The capital of Tibet at an altitude of 3650 m, is situated on the north bank of the Kyichu River in the province of U (central Tibet). Two high craggy hills stand up in isolation from the valley floor. One, Red Hill, is topped by the Potala Palace and the other, Chockpori or Iron Hill, is crowned by a tall antenna.
Lhasa in Tibetan means "Place of the Gods" and Potala Palace " the residence of the Dalai Lama (the god king), is the earthly representation of the celestial Palace of Avaloketswora, the Buddha of infinite compassion whose incarnation in the human form is believed to be the Dalai Lama. As Tibet’s political, religious and cultural centre it is a city truly blessed by the gods, where life is unhurried, is people jovial and yet remaining staunchly independent.
Lhasa consists of two district parts consisting of different architecture, population and lifestyle. Old Lhasa, the Tibetan section, centres around the Jokhang Temple. Its streets are narrow, between white washed stone houses whose walls slope inward as they rise. Windows are framed in black trapezoids, with protruding fan shaped eaves above. Many houses have brightly painted woodwork.
The Chinese section, was built in the last 30 years around the base of the Potala. It is characterized by straight, broad streets and utilitarian buildings that houses Chinese style department stores and all kinds of government houses. A Revolutionary Museum below the Potala displays the evidence of Chinese wrought economic and social change during the past 30 years.
In spite of it’s forced pace of modernization, Lhasa has not lost it’s soul. It is a friendly city where a Tibetan will always return a smile.
Overnight in Lhasa.
Day 07: Lhasa:
Potala Palace: This legendary palace built atop a single hill is synonymous with Tibet. First foremost king, Songtsen Gompo, it was expanded to its present structure during the 17th century by the 5th Dalai Lama. This 13 storey, 1000 room citadel served as the headquarters of the former "church-state" of Tibet and was home to successive Dalai Lama who, from the latter half of the 18th century, used it as their Winter Palace.
Jokhang Temple: Situated in the heart of old Lhasa, it houses Tibet’s most precious religious relic, a golden Shankyamuni Buddha which was brought as a gift by the Chinese Princess Wen Cheng on the occasion of her wedding to the Tibetan King, Songtsen Gompo. Surrounding the Jokhang Temple is the bustling Barkhor market place, which is the religious and social focus of Lhasa. This, the spiritual centre of Tibet, is also the heart of Lhasa.
Overnight in Lhasa.
Day 08: Full day sightseeing tour of Lhasa including the Drepung Monastery
AM : Drepung Monastery lies 8km west of Lhasa. It said to be the largest monastery in the world housing over 10,000 monks, it was founded in 1416 by the disciple of Te Tsonkhapa, founder of the Yellow Hat Gelukpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The second, third and the fourth Dalai Lamas lived and were entombed here. Drepung in Tibetan means ‘Richmound’.
PM : Sera Monastery lies 5 kms (3 miles) north of Lhasa. Sera setting is one of Lhasa’s prettiest. Once a community of more than 5,000 monks, it was a virtually extinguished by the Chinese. The restored monastery sits below the brow of hill on which Tsongkhapa built a hermitage and spent several years meditating. One of the monks’ disciples began building Sera in 1419, completing it a few years later.
Overnight at the Hotel.
Day 09: DRIVE FROM LHASA / DUCK FARM BEFORE XIGATSE
After the grueling ride over the pass to get to Lhasa, the trail today on tarred road is a pleasant and enjoyable one. The ride takes about 6 – 7 hours as we follow the Yarlung Tsangpo river and scenery of irrigation fields, yak hair skin boats, a typical scene of Tibet. Because of the unavailability of Camping spots around Xigatse we stop about an hour before arriving Xigatse in a beautiful location to camp beside a small lake and a duck farm.
Xigatse – A Granary of Tibet
Xigatse is a famous cultural city with a history of more than 500 years. Some 3,800m above sea level, it has been a place in which panchen lamas of various historical stages were authenticated. Later it has become a political and religious center in rear Tibet. To its south stands the world known Qomolangma Peak. Around the city there are the Sakya, Palkor and Shalu monasteries.
Day 10: DUCK FARM / XIGATSE / HOT SPRINGS (3,900m): 190 Km.
After an early breakfast set out for Xigatse and proceed for the sightseeing tour of the Panchen Lama’s Tashilhunpo Monastery. Founded in 1447 by Gendun Drup, the first Dalai Lama. It is the seat of the Panchen Lama who is second to the Dalai Lama in Tibetan Buddhist Hierarchy. The 5th Dalai Lama in declared that his teacher, then the Abbot of Tashilhunpo, who a manifestation of the Buddha Amitabha and the Pancen Rinpochhe. Tashilhunpo has one of the world’s largest status - a 9 storeyed gilded bronze statue of Maitriya, the future Buddha. After the sightseeing tour, we set out of Xigatse and stop for lunch at a convenient place. Later, continue the scenic ride as we cross over Gyatchu La (5,220m), the highest pass en-route to Lhasa and arrive at Lhatse, from where a road to Mt. Kailash bifurcates to the west. We continue further and camp beside a natural hot spring.
Overnight at Camp.
Day 11: HOT SPRINGS / XEGAR / EVEREST BASE CAMP (140 KMS)
From the Hot Springs we ride to Xegar. Xegar, also called New Tingri, surrounded by Mountains, is another town that lies in the shadow of a great fortress. Even in ruins, it is majestic. Seeming to grow out of the craggy brown rock, it’s sinuous wall bristles with watchtowers like stegosaurus spines. Isolated in 1855 by marauding Nepalese in search of booty, the Gurkhas cut off the dzong’s water supply and settled in for a long siege. Xegar proper has little to recommend, except the highest post office in China.
We purchase our entry tickets for the clients, staff as well as the vehicles for the entry in Mt. Everest Region and head off to the Check point. While everyone congregates, we stop at the restaurant for a quick lunch.
After lunch, we set out for the 4 hour ride to the Rongbuk Monastery in the Everest Base Camp area and camp near Rumjong / Ronbuk monastery.