lhasa – not only a 13-storey high engineering feat of the 8th century, it’s also been the home of the Dalai Lamas for thousands of years. Everyday hundreds of Buddhist pilgrims make the trek up the mountain to the worship in and around the palace and it’s various courtyards. The size and scope of the building, especially since it’s build into the side of a mountain and so old, is unbelievable. Unfortunately photographs aren’t allowed inside the building, but half of the building was almost like a museum of Tibetan Buddhism. Not a museum in the sense that it’s filled with school children though; we saw a few Chinese people, but the building was filled mostly with worshipping Tibetans. Each of them had prayer beads in hand and were consumed in a seemingly never ending spiritual chant. All of the monks made sure to carefully touch all of the metal designs on the doorways before entering another room – I wasn’t sure what the signifigance of this was.
I grew up exposed to Buddhism as far back as my memory allows me to recall, but I still feel like a fake when I pray in a Buddhist temple among¬†career¬†Buddhists who spend their life seeking Nirvana. Many of them have calouses on their foreheads which are a sign of their¬†religious devotion. It makes me feel more like a white guy who doesn’t really know what’s going on, but at least I don’t beg for money. Buddhism and begging seem to go hand in hand whether I’m in Thailand or Tibet. Still, it’s hard not to marvel at that kind of life-long commitment to peace and spiritual harmony.
After leaving the Palace Dave and I returned to the Tibetan market to continue our search for the Tibetan robe known as the chupa. With each day we become farther from the Tibetan new year and shops and restaurants are starting to open again for business. Today was our lucky day. We found the jacket chupas available from one vendor and I explained to him what we were looking for. He led us through the market and down an alley, into a locked room filled with chupas of all shapes and sizes. I confirmed that we wanted male chupas (chupas for females are more common) that extended below our knees. Within a moment he produced exactly what we were looking for at a reasonable price. We didn’t negotiate at all, and bought them immediately.
Between the conclusion of our chupa search and navigating the hallways where a dozen Tibetan Dalai Lamas have called home, this has been as successful a day as it has memorable.
At 6am tomorrow morning we depart for Chengdu.